Sunbathing or vitamin D supplements may help restore good bacteria in the gut and help prevent metabolic syndrome, a group of symptoms that are risk factors for diabetes and heart disease, new research suggests. The scientists discovered that vitamin D deficiency is necessary for metabolic syndrome to progress in mice, with underlying disturbances in gut bacteria.
“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 one of the researchers Stephen Pandol from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in the US. 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. 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 per cent of the world’s population. The current study made important advances in understanding the causative role of vitamin D in this syndrome.
“A sufficient dietary vitamin D supplement can partially but significantly antagonize metabolic syndrome caused by high fat diet in mice,” Pandol said. “These are amounts equivalent to the dietary recommendations for humans,” Pandol noted.
The study published in the journal Frontiers in Physiology found 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 research team found. The next step, the team said, would be to validate the results in humans.