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Journal of Obesity
Volume 2016 (2016), Article ID 7353642, 27 pages
Review Article

Role of Gut Microbiota in the Aetiology of Obesity: Proposed Mechanisms and Review of the Literature

1Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, Khyber Medical University, Phase V Hayatabad, Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan
2Human Nutrition, School of Medicine, Dentistry and Nursing, College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, Level 3, New Lister Building, Glasgow Royal Infirmary, 10-16 Alexandra Parade, Glasgow G31 2ER, UK
3Department of Endocrinology, Royal Hospital for Children, 1345 Govan Rd, Govan, Glasgow G51 4TF, UK

Received 1 February 2016; Revised 21 May 2016; Accepted 21 August 2016

Academic Editor: R. Prager

Copyright © 2016 Muhammad Jaffar Khan et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The aetiology of obesity has been attributed to several factors (environmental, dietary, lifestyle, host, and genetic factors); however none of these fully explain the increase in the prevalence of obesity worldwide. Gut microbiota located at the interface of host and environment in the gut are a new area of research being explored to explain the excess accumulation of energy in obese individuals and may be a potential target for therapeutic manipulation to reduce host energy storage. Several mechanisms have been suggested to explain the role of gut microbiota in the aetiology of obesity such as short chain fatty acid production, stimulation of hormones, chronic low-grade inflammation, lipoprotein and bile acid metabolism, and increased endocannabinoid receptor system tone. However, evidence from animal and human studies clearly indicates controversies in determining the cause or effect relationship between the gut microbiota and obesity. Metagenomics based studies indicate that functionality rather than the composition of gut microbiota may be important. Further mechanistic studies controlling for environmental and epigenetic factors are therefore required to help unravel obesity pathogenesis.