Long-term consumption of red meat has been considered a potential risk to gut health, but this is based on clinic investigations, excessive intake of fat, heme and some injurious compounds formed during cooking or additions to processed meat products. Whether intake of red meat protein affects gut bacteria and the health of the host remains unclear. In this work, we compared the composition of gut bacteria in the caecum, by sequencing the V4-V5 region of 16S ribosomal RNA gene, obtained from rats fed with proteins from red meat (beef and pork), white meat (chicken and fish) and other sources (casein and soy). The results showed significant differences in profiles of gut bacteria between the six diet groups. Rats fed with meat proteins had a similar overall structure of caecal bacterial communities separated from those fed non-meat proteins. The beneficial genus Lactobacillus was higher in the white meat than in the red meat or non-meat protein groups. Also, rats fed with meat proteins and casein had significantly lower levels of lipopolysaccharide-binding proteins, suggesting that the intake of meat proteins may maintain a more balanced composition of gut bacteria, thereby reducing the antigen load and inflammatory response in the host.
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