Review

The Gut and Energy Balance: Visceral Allies in the Obesity Wars

Science  25 Mar 2005:
Vol. 307, Issue 5717, pp. 1909-1914
DOI: 10.1126/science.1109951

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Abstract

In addition to digesting and assimilating nutrients, the intestine and associated visceral organs play a key sensing and signaling role in the physiology of energy homeostasis. The gut, the pancreatic islets of Langerhans, elements in the portal vasculature, and even visceral adipose tissue communicate with the controllers of energy balance in the brain by means of neural and endocrine pathways. Signals reflecting energy stores, recent nutritional state, and other parameters are integrated in the central nervous system, particularly in the hypothalamus, to coordinate energy intake and expenditure. Our understanding of regulatory neural circuits and the signaling molecules that influence them has progressed rapidly, particularly after the discovery of the adipocyte hormone leptin. These discoveries have led to exploration of novel routes for obesity control, some of which involve gut-derived pathways.

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