Obesity has become a major health problem due to its increasing prevalence and its association with chronic disorders that include type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Although obesity is a result of a long-term imbalance between dietary intake and energy expenditure, dietary-induced alterations in the gut microbiome play an important role in the onset and development of this condition. Human and animal intestines contain trillions of microbes, defined as the gut microbiome or microbiota. The microbiome is largely responsible for the health of the host and varies with diet, host genotype, sex, and age. The normal gut microbiome imparts specific functions in host metabolism, including immunity, maintenance of the intestinal barrier, and protection against pathogens. The composition and activities of the microbiome are altered in obese individuals compared with their lean counterparts. Metabolic changes due to the altered microbiome in obesity include enhanced energy extraction from food, lipogenesis, and insulin resistance. Dietary manipulation of the microbiome to control obesity includes prebiotics, probiotics, and synbiotics that have been reported to reduce energy storage and lower inflammation and insulin resistance. The development of therapeutic approaches to prevent and treat obesity by microbiome manipulation are being pursued in laboratories and are of growing interest to commercial companies and governments.
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