Microbiota-Gut-Brain Axis: Modulator of Host Metabolism and Appetite

J Nutr. 2017 May;147(5):727-745. doi: 10.3945/jn.116.240481. Epub 2017 Mar 29.


The gut harbors an enormous diversity of microbes that are essential for the maintenance of homeostasis in health and disease. A growing body of evidence supports the role of this microbiota in influencing host appetite and food intake. Individual species within the gut microbiota are under selective pressure arising from nutrients available and other bacterial species present. Each bacterial species within the gut aims to increase its own fitness, habitat, and survival via specific fermentation of dietary nutrients and secretion of metabolites, many of which can influence host appetite and eating behavior by directly affecting nutrient sensing and appetite and satiety-regulating systems. These include microbiota-produced neuroactives and short-chain fatty acids. In addition, the gut microbiota is able to manipulate intestinal barrier function, interact with bile acid metabolism, modulate the immune system, and influence host antigen production, thus indirectly affecting eating behavior. A growing body of evidence indicates that there is a crucial role for the microbiota in regulating different aspects of eating-related behavior, as well as behavioral comorbidities of eating and metabolic disorders. The importance of intestinal microbiota composition has now been shown in obesity, anorexia nervosa, and forms of severe acute malnutrition. Understanding the mechanisms in which the gut microbiota can influence host appetite and metabolism will provide a better understanding of conditions wherein appetite is dysregulated, such as obesity and other metabolic or eating disorders, leading to novel biotherapeutic strategies.

Keywords: behavior; metabolism; microbiota; nutrition; obesity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Appetite*
  • Brain*
  • Eating*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders* / etiology
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders* / metabolism
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / metabolism
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Nutrition Disorders* / etiology
  • Nutrition Disorders* / metabolism
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Obesity / metabolism