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Home > The microbiota, the gut and the brain in eating and alcohol use disorders: a 'ménage à trois'?

Temko, Jamie E and Bouhlal, Sofia and Farokhnia, Mehdi and Lee, Mary R and Cryan, John F and Leggio, Lorenzo (2017) The microbiota, the gut and the brain in eating and alcohol use disorders: a 'ménage à trois'? Alcohol and Alcoholism , 52 , (4) , pp. 403-413. doi: 10.1093/alcalc/agx024.

Aims: Accumulating evidence for the influence of the gut microbiota on the bidirectional communication along the gut-brain axis suggests a role of the gut microbiota in eating disorders (EDs) and alcohol and substance use disorders. The potential influence of altered gut microbiota (dysbiosis) on behaviors associated with such disorders may have implications for developing therapeutic interventions.

Methods: A systematic review of preclinical and clinical studies evaluating the gut microbiota, EDs and alcohol and substance use disorders was conducted using MEDLINE, Embase and Web of Science databases with the objective being to examine the role of the gut microbiota in behavioral correlates of these disorders. Original papers focused on the gut microbiota and potential behavioral implications were deemed eligible for consideration.

Results: The resulting 12 publications were limited to gut microbiota studies related to EDs and alcohol and substance use disorders. Some studies suggest that dysbiosis and gut microbial byproducts may influence the pathophysiology of EDs via direct and indirect interference with peptide hormone signaling. Additionally, dysbiosis was shown to be correlated with alcohol use disorder-related symptoms, i.e. craving, depression and anxiety. Finally, a mouse study suggests that manipulations in the gut microbiota may affect cocaine-related behaviors.

Conclusions: Promising, albeit preliminary, findings suggest a potential role of the gut microbiota in behavioral correlates of EDs and alcohol and substance use disorders.

Short summary: Preliminary evidence exists supporting the role of the gut microbiota in eating disorders and alcohol and substance use disorders, although additional investigation is needed to determine what is causative versus epiphenomenological.


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