DEC 24, 2016 05:03 PM PST

Vitamin D Beneficial to gut Microbes & Metabolic Syndrome in Mice

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

A diet that contains a lot of fat is known to be a poor choice for good heath in part because it can cause metabolic syndrome, symptoms that collectively has been identified as risk factors for the development of diabetes and heart disease. Researchers have now found that a necessary component of metabolic disease progression in mice is deficiency of vitamin D, happening in conjunction with dysfunction in the bacterial population in the mouse gut. While these findings have to be replicated in humans, if that happens it’s possible that simple treatments like getting enough sun and taking vitamin supplements could help patients with metabolic syndrome.

Credit: Frontiers Blog

"Based on this study, we believe that keeping vitamin D levels high, either through sun exposure, diet or supplementation, is beneficial for prevention and treatment of metabolic syndrome," said Professor Stephen Pandol of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, who collaborated with the research group of Yuan-Ping Han at Sichuan University, China in the study.

Metabolic syndrome affects nearly a quarter of the world's adult population, and it is defined by a group of risk factors that put you on the road to diabetes and heart disease. The characteristic symptoms include obesity around the waistline and at least two of the following: high blood sugar levels, high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Sufferers usually also have excess fat in their liver.

It’s likely that a primary cause of metabolic syndrome is a diet that is high in fats or carbohydrates. The syndrome impacts around a quarter of adults globally, setting them up for future bouts with heart disease and diabetes. Hallmarks are two of the following three symptoms: high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, along with waistline obesity. Another common characteristic is a fatty liver.

Previous studies have also identified a link between metabolic syndrome and vitamin D deficiency, a common health issue affecting from 30 to 60 percent of the global population.

In this work, published in Frontiers in Physiology, the researchers have demonstrated that there a likely causative role for vitamin D deficiency in the development of this syndrome. "A sufficient dietary vitamin D supplement can partially but significantly antagonize metabolic syndrome caused by high fat diet in mice," explained Pandol. "These are amounts equivalent to the dietary recommendations for humans.

They research team has found that high consumption of fats can alter the balance of good and bad gut microbes. A slight increase in blood sugar and mild induction of fatty liver is subsequently seen in mice. Interestingly, if the supply of vitamin D is impaired, the gut flora imbalance is aggravated, further encouraging the development of a fatty liver and metabolic syndrome.

Defensins are anti-microbial molecules that are critical to the maintenance of healthy gut flora, and the production of those molecules decreases with a reduction in vitamin D. Synthetic defensin taken orally can restore balance to the gut bacterial population, and subsequently improves fatty liver and reduces blood sugar levels.

The researchers suggest that a high fat diet is not enough to cause metabolic syndrome on its own, but vitamin D deficiency will tip the scale into disorder. They also found that supplementation with vitamin D can help treat metabolic syndrome in mice. Next, they have to check out how this works in humans.

"Few studies have indicated that vitamin D supplementation may not improve metabolic disorders in humans. However, these studies are largely based on long-term surveys, which may be hampered by poor compliance and insufficient dosage," said Hans. "We are planning a clinical study to confirm the link of vitamin D deficiency with gut bacteria disruption, and its association with metabolic syndrome,” Han concluded.

The following talk from Robert Lustig, MD of UCSF discusses metabolic syndrome, and its impact on children.


Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via Frontiers Blog, Frontiers in Physiology

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
NOV 08, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
NOV 08, 2018
Ancient Animal Provides a New Window Into Tissue Cohesion
Trichoplax adhaerens has no muscles, neurons, or defined shape but still makes coordinated movement....
NOV 26, 2018
NOV 26, 2018
Ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex Central For Imagination Mitigated Fear
Extinction; presenting fear in a neutral setting where the negative consequences are negated is one of the successful fear conditioning mechanisms...
DEC 04, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
DEC 04, 2018
The Fallout From the First CRISPR Babies Continues
Last week the world was stunned to hear that twin babies had been born after a gene-editing experiment was conducted on human embryos....
DEC 08, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
DEC 08, 2018
Regenerating Beta Cells to Cure Diabetes
Beta cells of the pancreas produce a critical hormone that controls blood sugar - insulin. But beta cells can die off....
DEC 10, 2018
DEC 10, 2018
The 'Deep Biosphere' of the Earth Teems with Life
Deep within the surface of the earth lies a gargantuan amount of carbon in the form of various types of microbial life....
DEC 16, 2018
Health & Medicine
DEC 16, 2018
Important Biomedical Research At Risk Of Being Defunded
In September the Department of Health and Human Services (D.H.H.S.) released a statement citing “serious regulatory, moral and ethical considerations...
Loading Comments...