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Strict vegetarian diet or vegan diet improves metabolic syndrome

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Saturday Oct 12, 2013 (foodconsumer.org) -- A new study in Environmental Microbiology Reports reveals that eating strict vegetarian diet or vegan diet can help metabolic disease or metabolic syndrome in obese individuals. Metabolic syndrome can have at least two symptoms including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high serum glucose or type 2 diabetes in obese people.

The study led by M.S. Kim and colleagues from Kyung Hee University in Seoul, Republic of Korea finds evidence suggesting that the improvement of metabolic syndrome by strict vegetarian diet was induced by the diet modulating gut microbiota and reducing intestinal inflammation.
Metabolic dysfunction results from low grade inflammation of the intestine, which has something to do with dysbiosis of the gut microbiota.

Previous research has disclosed that dietary fiber is able to induce prebiotic effects to help maintain the gut micrbiota.  The current study was intended to examine how a restric vegetarian diet would affect some risk factors of metabolic syndrome.

The study involved six obese people with type 2 diabetes and or high blood pressure or hypertension who were assigned to follow a strict vegetarian diet for one month and a biochemical parameters including blood biomarkers of glucose and lipid metabolisms, fecal microbiota, facal lipocalin-2- and short chain fatty acids were surveyed at baseline and at the end of the trial.

The strict vegetarian diet was found to reduce body weight and levels of serum triglycerides, total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and hemoglobin A1c and also decrease fasting glucose and postprandial glucose.

The strict vegetarian diet was also found to improve many parameters of the gut microbiota including the reduced Firmicutes to bacteroidetes ratio, decreased pathobionts (any pathogenical organisms), and increased commensal microbes including Bacteroides fragilis and Clostridium species.  As a result, the diet lowered intestinal lipocalin-2 and short-chain fatty acids.. 

The researchers concluded "This study underscores the benefits of dietary fibre for improving the risk factors of metabolic diseases and shows that increased fiber intake reduce gut inflammation by changing the gut microbiota."

Dietary fiber has been known to benefit people with type 2 diabetes and or metabolic syndrome. It is unknown whether dietary fiber is the only nutrient that helps metabolic syndrome.  One thing that is clear though is that a vegan diet is full of antioxidants, which are known to act against inflammation associated with type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.  

Also a person who follows a strict vegetarian diet does not eat any type of meat.   And red meat has been associated in previous studies with increased risk of inflammation, which is in turn linked to high risk of type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. (JD)

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