The Human Microbiome and Obesity: Moving beyond Associations

Cell Host Microbe. 2017 Nov 8;22(5):589-599. doi: 10.1016/j.chom.2017.10.005.


Mounting evidence indicates that the gut microbiome responds to diet, antibiotics, and other external stimuli with speed and high precision and in ways that impact a variety of metabolic conditions including obesity and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Despite a decade of research establishing a strong association between the gut microbiota and obesity in humans, a causal relationship and the underlying mechanism remain outstanding. Several technological and methodological limitations in obesity and microbiome research have made it difficult to establish causality in this complex relationship. Additionally, limited collaborative interaction between microbiome and obesity researchers has delayed progress. Here, we discuss the current status of microbiome research as it relates to understanding obesity from the perspective of both communities, outline the underlying research challenges, and suggest directions to advance the obesity-microbiome field as a whole, with particular emphasis on the development of microbiome-targeted therapies for obesity prevention and treatment.

Keywords: DIO; MTT; animal models; diet-induced obesity; energy balance; energy expenditure; energy intake; microbial metabolites; microbiome; microbiota; microbiota-targeted therapies; obesity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diet
  • Dysbiosis / complications
  • Energy Intake
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / physiology
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Microbiota / physiology*
  • Models, Animal
  • Obesity* / microbiology