Is eating behavior manipulated by the gastrointestinal microbiota? Evolutionary pressures and potential mechanisms

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

132 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Microbes in the gastrointestinal tract are under selective pressure to manipulate host eating behavior to increase their fitness, sometimes at the expense of host fitness. Microbes may do this through two potential strategies: (i) generating cravings for foods that they specialize on or foods that suppress their competitors, or (ii) inducing dysphoria until we eat foods that enhance their fitness. We review several potential mechanisms for microbial control over eating behavior including microbial influence on reward and satiety pathways, production of toxins that alter mood, changes to receptors including taste receptors, and hijacking of the vagus nerve, the neural axis between the gut and the brain. We also review the evidence for alternative explanations for cravings and unhealthy eating behavior. Because microbiota are easily manipulatable by prebiotics, probiotics, antibiotics, fecal transplants, and dietary changes, altering our microbiota offers a tractable approach to otherwise intractable problems of obesity and unhealthy eating.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)940-949
Number of pages10
JournalBioEssays
Volume36
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 2014

Fingerprint

Feeding Behavior
Microbiota
Pressure
Food
Prebiotics
Transplants
Vagus Nerve
Probiotics
Reward
Gastrointestinal Tract
Brain
Obesity
Eating
Anti-Bacterial Agents
Gastrointestinal Microbiome
Craving

Keywords

  • Cravings
  • Evolutionary conflict
  • Host manipulation
  • Microbiome
  • Microbiota
  • Obesity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)

Cite this

Is eating behavior manipulated by the gastrointestinal microbiota? Evolutionary pressures and potential mechanisms. / Alcock, Joe; Maley, Carlo; Aktipis, C Athena.

In: BioEssays, Vol. 36, No. 10, 01.10.2014, p. 940-949.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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