The Intestinal Microbiome and Childhood Obesity
Purpose of Review: Pediatric obesity has reached epidemic proportions worldwide. The community of microbes inhabiting the human intestine affects differential nutrient absorption, metabolism, and weight status. However, the majority of our knowledge is derived from animal models and adults with obesity. This review discusses the role of the intestinal microbiome in the development and modification of pediatric obesity, with a focus on opportunities for modification of the microbiome through alteration of environmental factors. Recent Findings: Recent evidence suggests that obesity is associated with phylogenetic changes in the gut microbiome, yet most of what we know about the role of the microbiome and obesity is from research on adults. A vast number of variables influence the gut microbial ecology early in life, including maternal weight status, breastfeeding, dietary manipulation, antibiotic exposure, and pre/probiotic use. Both in experimental animal and human studies, advances in genomic, proteomic, and metabolomics technologies have expanded our capacity to understand the composition and phenotype of the gut microbiome and mechanistic factors that modulate human health. Summary: The human intestinal microbiome is associated with both the environment and child obesity. Understanding the mechanisms behind microbial regulation of human metabolism during infancy and childhood is key to developing effective prevention and treatment of obesity.