Microbial Medicine: Prebiotic and Probiotic Functional Foods to Target Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome

Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Apr 21;21(8):2890. doi: 10.3390/ijms21082890.


Obesity has become a global epidemic and a public health crisis in the Western World, experiencing a threefold increase in prevalence since 1975. High-caloric diets and sedentary lifestyles have been identified as significant contributors to this widespread issue, although the role of genetic, social, and environmental factors in obesity's pathogenesis remain incompletely understood. In recent years, much attention has been drawn to the contribution of the gut microbiota in the development of obesity. Indeed, research has shown that in contrast to their healthier counterparts the microbiomes of obese individuals are structurally and functionally distinct, strongly suggesting microbiome as a potential target for obesity therapeutics. In particular, pre and probiotics have emerged as effective and integrative means of modulating the microbiome, in order to reverse the microbial dysbiosis associated with an obese phenotype. The following review brings forth animal and human research supporting the myriad of mechanisms by which the microbiome affects obesity, as well as the strengths and limitations of probiotic or prebiotic supplementation for the prevention and treatment of obesity. Finally, we set forth a roadmap for the comprehensive development of functional food solutions in combatting obesity, to capitalize on the potential of pre/probiotic therapies in optimizing host health.

Keywords: bile acid (BA); inflammation; metabolic syndrome; metabolic syndrome (MetS); microbiome; obesity; prebiotics; probiotics; short chain fatty acid (SCFA).

Publication types

  • Review