Brain-Gut-Microbiome Interactions and Intermittent Fasting in Obesity

Nutrients. 2021 Feb 10;13(2):584. doi: 10.3390/nu13020584.


The obesity epidemic and its metabolic consequences are a major public health problem both in the USA and globally. While the underlying causes are multifactorial, dysregulations within the brain-gut-microbiome (BGM) system play a central role. Normal eating behavior is coordinated by the tightly regulated balance between intestinal, extraintestinal and central homeostatic and hedonic mechanisms, resulting in stable body weight. The ubiquitous availability and marketing of inexpensive, highly palatable and calorie-dense food has played a crucial role in shifting this balance towards hedonic eating through both central (disruptions in dopaminergic signaling) and intestinal (vagal afferent function, metabolic toxemia, systemic immune activation, changes to gut microbiome and metabolome) mechanisms. The balance between homeostatic and hedonic eating behaviors is not only influenced by the amount and composition of the diet, but also by the timing and rhythmicity of food ingestion. Circadian rhythmicity affects both eating behavior and multiple gut functions, as well as the composition and interactions of the microbiome with the gut. Profound preclinical effects of intermittent fasting and time restricted eating on the gut microbiome and on host metabolism, mostly demonstrated in animal models and in a limited number of controlled human trials, have been reported. In this Review, we will discuss the effects of time-restricted eating on the BGM and review the promising effects of this eating pattern in obesity treatment.

Keywords: diurnal rhythm; food addiction; gut microbiome; ingestive behavior; weight loss.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Diet
  • Dysbiosis / complications
  • Fasting*
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Food Addiction / microbiology
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Metabolome
  • Obesity / etiology*
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Obesity / microbiology
  • Stress, Psychological
  • Vagus Nerve