12 January - 20 June 2016

Can dietary fibre protect against metabolic syndrome and reduce the effects of a high fat diet?

A mouse study published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe has indicated that consuming dietary fibre can prevent obesity, metabolic syndrome and promote the growth of good bacteria in the gut. The study led by scientists from Georgia State University reports that dietary habits, such as consuming a high fat diet lacking fibre, can affect gut microbiota and contribute to the increase of chronic inflammatory disease.

A mouse study published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe has indicated that consuming dietary fibre can prevent obesity, metabolic syndrome and promote the growth of good bacteria in the gut.  The study led by scientists from Georgia State University reports that dietary habits, such as consuming a high fat diet lacking fibre, can affect gut microbiota and contribute to the increase of chronic inflammatory disease.

Zou et al. fed mice, for four weeks, either a rodent chow, a high fat diet (35% fat by weight, 60% by calories) with a low fibre content (5% cellulose) or a high fat diet supplemented with either fermentable inulin fibre (20%) or insoluble cellulose fibre.  During the intervention, for two weeks, Zou et al recorded the amount of daily food the mice consumed. At the end of the 4 weeks blood and faecal samples were analysed and colon and fat measured.

The study found that compared to the chow fed mice, the mice fed the high fat diet with a low fibre content, showed an increase in fat stored in the body.  The mice who consumed the high fat diet with 20% of inulin, in comparison to the mice who consumed the high fat diet alone, had reduced weight gain accompanied by a reduction in the size of fat cells.  The supplemented inulin mice also had lower cholesterol levels compared to those on the high fat diet.  The supplemented high fat diet with inulin was also found to prevent abnormal blood sugar levels (dysglycemia), whilst the supplemented cellulose fibre diet only modestly reduced dysglycemia and obesity.

The team found that the standard high fat fed mice had a 10 fold reduction in total faecal bacteria, relative to chow.  However levels of faecal bacteria were partially restored by the addition of inulin but not cellulose.  The inulin corrected some of the high fat diet induced changes by increasing Firmicutes/Bacteroidetes ratio and lowering levels of Proteobacteria., although the study states it should be noted that inulin did not restore the bacteria composition of high fat diet fed mice towards that of chow fed mice. The high fat diet was found to reduce colon mass, a factor which can be attributed to low-grade inflammation and metabolic syndrome.  However switching from a high fat diet to a chow diet, restored this.

Zou et al investigated the mechanisms used to restore gut health and suppress obesity and metabolic syndrome.  They note that the fermentable fibre inulin restored gut microbiota levels, by increasing the production of intestinal epithelial cells and restoring expression of the protein interleukin-22 (IL-22 – a cytokine molecule that is involved in regulating inflammatory processes).  This prevented gut microbiota from invading epithelial cells in the gut lining. 

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