Modulation of the gut microbiota by nutrients with prebiotic properties: consequences for host health in the context of obesity and metabolic syndrome

Microb Cell Fact. 2011 Aug 30;10 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):S10. doi: 10.1186/1475-2859-10-S1-S10. Epub 2011 Aug 30.


The gut microbiota is increasingly considered as a symbiotic partner for the maintenance of health. The homeostasis of the gut microbiota is dependent on host characteristics (age, gender, genetic background...), environmental conditions (stress, drugs, gastrointestinal surgery, infectious and toxic agents...). Moreover, it is dependent on the day-to-day dietary changes. Experimental data in animals, but also observational studies in obese patients, suggest that the composition of the gut microbiota is a factor characterizing obese versus lean individuals, diabetic versus non diabetic patients, or patients presenting hepatic diseases such as non alcoholic steatohepatitis. Interestingly, the changes in the gut microbes can be reversed by dieting and related weight loss. The qualitative and quantitative changes in the intake of specific food components (fatty acids, carbohydrates, micronutrients, prebiotics, probiotics), have not only consequences on the gut microbiota composition, but may modulate the expression of genes in host tissues such as the liver, adipose tissue, intestine, muscle. This in turn may drive or lessen the development of fat mass and metabolic disturbances associated with the gut barrier function and the systemic immunity. The relevance of the prebiotic or probiotic approaches in the management of obesity in humans is supported by few intervention studies in humans up to now, but the experimental data obtained with those compounds help to elucidate novel potential molecular targets relating diet with gut microbes. The metagenomic and integrative metabolomic approaches could help elucidate which bacteria, among the trillions in human gut, or more specifically which activities/genes, could participate to the control of host energy metabolism, and could be relevant for future therapeutic developments.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / drug effects
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Immune System / physiology
  • Metabolic Syndrome / diet therapy*
  • Metabolic Syndrome / metabolism
  • Metabolic Syndrome / microbiology*
  • Nutritional Status
  • Obesity / diet therapy*
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Obesity / microbiology*
  • Prebiotics*


  • Prebiotics