It is well known to some that a diet high in fat can trigger a metabolic syndrome; a group of symptoms that pose as risk factors for diabetes and heart disease. Scientists have now discovered that vitamin D deficiency is necessary for this syndrome in mice, with primary disturbances in gut bacteria.
If these findings can be validated in humans, sunbathing and vitamin D supplements may be affordable approaches to improve or even prevent metabolic syndrome.
“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,” says Professor Stephen Pandol, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, USA, who collaborated with Yuan-Ping Han’s research group at Sichuan University, China in the study.
Metabolic syndrome affects nearly one-fourth of the world’s adult population. 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 also typically have excess fat in their liver.
Vitamin D deficiency decreases the production of defensins, which are antimicrobial molecules essential to maintain healthy gut flora. As expected, an oral supply of a synthetic defensin recovers gut bacteria balance, decreases blood sugar levels and improves fatty liver.
In summary, a high fat diet alone is not enough to cause metabolic syndrome but ultimately it is needed in combination with vitamin D deficiency.