The prevalence of obesity is rapidly becoming endemic in industrialized countries and continues to increase in developing countries worldwide. Obesity predisposes people to an increased risk of developing metabolic syndrome. Recent studies have described an association between obesity and certain gut microbiota, suggesting that gut microbiota might play a critical role in the development of obesity. Although probiotics have many beneficial health effects in humans and animals, attention has only recently been drawn to manipulating the gut microbiota, such as lactic acid bacteria (LAB), to influence the development of obesity. In this review, we first describe the causes of obesity, including the genetic and environmental factors. We then describe the relationship between the gut microbiota and obesity, and the mechanisms by which the gut microbiota influence energy metabolism and inflammation in obesity. Lastly, we focus on the potential role of LAB in mediating the effects of the gut microbiota in the development of obesity.