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Alterations in brain-gut-microbiome interactions have been implicated as an important factor in obesity. This study aimed to explore the relationship between food addiction (FA) and the brain-gut microbiome axis, using a multi-omics approach involving microbiome data, metabolomics, and brain imaging.



The average age was 32.4 years ± 10.2. Based on a YFAS symptom count of ≥3 with clinically significant impairment or distress, 19 subjects were identified with FA. FA behaviors in females were associated with a distinct microbial profile, increased connectivity with the putamen of the reward center of the brain, and a decrease in indolepropionate, a tryptophan derived microbial metabolite. There was a strong negative association between Bacteroides, Akkermansia, and Eubacterium with FA. Differential abundance testing showed Bacteroides, Megamonas, Eubacterium and Akkermansia were statistically associated with FA.

A Distinct Brain-Gut-Microbiome Profile Exists for Females with Obesity and Food Addiction

Dong TS, Mayer E A, Osadchiy V, Chang C, Katzka W, Lagishetty V, Gonzalez K, Kalani A, Stains J, Jacobs JP, Longo VD, Gupta A.

Multimodal magnetic resonance brain imaging (MRI), anthropometrics (height, body weight, and waist-hip ratio measurements, body mass index), measures of appetite and FA, and stool samples for 16S ribosomal RNA gene sequencing and metabolomics were collected. FA was assessed using the Yale Food Addiction Scale (YFAS) questionnaire.


Sample Size

105 righthanded premenopausal females, aged 18–50 years old without significant medical or psychiatric conditions who weighed <400 pounds were studied. Subjects were excluded for the following reasons: pregnant or lactating, substance use, abdominal surgery, tobacco dependence, extreme exercise, medications that interfere with the central nervous system, and antibiotics or probiotics within past 3 months.


What is already known?
►Food addiction to highly processed foods is more prevalent in women than in men and is a potential cause of obesity.
► The gut microbiome plays a very distinct role in the regulation of obesity through alterations in metabolism.
► Little is known about the biochemical pathways that lead to food addiction.
What does this study add?
► We discovered a novel association between the brain-gut-microbiome axis and food addiction.
► Food addiction is associated with gut dysbiosis characterized by an overabundance of Megamonas and a reduction of Akkermansia, Eubacterium, and Bacteroides.
► This gut dysbiosis is associated with a reduction in a neuroprotective tryptophanrelated metabolite, indolepropionate, and increased communication between certain reward regions of the brain.
How might these findings change the direction of research or the focus of clinical practice?
► Gut dysbiosis or fecal metabolites can be used as biomarkers for patients with food addiction.
► Understanding the downstream signaling of indolepropionate may lead to a better understanding of food addiction and obesity.
► Focusing on the gut microbiome or on indolepropionate may lead to novel therapeutics against food addiction and obesity



Key Words

Dong, T. S., Mayer, E. A., Osadchiy, V., Chang, C., Katzka, W., Lagishetty, V., … Gupta, A. (2020). A Distinct Brain‐Gut‐Microbiome Profile Exists for Females with Obesity and Food Addiction. Obesity, 28(8), 1477–1486. doi:10.1002/oby.22870


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