Microbiota in obesity: interactions with enteroendocrine, immune and central nervous systems

Obes Rev. 2018 Apr;19(4):435-451. doi: 10.1111/obr.12661. Epub 2018 Jan 23.


Western diets, with high consumption of simple sugars and saturated fats, contribute to the rise in the prevalence of obesity. It now seems clear that high-fat diets cause obesity, at least in part, by modifying the composition and function of the microorganisms that colonize in the gastrointestinal tract, the microbiota. The exact pathways by which intestinal microbiota contribute to obesity remain largely unknown. High-fat diet-induced alterations in intestinal microbiota have been suggested to increase energy extraction, intestinal permeability and systemic inflammation while decreasing the capability to generate obesity-suppressing short-chain fatty acids. Moreover, by increasing systemic inflammation, microglial activation and affecting vagal nerve activity, 'obese microbiota' indirectly influence hypothalamic gene expression and promote overeating. Because the potential of intestinal microbiota to induce obesity has been recognized, multiple ways to modify its composition and function are being investigated to provide novel preventive and therapeutic strategies against diet-induced obesity.

Keywords: hypothalamus; inflammation; microbiota; obesity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Diet, High-Fat / adverse effects*
  • Dysbiosis / etiology
  • Dysbiosis / immunology
  • Dysbiosis / physiopathology*
  • Energy Intake
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile / metabolism
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / immunology*
  • Gene Expression
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamus / physiopathology*
  • Inflammation / etiology
  • Inflammation / microbiology*
  • Inflammation / physiopathology
  • Microglia / metabolism
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / microbiology*
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Prebiotics / administration & dosage
  • Probiotics / administration & dosage
  • Vagus Nerve / metabolism


  • Fatty Acids, Volatile
  • Prebiotics