The gut microbial metabolome: modulation of cancer risk in obese individuals

Wendy R Russell, Sylvia H Duncan, Harry J Flint
Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 2013, 72 (1): 178-88
Obesity is a critical health concern and although genetic factors may predispose an individual to become obese, changes in diet and lifestyle over the last few decades are likely to be significant contributors. Even so, it has been suggested that the causes of the current obesity crisis are not simply explained by changes in eating and exercise habits. Evidence suggests that the gut microbiota may play an important role in obesity and may be a factor in the development of associated disease including diabetes, CVD, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and cancer. There have been tremendous advances in knowledge regarding the composition of human gut microbiota, but less is known about their function and role within the human host. It is becoming widely accepted that the products of microbial metabolism influence human health and disease, particularly with respect to immune response and inflammation. However, in most cases, the products of microbial metabolism are uncharacterised and their mechanism of action remains unknown. This review addresses the role of the metabolites produced by gut microbiota in cancer and obesity. It is clear that only if the link between microbial diversity and metabolic functionality is firmly established, will the mechanism by which gut microbiota maintains health or contributes to disease development be elucidated.

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