Prospects & Overviews
Is eating behavior manipulated by the gastrointestinal microbiota? Evolutionary pressures and potential mechanisms
Version of Record online: 7 AUG 2014
© 2014 The Authors. Bioessays published by WILEY Periodicals, Inc.
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Volume 36, Issue 10, pages 940–949, October 2014
How to Cite
Alcock, J., Maley, C. C. and Aktipis, C. A. (2014), Is eating behavior manipulated by the gastrointestinal microbiota? Evolutionary pressures and potential mechanisms. Bioessays, 36: 940–949. doi: 10.1002/bies.201400071
- Issue online: 10 SEP 2014
- Version of Record online: 7 AUG 2014
- Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin
- American Cancer Society, the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation. Grant Number: 117209-RSG-09-163-01-CNE
- NIH. Grant Numbers: F32 CA132450, P01 CA91955, R01 CA149566, R01 CA170595, R01 CA140657
- evolutionary conflict;
- host manipulation;
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.