The central role of the intestinal microbiota in the progression and, equally, prevention of metabolic dysfunction is becoming abundantly apparent. The symbiotic relationship between intestinal microbiota and host ensures appropriate development of the metabolic system in humans. However, disturbances in composition and, in turn, functionality of the intestinal microbiota can disrupt gut barrier function, a trip switch for metabolic endotoxemia. This low-grade chronic inflammation, brought about by the influx of inflammatory bacterial fragments into circulation through a malfunctioning gut barrier, has considerable knock-on effects for host adiposity and insulin resistance. Conversely, recent evidence suggests that there are certain bacterial species that may interact with host metabolism through metabolite-mediated stimulation of enteric hormones and other systems outside of the gastrointestinal tract, such as the endocannabinoid system. When the abundance of these keystone species begins to decline, we see a collapse of the symbiosis, reflected in a deterioration of host metabolic health. This review will investigate the intricate axis between the microbiota and host metabolism, while also addressing the promising and novel field of probiotics as metabolic therapies.
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