DEC 24, 2016 5:03 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
FEB 04, 2020
FEB 04, 2020
The Gut Deploys Protective Mechanisms in Coordination with Your Mealtime Habits
At mealtime, every mouthful of food contains a possible risk of incoming pathogens to the digestive system. The gut takes protective measures to account fo...
FEB 05, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
FEB 05, 2020
Gut Bacteria Affect How the Colon Moves
The contraction and relaxation of muscles in the wall of the colon helps move food along and can become dysfunctional....
FEB 23, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
FEB 23, 2020
A New Class of Bacterial Enzymes is Discovered
Bacterial enzymes can serve many processes, from breaking down pollutants and digesting foods to metabolizing drugs....
MAR 03, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
MAR 03, 2020
New CRISPR-HOT Technique Can Color Cells and Genes
Since the CRISPR/Cas9 editing tool was developed several years ago, many scientists have modified and improved it for different applications....
MAR 25, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
MAR 25, 2020
A coronavirus testing kit with glow-in-the-dark Mango?
A group of Canadian researchers is responding to a desperate need for COVID-19 diagnostic kits with their fluorescent imaging technology, known as Mango. M...
APR 02, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
APR 02, 2020
How Particle Physicists can Lend a Hand to the Search for SARS-CoV-02 Cure, Explained
With vaccines at least one year away and no proven treatment for infection, the world has witnessed the loss of  20,000 lives due to the SARS-CoV-02 i...
Loading Comments...