Research support

The effect of a plant-based diet on liver and adipose tissue health

grant holder
Dr. Lydia Afman
Department of Agrotechnology and Food Sciences Wageningen, The Netherlands

Dr. Lydia Afman

The Mediterranean (MED) diet has been associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular diseases. It is unclear whether this health effect can be mainly contributed to high intakes of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), characteristic for the MED diet, or whether other components of a MED diet also play an important role.

Methods and Results

A randomized fully controlled parallel trial is performed to examine the effects of the consumption of a saturated fatty acid rich diet, a MUFA‐rich diet, or a MED diet for 8 weeks on metabolite profiles, in 47 subjects at risk of the metabolic syndrome. A total of 162 serum metabolites are assessed before and after the intervention by using a targeted NMR platform. Fifty‐two metabolites are changed during the intervention (false discovery rate [FDR] < 0.05). Both the MUFA and MED diet decrease exactly the same fractions of LDL, including particle number, lipid, phospholipid, and free cholesterol fraction (FDR p < 0.05). The MED diet additionally decreases the larger subclasses of very‐low‐density lipoprotein (VLDL), related VLDL fractions, VLDL‐triglycerides, and serum‐triglycerides (FDR < 0.05).


The findings clearly demonstrate that the MUFA component is responsible for reducing LDL subclasses and fractions, and therefore causes an antiatherogenic lipid profile. Interestingly, consumption of the other components in the MED diet show additional health effects.



Michielsen CCJR, Hangelbroek RWJ, Feskens EJM, Afman LA. Disentangling the Effects of Monounsaturated Fatty Acids from Other Components of a Mediterranean Diet on Serum Metabolite Profiles: A Randomized Fully Controlled Dietary Intervention in Healthy Subjects at Risk of the Metabolic Syndrome. Mol Nutr Food Res 2019; 63(9):e1801095.