Role of Gut Microbiota and Short Chain Fatty Acids in Modulating Energy Harvest and Fat Partitioning in Youth

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2016 Nov;101(11):4367-4376. doi: 10.1210/jc.2016-1797. Epub 2016 Sep 20.


Objective: We aimed at determining the relationship of the gut microbiota and short chain fatty acids with obesity and fat partitioning and at testing potential differences in the ability of gut microbiota to ferment equal amounts of carbohydrates (CHO) between lean and obese youth.

Research design and methods: We analyzed the gut microbiota of 84 youth in whom body fat distribution was measured by fast-magnetic resonance imaging, de novo lipogenesis (DNL) quantitated using deuterated water, and the capability of gut flora to ferment CHO was assessed by 13C-fructose treatment in vitro.

Results: A significant association was found between the Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes ratio, and the abundance of Bacteroidetes and Actinobacteria with body mass index, visceral and SC fat (all P < .05). Plasma acetate, propionate, and butyrate were associated with body mass index and visceral and SC fat (all P < .05) and with hepatic DNL (P = .01, P = .09, P = .04, respectively). Moreover, the rate of CHO fermentation from the gut flora was higher in obese than in lean subjects (P = .018).

Conclusions: These data demonstrate that obese youth show a different gut flora composition than lean and that short chain fatty acids are associated with body fat partitioning and DNL. Also, the gut microbiota of obese youth have a higher capability than the gut flora of lean to oxidize CHO.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Fat / metabolism*
  • Actinobacteria / isolation & purification
  • Actinobacteria / metabolism*
  • Adolescent
  • Bacteroidetes / isolation & purification
  • Bacteroidetes / metabolism*
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Child
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Fermentation / physiology*
  • Firmicutes / metabolism*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Lipogenesis / physiology*
  • Male
  • Pediatric Obesity / metabolism*
  • Pediatric Obesity / microbiology


  • Fatty Acids, Volatile