The microbiome and microbiome-derived metabolites are involved in several features by which common human lifestyle elements predispose to obesity and diabetes.
The prevalence of obesity has increased at an astounding rate over the past decades. More than 44% of the global population is estimated to be overweight, and more than 300 million individuals are affected by morbid adiposity. Obesity is a major risk factor for a number of co-occurring diseases, including type II diabetes mellitus, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and ischemic cardiovascular disease. Thus, the obesity pandemic has far-reaching consequences on life expectancy, quality of life, and health-care costs.
What has caused this rapid increase in obesity within less than a generation? The past century has seen dramatic changes in human lifestyle, ranging from new dietary patterns to improved hygiene and altered sleep-wake cycles. However, the molecular and cellular mechanisms by which these environmental factors predispose humans to obesity remain largely unknown. We investigated three phenomena of human obesity that are tightly linked to the modern human lifestyle. For all three, we discovered an unexpected role for temporal and spatial dynamics of the intestinal microbiome—the community of trillions of microorganisms that inhabit the gastrointestinal tract.
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