Decreased plasma serotonin and other metabolite changes in healthy adults after consumption of wholegrain rye: An untargeted metabolomics study

Pekka Keski-Rahkonen (Corresponding Author), Marjukka Kolehmainen, Jenni Lappi, Valerie Micard, Jenna Jokkala, Natalia Rosa-Sibakov, Jussi Pihlajamäki, Pirkka V. Kirjavainen, Hannu Mykkänen, Kaisa Poutanen, Marc J. Gunter, Augustin Scalbert, Kati Hanhineva

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Wholegrain consumption has been associated with beneficial health effects including reduction of diabetes and cancer risk; however, the underlying mechanisms are not fully understood.

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to characterize the effects of wholegrain rye intake on circulating metabolites in a human intervention study using untargeted metabolomics.

METHODS: The intervention consisted of 2 successive 4-wk periods in a randomized crossover design, where 15 adults consumed wholegrain rye bread (WGR) or white wheat bread enriched with fermented rye bran (WW+RB), following a 4-wk rye-free period with white wheat bread (WW). Fasting plasma samples were collected at the end of each period and analyzed using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. Metabolic profiles were compared to identify compounds discriminating WGR from the WW+RB and WW periods. Because peripheral serotonin is produced mainly in the gut, a hypothesis of its altered biosynthesis as a response to increased cereal fiber intake was tested by measuring intestinal serotonin of mice fed for 9 wk on a high-fat diet supplemented with different sources of fiber (rye bran flour, ground wheat aleurone, or powdered cellulose).

RESULTS: Five endogenous metabolites and 15 rye phytochemicals associated with WGR intake were identified. Plasma concentrations of serotonin, taurine, and glycerophosphocholine were significantly lower after the WGR than WW period (Q < 0.05). Concentrations of 2 phosphatidylethanolamine plasmalogens, PE(18:2/P-18:0) and PE(18:2/P-16:0), were lower after the WGR period than the WW+RB period (Q < 0.05). The concentration of serotonin was significantly lower in the colonic tissue of mice that consumed rye bran or wheat aleurone compared with cellulose (P < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS: Wholegrain rye intake decreases plasma serotonin in healthy adults when compared with refined wheat. Intake of rye bran and wheat aleurone decreases colonic serotonin in mice. These results suggest that peripheral serotonin could be a potential link between wholegrain consumption and its associated health effects.Data used in the study were derived from a trial registered at as NCT03550365.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1630-1639
JournalThe American journal of clinical nutrition
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • 5-HT
  • alkylresorcinol
  • dietary intervention
  • glycerophosphocholine
  • metabolomics
  • plasmalogen
  • rye
  • serotonin
  • taurine
  • wholegrain


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