Certain autoimmune diseases as well as asthma have increased in recent decades, particularly in developed countries. The hygiene hypothesis has been the prevailing model to account for this increase; however, epidemiology studies also support the contribution of diet and obesity to inflammatory diseases. Diet affects the composition of the gut microbiota, and recent studies have identified various molecules and mechanisms that connect diet, the gut microbiota, and immune responses. Herein, we discuss the effects of microbial metabolites, such as short chain fatty acids, on epithelial integrity as well as immune cell function. We propose that dysbiosis contributes to compromised epithelial integrity and disrupted immune tolerance. In addition, dietary molecules affect the function of immune cells directly, particularly through lipid G-protein coupled receptors such as GPR43.
© 2011 John Wiley & Sons A/S.