Health impact of the Anthropocene: The complex relationship between gut microbiota, epigenetics, and human health, using obesity as an example
Global Health, Epidemiology and Genomics
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© 2020 The Author(s). The growing prevalence of obesity worldwide poses a public health challenge in the current geological epoch, the Anthropocene. Global changes caused by urbanisation, loss of biodiversity, industrialisation, and land-use are happening alongside microbiota dysbiosis and increasing obesity prevalence. How alterations of the gut microbiota are associated with obesity and the epigenetic mechanism mediating this and other health outcome associations are in the process of being unveiled. Epigenetics is emerging as a key mechanism mediating the interaction between human body and the environment in producing disease. Evidence suggests that the gut microbiota plays a role in obesity as it contributes to different mechanisms, such as metabolism, body weight and composition, inflammatory responses, insulin signalling, and energy extraction from food. Consistently, obese people tend to have a different epigenetic profile compared to non-obese. However, evidence is usually scattered and there is a growing need for a structured framework to conceptualise this complexity and to help shaping complex solutions. In this paper, we propose a framework to analyse the observed associations between the alterations of microbiota and health outcomes and the role of epigenetic mechanisms underlying them using obesity as an example, in the current context of global changes within the Anthropocene.