Obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) are attributed to a combination of genetic susceptibility and lifestyle factors. Their increasing prevalence necessitates further studies on modifiable causative factors and novel treatment options. The gut microbiota has emerged as an important contributor to the obesity--and T2DM--epidemic proposed to act by increasing energy harvest from the diet. Although obesity is associated with substantial changes in the composition and metabolic function of the gut microbiota, the pathophysiological processes remain only partly understood. In this review we will describe the development of the adult human microbiome and discuss how the composition of the gut microbiota changes in response to modulating factors. The influence of short-chain fatty acids, bile acids, prebiotics, probiotics, antibiotics and microbial transplantation is discussed from studies using animal and human models. Ultimately, we aim to translate these findings into therapeutic pathways for obesity and T2DM in humans.
© 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.