Vital role of Vitamin D in improving gut flora and preventing metabolic syndrome revealed in new research

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

A sufficient 'dietary vitamin D supplement can partially but significantly antagonize' metabolic syndrome. ©iStock
A sufficient 'dietary vitamin D supplement can partially but significantly antagonize' metabolic syndrome. ©iStock

Related tags Metabolic syndrome Nutrition Obesity

Scientists have discovered that vitamin D deficiency is necessary for metabolic syndrome caused by a high-fat diet to progress in mice.

The main cause of metabolic syndrome appears to be a diet high in fat or carbohydrate. However, observational studies have also linked metabolic syndrome to vitamin D deficiency, which affects 30-60% of the world's population.

Metabolic syndrome affects nearly a quarter of the world's adult population. 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

This latest study in mice appears to show that high vitamin D levels can be beneficial for the prevention and treatment of the syndrome.

If these findings can be validated in humans, vitamin D supplements may be a feasible and affordable approach to improve or even prevent metabolic syndrome, said researchers Professor Stephen Pandol from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center USA and Yuan-Ping Han's research group at Sichuan University, China.

"A sufficient dietary vitamin D supplement can partially but significantly antagonize metabolic syndrome caused by high fat diet in mice,"​ said Pandol. "These are amounts equivalent to the dietary recommendations for humans."

"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.”

High cholesterol

The research also shows that an insufficient supply of vitamin D aggravates the imbalance in gut flora for mice fed a high-fat diet, contributing to full-scale fatty liver and metabolic syndrome.

Writing in the journal Frontiers in Physiology, ​the researchers stated: "We demonstrate that high-fat-diet feeding (HFD) is necessary but not sufficient, while additional vitamin D deficiency (VDD) as a second hit is needed, to induce robust insulin resistance and fatty liver."

"The two hits (HFD+VDD), [result] in mucosal collapse, increased gut permeability, dysbiosis, endotoxemia, and systemic inflammation which underlie insulin resistance and hepatic steatosis."

They summarised that a high fat diet alone is not enough to cause metabolic syndrome but it is needed in combination with vitamin D deficiency. Accordingly, vitamin D supplementation improves metabolic syndrome in mice. The next step would be to validate the results 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."

Source: Frontiers in Physiology

DOI: 10.3389/fphys.2016.00498

"Vitamin D Signaling through Induction of Paneth Cell Defensins Maintains Gut Microbiota and Improves Metabolic Disorders and Hepatic Steatosis in Animal Models".

Authors: Stephen Pandol, et al.

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