The regulation of food intake by the gut-brain axis: implications for obesity

Int J Obes (Lond). 2013 May;37(5):625-33. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2012.93. Epub 2012 Jun 19.


Our understanding of the regulation of appetite has improved considerably over the last few decades. Recent work, stimulated by efforts aimed at curbing the current obesity epidemic, has unravelled some of the complex pathways regulating energy homeostasis. Key factors to this progress have been the discovery of leptin and the neuronal circuitry involved in mediating its effects, as well as the identification of gut hormones that have important physiological roles relating to energy homeostasis. Despite these advances in research, there are currently no effective treatments for the growing problem of obesity. In this article, we summarise the regulatory pathways controlling appetite with a special focus on gut hormones. We detail how recent findings have contributed to our knowledge regarding the pathogenesis and treatment of common obesity. A number of barriers still need to be overcome to develop safe and effective anti-obesity treatments. We outline problems highlighted by historical failures and discuss the potential of augmenting natural satiety signals, such as gut hormones, to treat obesity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Appetite Regulation* / drug effects
  • Autonomic Pathways / metabolism*
  • Eating*
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / metabolism*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / physiopathology
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamus / metabolism*
  • Hypothalamus / physiopathology
  • Leptin / metabolism
  • Male
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Peptide Hormones / metabolism*
  • Satiation
  • Signal Transduction


  • Leptin
  • Peptide Hormones