Recently, increased attention has been paid to the link between gut microbial composition and obesity. Gut microbiota is a source of endotoxins whose increase in plasma is related to obesity and insulin resistance through increased intestinal permeability in animal models; however, this relationship still needs to be confirmed in humans. That intestinal permeability is subject to change and that it might be the interface between gut microbiota and endotoxins in the core of metabolic dysfunctions reinforce the need to understand the mechanisms involved in these aspects to direct more efficient therapeutic approaches. Therefore, in this review, we focus on the emerging link between obesity and increased intestinal permeability, including the possible factors that contribute to increased intestinal permeability in obese subjects. We address the concept of intestinal permeability, how it is measured, and the intestinal segments that may be affected. We then describe 3 factors that may have an influence on intestinal permeability in obesity: microbial dysbiosis, dietary pattern (high-fructose and high-fat diet), and nutritional deficiencies. Gaps in the current knowledge of the role of Toll-like receptors ligands to induce insulin resistance, the routes for lipopolysaccharide circulation, and the impact of altered intestinal microbiota in obesity, as well as the limitations of current permeability tests and other potential useful markers, are discussed. More studies are needed to reveal how changes occur in the microbiota. The factors such as changes in the dietary pattern and the improvement of nutritional deficiencies appear to influence intestinal permeability, and impact metabolism must be examined. Also, additional studies are necessary to better understand how probiotic supplements, prebiotics, and micronutrients can improve stress-induced gastrointestinal barrier dysfunction and the influence these factors have on host defense. Hence, the topics presented in this review may be beneficial in directing future studies that assess gut barrier function in obesity.
Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.