The gut and energy balance: visceral allies in the obesity wars

Science. 2005 Mar 25;307(5717):1909-14. doi: 10.1126/science.1109951.


In addition to digesting and assimilating nutrients, the intestine and associated visceral organs play a key sensing and signaling role in the physiology of energy homeostasis. The gut, the pancreatic islets of Langerhans, elements in the portal vasculature, and even visceral adipose tissue communicate with the controllers of energy balance in the brain by means of neural and endocrine pathways. Signals reflecting energy stores, recent nutritional state, and other parameters are integrated in the central nervous system, particularly in the hypothalamus, to coordinate energy intake and expenditure. Our understanding of regulatory neural circuits and the signaling molecules that influence them has progressed rapidly, particularly after the discovery of the adipocyte hormone leptin. These discoveries have led to exploration of novel routes for obesity control, some of which involve gut-derived pathways.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / physiology
  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Energy Intake*
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Enteric Nervous System / physiology
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / innervation
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Hunger
  • Islets of Langerhans / physiology
  • Neural Pathways
  • Obesity / physiopathology*
  • Obesity / surgery
  • Obesity / therapy
  • Peptide Hormones / physiology*
  • Satiation
  • Signal Transduction


  • Peptide Hormones