Metabolic Syndrome has become an epidemic in North America. It is characterized by a wide variety of dysfunctions which include obesity, chronic, low grade inflammation, high blood sugar and high blood pressure, low good cholesterol and a “beer belly”. Eventually, these symptoms if ignored will lead to bigger, full blown problems such as heart disease, diabetes, cancers and even dementia.
Now, scientists are starting to consider the possibility that chronic inflammation may not just be a symptom – but a cause of metabolic syndrome, and that this may all be connected to how healthy your gut is.
Consider these three experiments detailed here:
1) Diabetes specialist, Dr. Paresh Dandona measured the body’s response to a fast food breakfast from McDonalds. He discovered that “within literally” minutes, levels of a C-reactor protein which is an indicator of systemic inflammation had shot up greatly, and went on to last for hours. Dr. Dandona then went on to test different foods on subjects over the next decade.
In 2007, he had a break through when he discovered that while sugar water caused inflammation, orange juice (which contains a lot of natural sugar) did not. In a subsequent study, when subjects drank a glass of fresh squeezed OJ along with their fast food breakfast, the juice seemed to protect their metabolism, and the subjects did not show either elevated blood sugar or inflammation.
Perhaps, Dandona’s key finding was on a substance called endotoxin. Endotoxin comes from our gut microbes, and as long as it stays in our gut, it does not cause harm, but in our bloodstream it wreaks havoc and causes inflammation. Dandona’s research showed that foods full of fat and refined carbohydrates pushed endotoxin into the bloodstream, whereas orange juice stopped the process immediately.
2) Scientists at Washington University in St. Louis raised mice in plastic bubbles without any microbes 10 years ago. They found that these mice were able to gorge on food without growing obese or developing metabolic syndrome. However, when the mice were given a dose of endotoxin, the mice became obese and developed diabetes. However, similarly to Dandona’s experiments, when the scientists added oligosaccharides (soluble plant fibers) from things like bananas and garlic into the mice diets, the process again reversed and there was no inflammation or diabetes.
3) A Chinese microbiologist, Liping Zhao heard of the Washington University trials and decided to do his own research on himself, combining traditional Chinese medicine with modern microbiology. He changed his diet to whole grains (which are rich in prebiotic fibers which promote healthy gut bacteria) and started regularly consuming two traditional Chinese foods also thought to promote healthy micro flora – bitter melon and Chinese yam. The results? Zhao lost 44 lbs, lowered bad cholesterol levels and normalized his blood pressure. Sampling his microbes throughout the process, Zhao found that a bacteria called “Faecalibacterium prausnitzii” had increased in his gut. This bacteria and it’s relatives are absent in people with inflammatory diseases.