Katerina Kotzampassi, Evangelos J Giamarellos-Bourboulis and George Stavrou
Obesity is a major public health concern, caused by a combination of increased consumption of energy-dense foods and reduced physical activity, with contributions from host genetics, environment, and adipose tissue inflammation. In recent years, the gut microbiome has also been found to be implicated and augmented research in mice and humans have attributed to it both the manifestation and/or exacerbation of this major epidemic and vice versa. At the experimental level, analysis of fecal samples revealed a potential link between obesity and alterations in the gut flora [drop in Bacteroidetes and increase in Firmicutes], the specific gut microbiome being associated with the obese phenotype. Conventionally raised mice were found to have over 40% more total body fat compared with those raised under germ-free conditions, while conventionalization of germ-free mice resulted in a significant increase in total body fat. Similarly, the sparse data in humans supports the fact that fat storage is favoured by the presence of the gut microbiota, through a multi-faceted mechanism. Efforts to identify new therapeutic strategies to modulate gut microbiota would be of high priority for public health, and to date, probiotics and/or prebiotics seem to be the most effective tools.