Project Details

Early Career

Status: Funded - Open

Gut microbial signals that influence food preference and appetite regulation in obesity

Yanjia (Jason) Zhang, MD, PhD


BACKGROUND: Eating behaviors and appetite regulation are key drivers of the adolescent obesity epidemic. Successful clinical approaches for obesity focus on lifestyle changes, including decreasing caloric intake and choosing healthier foods. GAP: Patients and providers find lifestyle changes very difficult to achieve, in part due to our relative lack of knowledge as to why we overeat and why we are attracted to high-fat and high-sugar foods in the first place. In this study, we theorize that gut microbes influence obesity-driving eating behaviors, and seek to identify these behavior-associated microbes. HYPOTHESIS: A subset of obesity-associated microbes inhibit satiety and increase fat preference in adolescents METHODS: We are recruiting subjects with obesity from Adolescent Bariatric Surgery programs and enrolling them in a prospective microbiome time-series study. We are collecting stool about four times a year (more often in the peri-operative periods), administering eating-behavior questionnaires both pre-operatively and post-operatively, and performing dietary recalls about twice a year. We will use both machine learning techniques and regression models to identify microbes associated with behavioral traits. RESULTS: Pending IMPACT: Our study is designed to discover microbes either positively or inversely associated with healthy dietary choices among adolescents. We predict that this will be an important first step in designing future microbiome-targeted therapies that ameliorate unhealthy eating behaviors in obese adolescents.