Is gut microbiota the key to preventing obesity-related metabolic diseases?

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gut microbiota

Less than fifteen years from now, it is estimated that 42% of the adult US population will be obese.

Obesity, one of the major public health issues of our time, results in an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and certain types of cancers.

Metabolic syndrome, often a precursor to the onset of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, is also highly linked to obesity.

Metabolic syndrome is defined by the presence of abdominal obesity plus at least two of the following factors: increased fasting plasma glucose, hypertension, increased triglycerides, and reduced HDL cholesterol.

Worldwide, it is estimated that one-fourth of the adult population has metabolic syndrome and that obesity-related diseases cause 2.8 million deaths annually.

Over the past several decades, researchers have investigated the effectiveness of various approaches to help people lose weight, maintain healthy weights, and prevent the poor health outcomes associated with obesity.

These approaches range from diet and exercise to pharmaceutical interventions to bariatric surgery.

Recently, researchers have begun to look at a new, promising approach to preventing obesity-related metabolic diseases by manipulating the gut microbiota through diet.

The Advances in Nutrition, the international review journal of the American Society for Nutrition, publishes a comprehensive review article that evaluates the latest scientific studies in this growing area of research.

Gut microbiota is the name given to the microbe population living in our intestine. Our gut microbiota contains trillions of microorganisms, including at least 1,000 different species of bacteria.

The authors assessed various research studies, which used diet to modulate the gut microbiota, with the goal of improving metabolic risk factors in humans.

These studies included dietary interventions using different types of dietary fibers.

In many cases, these interventions have been shown to successfully modulate the gut microbiota and improve insulin sensitivity, low- grade chronic inflammation, and lipid metabolism.

Although these results are promising, the authors caution, however, that a causal role of the gut microbiota in these experiments has not been established.

The authors call for more clinical trials that can help us determine whether or not changes in diet can be directly linked to changes in gut microbiota and, in turn, whether or not the changes in gut microbiota can be directly linked to changes in metabolic risk factors.

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Citation: Brahe LK, et al. (2016). Can We Prevent Obesity-Related Metabolic Diseases by Dietary Modulation of the Gut Microbiota? Advances in Nutrition. DOI: 10.3945/ an.115.010587.
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