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Dis Model Mech. 2019 Apr 30;12(5). pii: dmm039206. doi: 10.1242/dmm.039206.

Beneficial effects of exercise on gut microbiota functionality and barrier integrity, and gut-liver crosstalk in an in vivo model of early obesity and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

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Instituto de Biomedicina (IBIOMED), Universidad de León, 24071, León, Spain.
Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red de Enfermedades Hepáticas y Digestivas (CIBERehd), Instituto de Salud Carlos III, Spain.
Servicio de Aparato Digestivo del Complejo Asistencial Universitario de León, 24071, León, Spain.
Instituto de Biomedicina (IBIOMED), Universidad de León, 24071, León, Spain


Childhood obesity has reached epidemic levels, representing one of the most serious public health concerns associated with metabolic syndrome and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). There is limited clinical experience concerning pediatric NAFLD patients, and thus the therapeutic options are scarce. The aim of this study was to evaluate the benefits of exercise on gut microbiota composition and functionality balance, and consequent effects on early obesity and NAFLD onset in an in vivo model. Juvenile (21-day-old) male Wistar rats fed a control diet or a high-fat diet (HFD) were subjected to a combined aerobic and resistance training protocol. Fecal microbiota was sequenced by an Illumina MiSeq system, and parameters related to metabolic syndrome, fecal metabolome, intestinal barrier integrity, bile acid metabolism and transport, and alteration of the gut-liver axis were measured. Exercise decreased HFD-induced body weight gain, metabolic syndrome and hepatic steatosis, as a result of its lipid metabolism modulatory capacity. Gut microbiota composition and functionality were substantially modified as a consequence of diet, age and exercise intervention. In addition, the training protocol increased Parabacteroides, Bacteroides and Flavobacterium genera, correlating with a beneficial metabolomic profile, whereas Blautia, Dysgonomonas and Porphyromonas showed an opposite pattern. Exercise effectively counteracted HFD-induced microbial imbalance, leading to intestinal barrier preservation, which, in turn, prevented deregulation of the gut-liver axis and improved bile acid homeostasis, determining the clinical outcomes of NAFLD. In conclusion, we provide scientific evidence highlighting the benefits of gut microbiota composition and functionality modulation by physical exercise protocols in the management of early obesity and NAFLD development.


Childhood obesity; Fecal metabolome; Gut-liver axis; Intestinal microbiota; Metabolic syndrome

Conflict of interest statement

Competing interestsThe authors declare no competing or financial interests.

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