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J Clin Gastroenterol. 2011 Nov;45 Suppl:S128-32. doi: 10.1097/MCG.0b013e31821f44c4.

Obesity and the gut microbiota.

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  • 1Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, University of Aberdeen, UK.


Gut microorganisms have the potential to influence weight gain and fat deposition through a variety of mechanisms. One factor is the ability of microorganisms in the large intestine to release energy by fermenting otherwise indigestible components of the diet ("energy harvest"). This energy becomes available to the host indirectly through the absorption of microbially produced short-chain fatty acids. Energy recovery from fiber will be largely determined by dietary intake and gut transit, but can also depend on the makeup of the gut microbiota. The species composition of the gut microbiota changes with diet composition, as has been shown in studies with obese individuals after reduced carbohydrate weight loss diets, or diets containing different nondigestible carbohydrates. There is conflicting evidence, however, on the extent to which gut microbiota composition differs between obese and nonobese humans. In contrast, there is increasing evidence to suggest that gut microorganisms and their metabolic products can influence gut hormones, inflammation, and gut motility. Any changes in gut microbiota composition that influence energy expenditure, satiety, and food intake have the potential to alter weight gain and weight loss, but a better understanding of the impact of different members of the gut microbial community upon host physiology is needed to establish these relationships.

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