It’s no secret that probiotics support digestive health and a whole lot more, but now we may be able to add metabolic health to probiotics’ powerful benefits. If you’re familiar with metabolic syndrome—which reportedly affects 50 to 75 million Americans and 30 percent of people in industrialized countries—then you realize what a health hazard it can be.
Metabolic syndrome is generally defined as a cluster of risk factors which can pave the way to diabetes, heart disease and stroke—conditions which already affect at least 18 million, 16 million and six million Americans, respectively.
And just what are those clustered risk factors? The primary ones include:
• central obesity (around and in the abdomen).
• high blood pressure.
• glucose intolerance.
• blood-fat disorders that promote plaque buildup in the artery walls.
Specific factors include elevated blood fat levels (triglycerides); low levels of HDL (good cholesterol); resistance to insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar; as well as a pro-thrombotic state (elevated blood-clotting which may block arteries or veins) and a pro-inflammatory state (specifically higher blood levels of C-reactive protein, which has been linked to heart disease).
Metabolic syndrome is a force to be reckoned with, too, since having it can increase a person’s risk for coronary heart disease or strokes by two-fold and the risk for diabetes by five-fold—compared to the absence of metabolic syndrome.
It’s no wonder then that many pharmaceutical—and other—therapies have been proposed to try to combat markers for metabolic syndrome, including obesity. However, dietary strategies in dealing with metabolic syndrome have no adverse effects—unlike pharmaceuticals and some other approaches—which is why there is growing interest in probiotics and prebiotics to address metabolic syndrome.
An approach that includes the use of probiotics and prebiotics is gaining ground, too. Studies indicate probiotics' and prebiotics’ positive roles in weight management; improved microbial balance; decreased food intake; decreased abdominal adiposity; increased mucosal integrity and decreased inflammation. In short, probiotics and prebiotics are being examined to provide dietary strategies for managing metabolic syndrome. Studies show the potential of probiotics in supporting healthy blood pressure levels, lipid profiles, insulin levels and more—findings suggesting that probiotics may help combat metabolic syndrome, although more studies need to be done.
Along with all the other powerful perks from probiotics, these studies' results make for the possibility of even more impressive benefits associated with probiotics—namely, metabolic health.