According to JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), 35% of Americans now have metabolic syndrome (and 50% of those over 60 years old).[i] Holy cow! How’s that for incredible (and depressing) statistics?! Well, how interesting for us gut-bug-lovers to learn that it looks very likely that bad gut bacteria may be the culprit.
By the way, in case you’re not familiar with the term metabolic syndrome, it refers to “…a cluster of conditions – increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels – that occur together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.”[ii] With about a third of Americans now being obese, it’s not surprising to learn that metabolic syndrome is dramatically on the rise…and with all that diabetes and cardiovascular illness around, I can’t even imagine the costs to society in every regard.
Anyway, it turns out that alterations to the gut bacteria have already been associated with metabolic syndrome but the mechanism by which this caused the health issues was unknown. It turns out that the bad bacteria breach the epithelium (the wall of the intestine) causing inflammation that interferes with the normal action of insulin.[iii]
Thus far, the researchers have not identified the particular types of bacteria at fault, nor have they suggested a solution.
This research though reminds me yet again of one my favorite sayings of my friend, Dr. Sidney Baker (the eminent functional medicine doctor): “Inflammation is inflammation.” That is, while localized inflammation may be evident (for example when you bang your leg and it swells), the chemicals of inflammation are circulating throughout your body via your blood stream. If your gut is inflamed, your body is inflamed and your brain is inflamed. Thus, for example, there is a well-established connection between metabolic syndrome and depression.[iv]
To sum up: it’s an awfully good idea to maintain a healthy body weight and take care of your biome…in case you didn’t know.