Microbes: Possible link between modern lifestyle transition and the rise of metabolic syndrome


The rapid decrease in infectious diseases globally has coincided with an increase in the prevalence of obesity and other components of metabolic syndrome. Insulin resistance is a common feature of metabolic syndrome and can be influenced by genetic and non-genetic/environmental factors. The emergence of metabolic syndrome epidemics over only a few decades suggests a more prominent role of the latter. Changes in our environment and lifestyle have indeed paralleled the rise in metabolic syndrome. Gastrointestinal tract microbiota, the composition of which plays a significant role in host physiology, including metabolism and energy homeostasis, are distinctly different within the context of metabolic syndrome. Among humans, recent lifestyle-related changes could be linked to changes in diversity and composition of ‘ancient’ microbiota. Given the co-adaptation and co-evolution of microbiota with the immune system over a long period of time, it is plausible that such lifestyle-related microbiota changes could trigger aberrant immune responses, thereby predisposing an individual to a variety of diseases. Here, we review current evidence supporting a role for gut microbiota in the ongoing rise of metabolic syndrome. We conclude that population-level shifts in microbiota can play a mediatory role between lifestyle factors and pathogenesis of insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome.

Obesity Reviews
Shirin Moossavi
Shirin Moossavi
Postdoctoral Fellow
Faraz Bishehsari
Associate Professor of Medicine