Background

Obesity and its comorbidities represent a rising, global problem. It has been suggested that food addiction, especially in females, to highly processed foods could be a contributing factor to the rising epidemic. Numerous studies also suggest a role for the gut microbiome in the development of obesity and food addiction. Using a multiomics approach, we explore the relationship between food addiction and the gut microbiome.

Methods

105 adult females with obesity were enrolled. The Yale Food Addiction Scale (YFAS) was administered to each patient and food addiction was defined as a score ³ 3. Fecal samples were collected for 16S sequencing and metabolomics. Multivariate analysis was used to correlate 16sRNA and metabolomics data to food addiction.

Results

The average age was 32.4 years old ± 10.1 with an average BMI of 30.3 ± 5.9. Of obese patients, 33% (17/51) exhibited food addiction behavior as compared to only 15.8% (6/38) and 0% (0/16) of overweight and normal BMI patients, respectively (p=0.01). Based on multilevel sparse partial least square discriminant analysis (sPLS-DA) and controlling for BMI, we found a significant difference in the gut microbiome of obese females with food addiction versus those without based on 135 different species. There were no differences in species richness, evenness, or diversity between those with food addiction. However, differential abundance testing showed Prevotella copri and Faecalibacterium prausnitzii along with 37 other species statistically (q<0.05) correlated with YFAS score. Metabolomics analysis showed 17 stool metabolites that correlated to food addiction, including dihomolinolenate (polysaturated fatty acid) and indolepropionic acid (tryptophan metabolism).

Conclusions

Key members of the gut microbiome and their metabolites may be involved in food addiction and obesity. These results provide important information for future mechanistic studies.