Obesity is a serious public health issue affecting both children and adults. Prevention and management of obesity is proposed to begin in childhood when environmental factors exert a long-term effect on the risk for obesity in adulthood. Thus, identifying modifiable factors may help to reduce this risk. Recent evidence suggests that gut microbiota is involved in the control of body weight, energy homeostasis and inflammation and thus, plays a role in the pathophysiology of obesity. Prebiotics and probiotics are of interest because they have been shown to alter the composition of gut microbiota and to affect food intake and appetite, body weight and composition and metabolic functions through gastrointestinal pathways and modulation of the gut bacterial community. As shown in this review, prebiotics and probiotics have physiologic functions that contribute to changes in the composition of gut microbiota, maintenance of a healthy body weight and control of factors associated with childhood obesity through their effects on mechanisms controlling food intake, fat storage and alterations in gut microbiota.
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