Plain language summary
This literature review aims to discuss evidence for the role of the gut microbiota in metabolism and possible links to obesity. Obesity and caloric intake can influence the microbiota, but whether the reverse is true in humans remains unclear. Much of the mechanisms have been determined in rodents, determining similar pathways in humans is difficult. The interplay of diet, host and gut microbiota may cause increased gut permeability (leaky gut) that could lead to an increase in inflammation that may cause obesity, fatty liver disease and insulin resistance. It is increasingly accepted that gut microbiota can contribute to diseases such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, but exactly how and by how much remains unclear. Evidence for treating the microbiota to help with these metabolic diseases, either by pre- or probiotic supplementation, is building. However, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies are required to determine effects. The influence of the gut microbiota is a promising area, but one that needs further research.