Microbiota's Role in Diet-Driven Alterations in Food Intake: Satiety, Energy Balance, and Reward

Nutrients. 2021 Aug 31;13(9):3067. doi: 10.3390/nu13093067.


The gut microbiota plays a key role in modulating host physiology and behavior, particularly feeding behavior and energy homeostasis. There is accumulating evidence demonstrating a role for gut microbiota in the etiology of obesity. In human and rodent studies, obesity and high-energy feeding are most consistently found to be associated with decreased bacterial diversity, changes in main phyla relative abundances and increased presence of pro-inflammatory products. Diet-associated alterations in microbiome composition are linked with weight gain, adiposity, and changes in ingestive behavior. There are multiple pathways through which the microbiome influences food intake. This review discusses these pathways, including peripheral mechanisms such as the regulation of gut satiety peptide release and alterations in leptin and cholecystokinin signaling along the vagus nerve, as well as central mechanisms, such as the modulation of hypothalamic neuroinflammation and alterations in reward signaling. Most research currently focuses on determining the role of the microbiome in the development of obesity and using microbiome manipulation to prevent diet-induced increase in food intake. More studies are necessary to determine whether microbiome manipulation after prolonged energy-dense diet exposure and obesity can reduce intake and promote meaningful weight loss.

Keywords: CCK; food intake; hypothalamus; microbiome; reward; vagus.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diet / methods*
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Reward*
  • Satiation / physiology*