April 25, 2017 By Elizabeth McCammon

Metabolic syndrome is a combination of obesity, high blood sugar, high blood pressure and high cholesterol that increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Researchers in China have found evidence that low vitamin D levels may play an important role in the development of metabolic syndrome.

Studying mice that were fed a high-fat diet, the researchers found that the ones who did not get enough vitamin D were more likely to develop metabolic syndrome than those who received a supplement of the vitamin. It seems the high-fat diet affected the balance between good and bad bacteria in the mice’s gut. This led to slightly increased fat deposits in the liver and raised blood sugar levels. When the high-fat diet was combined with low levels of vitamin D, the imbalance became even worse and contributed to fatty liver disease and metabolic syndrome.

In the November 2016 issue of Frontiers in Physiology, the researchers concluded that metabolic syndrome may not be triggered by a high-fat diet alone but also requires low vitamin D levels. They hope to confirm their findings in a study with humans. If studies in humans confirm these findings, it will underscore the importance of a healthy, balanced meal plan, especially for Canadians who may not get enough vitamin D from the sun during winter months. Health Canada recommends that adults should aim for at least 600 IU of vitamin D each day. Good sources include milk, eggs, and salmon.

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