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The prebiotic inulin modulates gut microbiota but does not ameliorate atherosclerosis in hypercholesterolemic APOE*3-Leiden.CETP mice.


Gut microbiota have been implicated in the development of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease. Since the prebiotic inulin is thought to beneficially affect gut microbiota, we aimed to determine the effect of inulin supplementation on atherosclerosis development in APOE*3-Leiden.CETP (E3L.CETP) mice. Female E3L.CETP mice were fed a western-type diet containing 0.1% or 0.5% cholesterol with or without 10% inulin. The effects of inulin were determined on: microbiota composition, cecal short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) levels, plasma lipid levels, atherosclerosis development, hepatic morphology and hepatic inflammation. Inulin with 0.5% dietary cholesterol increased specific bacterial genera and elevated levels of cecal SCFAs, but did not affect plasma cholesterol levels or atherosclerosis development. Surprisingly, inulin resulted in mild hepatic inflammation as shown by increased expression of inflammation markers. However, these effects were not accompanied by increased hepatic macrophage number. Analogously, inulin induced mild steatosis and increased hepatocyte size, but did not affect hepatic triglyceride content. Inulin with 0.1% dietary cholesterol did not affect hepatic morphology, nor hepatic expression of inflammation markers. Overall, inulin did not reduce hypercholesterolemia or atherosclerosis development in E3L.CETP mice despite showing clear prebiotic activity, but resulted in manifestations of hepatic inflammation when combined with a high percentage of dietary cholesterol.