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Gut microflora as a target for energy and metabolic homeostasis

Cani, Patrice D; Delzenne, Nathalie M

Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care: November 2007 - Volume 10 - Issue 6 - p 729–734
doi: 10.1097/MCO.0b013e3282efdebb
Functional foods: Edited by Demetre Labadarios and Nathalie M. Delzenne

Purpose of review Gut microbiota plays an important role in health and disease, but this ecosystem remains incompletely characterized and shows a wide diversity. This review discusses new findings that may explain how gut microbiota can be involved in the control of energy and metabolic homeostasis.

Recent findings Over the past 5 years studies have highlighted some key aspects of the mammalian host–gut microbial relationship. Gut microbiota could now be considered a ‘microbial organ’ placed within a host organ. Recent data suggest that the modulation of gut microbiota affects host metabolism and has an impact on energy storage. Several mechanisms are proposed that link events occurring in the colon and the regulation of energy metabolism.

Summary Gut microflora may play an even more important role in maintaining human health than previously thought. The literature provides new evidence that the increased prevalence of obesity and type 2 diabetes cannot be attributed solely to changes in the human genome, nutritional habits, or reduction of physical activity in our daily lives. One must also consider this important new environmental factor, namely gut microbiota. Scientists may take into consideration a key question: could we manipulate the microbiotic environment to treat or prevent obesity and type 2 diabetes? This opens up a new area in nutrition research.

Université catholique de Louvain, Unit of Pharmacokinetics, Metabolism, Nutrition and Toxicology, Brussels, Belgium

Correspondence to Dr Patrice D. Cani, PhD, UCL, Unit PMNT-7369, Av. E. Mounier, 73/69, B-1200 Brussels, Belgium Tel: +32 2 764 73 97; fax: +32 2 764 73 59; e-mail:

© 2007 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.