Metabolic tinkering by the gut microbiome: Implications for brain development and function

Gut Microbes. 2014 May-Jun;5(3):369-80. doi: 10.4161/gmic.28681. Epub 2014 Mar 31.


Brain development is an energy demanding process that relies heavily upon diet derived nutrients. Gut microbiota enhance the host's ability to extract otherwise inaccessible energy from the diet via fermentation of complex oligosaccharides in the colon. This nutrient yield is estimated to contribute up to 10% of the host's daily caloric requirement in humans and fluctuates in response to environmental variations. Research over the past decade has demonstrated a surprising role for the gut microbiome in normal brain development and function. In this review we postulate that perturbations in the gut microbial-derived nutrient supply, driven by environmental variation, profoundly impacts upon normal brain development and function.

Keywords: glucose; gut microbiota; hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis; metabolism; microbiota-gut-brain axis; neurodevelopment; short chain fatty acids; β-hydroxybutyrate.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Food*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Metabolism*
  • Microbiota*