a white woman Eating salad

What is the study about?

This study looked at the effect of a low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet on the gut microbiome (the makeup of the bacteria that are in the digestive tract). The diet included lean meats, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Who participated in the study?

Researchers at the UAB SCI Model System recruited 19 adults who were at least 3 years post-injury. They were between 18–65 years of age and with injury levels between C5-L2 and classified between A-D on the American Spinal Injury Association Impairment Scale.

How was the study conducted?

The study divided participants at random into one of two groups. The study group had all of their weekly meals provided and delivered to their homes. A dietitian tailored the meals to each person’s taste preferences and made sure the meals met the healthy dietary guidelines of providing 40% energy from carbohydrates, 30% energy from protein, and 30% energy from fat. The control group continued their usual diet.

Stool samples were collected from both groups at the start of the study and at the end of the study 8 weeks later. The gut microbiome was measured from the stool samples.

What did the study find?

The study found that people with SCI who eat a healthy, low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet have improved gut microbiome.

Why is the study important?

Past studies suggest that an imbalance of gut bacteria develops after SCI, which can lead to cardiometabolic diseases like obesity, diabetes, insulin resistance, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Improving the imbalance of gut bacteria may help in preventing cardiometabolic disorders.


The contents of this quick review were developed under grants from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR grant numbers 90SI5019 and 90DPKT0009).). NIDILRR is a Center within the Administration for Community Living (ACL), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The contents of this fact sheet do not necessarily represent the policy of NIDILRR, ACL, HHS, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.