Vitamin D may be the critical factor that kicks a person heading toward metabolic syndrome fully into the realm of the condition, according to new research. The syndrome is defined by a group of risk factors leading to diabetes and heart disease, including fat around the waistline and at least two of the following symptoms: high blood sugar, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. About one in three Americans have metabolic syndrome, according to the American Heart Association.
Scientists knew that a high-fat diet can cause metabolic syndrome. A collaboration of American and Chinese researchers discovered that in mice, a lack of vitamin D is required to trigger the condition, with underlying disturbance in gut bacteria.
If their planned clinical study can replicate the results in humans, the researches believe sun and supplements may be potential—and affordable—approaches to improve or even prevent the condition.
"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," the study’s co-author, Stephen Pandol, MD, a professor at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center said in a release from Frontiers in Physiology, where the research was published. Pandol and his colleagues collaborated with Yuan-Ping Han, PhD’s, research group at China’s Sichuan University.
The research team showed how low vitamin D aggravates the imbalance in gut flora caused by a high-fat diet, according to the release. This means a high-fat diet alone is not enough to cause metabolic syndrome, there also needs to be a vitamin D deficiency.