The Role of the Laboratory Animal Diet in Shaping the Gut Microbiota

Life Sciences, Drug Discovery & Development,
  • Wednesday, July 15, 2020

The gut microbiota can influence metabolic health, behavior and disease state. Microbial communities in laboratory rodents are relatively stable but can be influenced by environmental factors such as diet. The extent to which diet influences the microbiota is dependent on nutrient levels, ingredient composition and non-nutrients.

Diet composition can profoundly influence study outcomes and the interpretation of microbiota data in rodents. Dietary ingredients can range from natural ingredients (corn, wheat, etc.) which contain multiple nutrient classes to highly refined ingredients (casein, corn starch, sucrose, etc.) that allow for the precise control of nutrient levels and limit non-nutritive factors. The diversity of ingredient composition impacts substrate availability and thus composition of the intestinal microbiota. Understanding common diet terminology and the interaction of ingredient composition on microbiota will aid researchers in designing studies which limit confounding dietary factors.

A basic knowledge of diet composition is key to understanding the potential microbiota shifts associated with diet divergence. Standard natural ingredient diets or “chows” are fed to maintain animal colonies and at times are fed as control diets. These diets are primarily grain-based and therefore contain high levels of complex plant polysaccharides and diverse fiber sources. Purified diets utilize refined ingredients that are more readily digested and absorbed, are relatively low in total fiber compared to standard diets and typically lack fermentable fibers. Studies where purified diets are compared to natural ingredient control diets may inappropriately attribute microbiota shifts to a single dietary component rather than changes in dietary pattern. The goal of this webinar is to provide an understanding of laboratory animal diet composition and the influence of diet divergence on shifts in the gut microbiota.


Tina Herfel, Envigo

Tina Herfel, PhD, Nutritionist, Teklad Diets, Envigo

Tina Herfel received her PhD in Animal Science from North Carolina State University studying the impact of early nutrition on systemic health and the development of the gut microbiota using neonatal swine as an infant model. She has been a nutritionist with Envigo’s Teklad Diets since 2011, collaborating with researchers in the design of customized diets and providing technical expertise regarding standard diet selection. Tina is also a scientist member of the Envigo IACUC.

Message Presenter

Who Should Attend?

This webinar will appeal to individuals with the following or other related job titles:

  • Researcher
  • Principal Investigator
  • Scientist
  • Study Director
  • Head of Research
  • Veterinarian
  • Facility Manager
  • Operations Manager
  • Procurement/Outsourcing

Relevant areas:

  • In vivo research
  • Nutrition
  • Microbiota

What You Will Learn

  • Composition and terminology of laboratory animal diets
  • Impact of dietary changes on intestinal microbial shifts
  • Diet selection to limit confounding variables that may impact microbiota composition

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