Microbiota and body weight control: Weight watchers within?

Serena Boscaini, Sarah-Jane Leigh, Aonghus Lavelle, Rubén García-Cabrerizo, ... John F. Cryan


Despite several decades of research, managing body weight remains an unsolved clinical problem. Health problems associated with dysregulated body weight, such as obesity and cachexia, exhibit several gut microbiota alterations. There is an increased interest in utilising the gut microbiota for body weight control, as it responds to intervention and plays an important role in energy extraction from food, as well as biotransformation of nutrients.

Scope of the review

This review provides an overview of the role of the gut microbiota in the physiological and metabolic alterations observed in two body weight dysregulation-related disorders, namely obesity and cachexia. Second, we assess the available evidence for different strategies, including caloric restrictionintermittent fastingketogenic dietbariatric surgeryprobioticsprebioticssynbiotics, high-fibre diet, and fermented foods – effects on body weight and gut microbiota composition. This approach was used to give insights into the possible link between body weight control and gut microbiota configuration.

Major conclusions

Despite extensive associations between body weight and gut microbiota composition, limited success could be achieved in the translation of microbiota-related interventions for body weight control in humans. Manipulation of the gut microbiota alone is insufficient to alter body weight and future research is needed with a combination of strategies to enhance the effects of lifestyle interventions.