Mice study suggests metabolic diseases may be driven by gut microbiome, loss of ovarian hormones

from left: molecular and integrative physiology professor Erik R. Nelson; Kelly Swanson, the director of the Division of Nutritional Sciences and the Kraft Heinz Endowed Professor in Human Nutrition; and animal sciences professor Brett R. Loman.
From left: study authors Erik R. Nelson; Kelly Swanson, and Brett R. Loman.

The gut microbiome interacts with the loss of female sex hormones to exacerbate metabolic disease, including weight gain, fat in the liver and the expression of genes linked with inflammation, researchers found in a new rodent study.

The findings, published in the journal Gut Microbes, may shed light on why women are at significantly greater risk of metabolic diseases such as obesity and Type 2 diabetes after menopause, when ovarian production of female sex hormones diminishes.

“Collectively, the findings demonstrate that removal of the ovaries and female hormones led to increased permeability and inflammation of the gut and metabolic organs, and the high-fat diet exacerbated these conditions,” said Kelly S. Swanson, the director of the Division of Nutritional Sciences and the Kraft Heinz Endowed Professor in Human Nutrition in the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign who is a corresponding author of the paper.  “The results indicated that the gut microbiome responds to changes in female hormones and worsens metabolic dysfunction.”

“This is the first time it has been shown that the response of microbiome to the loss of ovarian hormone production can increase metabolic dysfunction,” said first author Tzu-Wen L. Cross, a professor of nutrition science and the director of the Gnotobiotic Animal Facility at Purdue University. Cross was a doctoral student at the U. of I. when she began the research. 

“The gut microbiome is sensitive to sex hormone changes and can further impact the risk of disease development.”

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