Fatty acids from diet and microbiota regulate energy metabolism. Academic Article Review uri icon


  • A high-fat diet and elevated levels of free fatty acids are known risk factors for metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, and visceral obesity. Although these disease associations are well established, it is unclear how different dietary fats change the risk of insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. Here, we review emerging evidence that insulin resistance and fat storage are linked to changes in the gut microbiota. The gut microbiota and intestinal barrier function, in turn, are highly influenced by the composition of fat in the diet. We review findings that certain fats (for example, long-chain saturated fatty acids) are associated with dysbiosis, impairment of intestinal barrier function, and metabolic endotoxemia. In contrast, other fatty acids, including short-chain and certain unsaturated fatty acids, protect against dysbiosis and impairment of barrier function caused by other dietary fats. These fats may promote insulin sensitivity by inhibiting metabolic endotoxemia and dysbiosis-driven inflammation. During dysbiosis, the modulation of metabolism by diet and microbiota may represent an adaptive process that compensates for the increased fuel demands of an activated immune system.

publication date

  • January 1, 2015