Insights into the role of the microbiome in obesity and type 2 diabetes

Annick V. Hartstra, Kristien E. C. Bouter, Fredrik Bäckhed, Max Nieuwdorp, F. Backhed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

455 Citations (Scopus)


The worldwide prevalence of obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) continues to rise at an alarming pace. Recently the potential role of the gut microbiome in these metabolic disorders has been identified. Obesity is associated with changes in the composition of the intestinal microbiota, and the obese microbiome seems to be more efficient in harvesting energy from the diet. Lean male donor fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) in males with metabolic syndrome resulted in a significant improvement in insulin sensitivity in conjunction with an increased intestinal microbial diversity, including a distinct increase in butyrate-producing bacterial strains. Such differences in gut microbiota composition might function as early diagnostic markers for the development of T2DM in high-risk patients. Products of intestinal microbes such as butyrate may induce beneficial metabolic effects through enhancement of mitochondrial activity, prevention of metabolic endotoxemia, and activation of intestinal gluconeogenesis via different routes of gene expression and hormone regulation. Future research should focus on whether bacterial products (like butyrate) have the same effects as the intestinal bacteria that produce it, in order to ultimately pave the way for more successful interventions for obesity and T2DM. The rapid development of the currently available techniques, including use of fecal transplantations, has already shown promising results, so there is hope for novel therapies based on the microbiota in the future
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-165
JournalDiabetes Care
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Cite this