Within the last century, human lifestyle and dietary behaviors have changed dramatically. These changes, especially concerning hygiene, have led to a marked decrease in some diseases, i.e., infectious diseases. However, other diseases that can be attributed to the so-called ‘Western’ lifestyle have increased, i.e., metabolic and cardiovascular disorders. More recently, multifactorial disorders, such as autoimmune and neurodegenerative diseases, have been associated with changes in diet and the gut microbiome. In particular, short chain fatty acid (SCFA)-producing bacteria are of high interest. SCFAs are the main metabolites produced by bacteria and are often reduced in a dysbiotic state, causing an inflammatory environment. Based on advanced technologies, high-resolution investigations of the abundance and composition of the commensal microbiome are now possible. These techniques enable the assessment of the relationship between the gut microbiome, its metabolome and gut-associated immune and neuronal cells. While a growing number of studies have shown the indirect impact of gut metabolites, mediated by alterations of immune-mediated mechanisms, the direct influence of these compounds on cells of the central nervous system needs to be further elucidated. For instance, the SCFA propionic acid (PA) increases the amount of intestine-derived regulatory T cells, which furthermore can positively affect the central nervous system (CNS), e.g., by increasing remyelination. However, the question of if and how PA can directly interact with CNS-resident cells is a matter of debate. In this review, we discuss the impact of an altered microbiome composition in relation to various diseases and discuss how the commensal microbiome is shaped, starting from the beginning of human life.
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