nav-left cat-right
cat-right

H pylori and metabolic syndrome – is there a link?

H pylori and metabolic syndrome

In this post we’ll explore the association between H pylori and metabolic syndrome.

It’s a really important post, particularly if you’ve been diagnosed with any of the following:

  • insulin resistance
  • type II diabetes
  • obesity
  • high cholesterol
  • high blood pressure
  • chronic inflammation.

The post is part of an ongoing series explaining how H pylori might influence cardiovascular disease in some people.

If you haven’t yet read the previous posts in the series, it will be really helpful if you do so, starting here.

What is metabolic syndrome?

Before we look at the relationship between H pylori and metabolic syndrome, let’s define what metabolic syndrome is.

The truth is that metabolic syndrome is a cluster of symptoms (which is why it’s called a “syndrome”).

As you know, the medical system uses the word “syndrome” in irritable bowel syndrome, premenstrual syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia syndrome, and so on.

When “syndrome” is used, it basically means, “We can see something’s going on but we don’t know why, so there isn’t much you can do about it. Go home with these drugs and live with it.”

The same is true for metabolic syndrome, which is characterized by a cluster of the following symptoms:

  • High total cholesterol
  • High triglycerides
  • Elevated LDL cholesterol
  • Decreased HDL cholesterol
  • Microalbuminaria (blood protein – albumin – in your urine)
  • A high body mass index (overweight/obese)
  • High waist to hip ratio
  • Elevated blood glucose
  • Insulin resistance

You’re no doubt aware that these symptoms or measurements affect a heck of a lot of people.

In fact, it’s estimated that fully 25% (that’s one quarter!) of the U.S. population has some form of metabolic syndrome, which is staggering.

Metabolic syndrome is also seen in patients who have type II diabetes. In fact, the two conditions often go hand in hand.

But how could there be a relationship between H pylori and metabolic syndrome?

Inflammation and something called “oxidative damage” develop in patients with metabolic syndrome AND in people who have H pylori.

It’s believed that the inflammation (gastritis) and stress caused by H pylori basically spills over and begins affecting the cardiovascular system.

You might think of it being like a fire spreading from the kitchen in your home to the other hallways and rooms in the house.

This diagram – from an article published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology – shows you how it works in a really basic way [see full reference here].

h pylori and metabolic syndrome

Studies on H pylori and metabolic syndrome

The introduction to a 2010 study from the Kanto Medical Centre in Tokyo, Japan, states:

Helicobacter pylori infection has been shown to contribute to atherosclerosis and cardiovascular diseases. Insulin resistance is the pathophysiologic background of the clinical features of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular diseases. We examined the association between H pylori infection and insulin resistance in a large Japanese population.” 1

In this study, 988 men and 119 women underwent a complete medical survey.

Insulin resistance was estimated and fat tissues were measured by tomography.

The rate of H pylori seropositivity (positive blood tests) in the 99 insulin resistant subjects was higher than in people without insulin resistance.

There was a significant association between H pylori and insulin resistance scores.

The authors concluded:

Helicobacter pylori infection significantly and independently contributed to promoting insulin resistance in a large asymptomatic population.”

This study is particularly interesting because insulin resistance was higher in H pylori patients even though they did not have obvious H pylori symptoms.

I cannot begin to tell you how important this is because it shows how H pylori infections may cause problems even in the absence digestive symptoms.

“Asymptomatic” H pylori infections are very common, but the absence of stomach pain, heartburn, bloating and ulcers doesn’t mean the infection isn’t causing insidious and “silent” damage.

This damage could lead to serious problems later on in life, but the medical system generally doesn’t acknowledge this.

Tricky, huh?

A study from 2005 and conducted in Turkey, revealed similar results. 63 patients were tested for H pylori and assessed for insulin resistance. 36 patients had H pylori and 27 did not.

The H pylori patients had a statistically significant higher insulin resistance score compared with people who did not have H pylori.

The authors concluded:

This study provides the first direct evidence for an association between chronic H pylori infection and insulin resistance.” 2

An Iranian study from 2009 examined 71 healthy subjects with no obvious H pylori symptoms.

43 of the subjects tested positive for H pylori and 28 were H pylori negative.

Patients with H pylori were found to have significantly higher insulin resistance scores.

The authors concluded:

Our findings suggest recognition of H pylori infection as a risk factor for insulin resistance.” 3

More research on H pylori and metabolic syndrome

Chinese researchers looked at 130 type II diabetes patients.

72 were positive for H pylori and 58 people didn’t have the infection.

Blood glucose fluctuations were larger in patients with H pylori infection.

They also found that the incidence of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) was higher people with H pylori.

The conclusion was:

H pylori infection has a significant effect on the daily blood glucose level and blood glucose fluctuation in the patients with type II diabetes.” 4

In Japan, a team of researchers performed an additional study, showing that:

H pylori was significantly higher in people with metabolic 
syndrome than in those without the disorder.

  • There was an independent correlation between H pylori positivity and 
metabolic syndrome.
  • H pylori infection was significantly associated with lower levels of “good” 
HDL cholesterol.
  • H pylori was significantly associated with higher levels of “bad” 
LDL cholesterol.

These findings led to the authors to write the following conclusion:

In a large Japanese population, H pylori infection was significantly associated with metabolic syndrome.” 5

In a comprehensive study carried out in the Democratic Republic of Congo, researchers found that people with positive H pylori blood tests had:

  • Higher blood triglycerides
  • Higher weight
  • Wider waist girth (waist:hip ratio)
  • Higher fibrinogen
  • Greater intima-media thickness (a marker of artery health)
  • Higher blood pressure

They also reported that people with H pylori infection as confirmed by biopsy had:

  • Lower HDL cholesterol (supposedly “good” cholesterol)
  • Higher systolic blood pressure
  • Higher triglycerides
  • Higher uric acid
  • Higher fibrinogen
  • Increased blood thickness and viscosity
  • Higher blood sugar

In this study, the higher the levels of H pylori antibodies, the more overweight the patients were and the higher their blood pressure.

Three weeks after receiving H pylori treatment, the following metabolic syndrome markers improved:

  • Uric acid levels dropped
  • Plasma glucose improved
  • Serum cholesterol decreased
  • Fibrinogen dropped
  • Blood pressure was lower

The researchers wrote the following conclusion:

This study adds evidence for supporting the association of seropositivity to H pylori with cardiovascular diseases and elevated number of components of metabolic syndrome… H pylori per se might generate atherosclerosis or metabolic syndrome… H pylori infection might be one of the risk factors of atherosclerosis through inflammation (fibrinogen) and modulation of glucose and lipid profiles, which may be prevented by antibiotics in developing countries.” 6

Yet more H pylori and metabolic syndrome research!

In 2013, researchers in the Middle East explored the relationship between H pylori, cholesterol and triglycerides.

They found that serum cholesterol and triglyceride levels were higher in people who were H pylori-positive.

The research team concluded that H pylori infections can modify lipid (fat) modulation, which may increase the risk of atherosclerosis. 7

A Japanese study investigated the relationship between H pylori and alterations to blood lipid profiles including total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides.

This was quite a large study, involving some 6,289 subjects.

In H pylori-positive men, LDL “bad” cholesterol was higher and HDL “good” cholesterol levels were lower than control subjects. The same associations were not seen in women.

The study conclusion read:

The present study demonstrates that Helicobacter pylori infection is significantly associated with high-LDL cholesterolemia and low HDL- cholesterolemia in Japanese male subjects.” 8

I found another study looking at various metabolic measurements before and after H pylori eradication.

Gen et al, based in Izmir, Turkey, investigated the effects of H pylori eradication on insulin resistance, low grade inflammation and blood fats.

Insulin resistance, total cholesterol, triglyceride, LDL cholesterol and C-reactive protein (CRP) levels were significantly higher in patients infected by H pylori.

HDL cholesterol was significantly lower in people who tested positive for H pylori.

The H pylori eradication rate was only 53.4% – a 
very low rate of success, probably due to antibiotic resistance (this is important when deciding how to treat H pylori).

In people who did NOT eradicate H pylori, all the relevant measurements remained unchanged six weeks after treatment.

However the following markers improved in patients where H pylori eradication was successful:

  • Fasting insulin
  • Total cholesterol
  • HDL cholesterol
  • Triglycerides
  • “Bad” LDL cholesterol
  • C-reactive protein (CRP)

This remarkable study showed an association between H pylori infection, insulin resistance, blood fats and inflammatory markers.

Importantly, it also demonstrated significant improvements when H pylori was successfully eradicated.

The researchers concluded:

This study showed beneficial effects of H. pylori eradication on insulin resistance, atherogenic lipid abnormalities and low-grade inflammation. The results suggest that H. pylori eradication may prevent coronary artery disease and metabolic syndrome.” 9

Two final H pylori and metabolic syndrome studies

Kanbay and colleagues worked with 78 patients who tested positive for H pylori using a stool antigen test.

H pylori treatment was given for 14-days using standard triple therapy.

Inflammation and blood lipid markers were measured before treatment and eight weeks afterwards.

H pylori eradication was successful in 57 subjects, but did not work in 21 patients (this is a 73% treatment success rate, which is about average for standard treatment).

The following results were reported:

  • Total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides remained the same in both groups.
  • C-reactive protein and HDL cholesterol did not change after treatment in the unsuccessful treatment therapy group.
  • C-reactive protein decreased and “good” HDL cholesterol increased significantly in the group who successfully eradicated H pylori.

The researchers reached the following conclusion:

We conclude that H pylori infection may affect lipid (fat) metabolism in a way that could increase the risk of atherosclerosis. Thus H pylori infection is an independent risk factor for coronary artery disease.” 10

Finally, a 2014 review paper examined more than 170 studies on the relationships between H pylori and factors associated with type II diabetes.

These risk factors included inflammation, insulin resistance, blood fat and cholesterol, obesity and pancreatic insulin secretion.

These are, of course, hallmark symptoms of metabolic syndrome.

Having studied the literature, the authors concluded that H pylori ought to be considered a risk factor for the development of type II diabetes.

They wrote:

Although no current data provide concrete evidence that H pylori plays a role in diabetes mellitus, the possibility cannot be ruled out. The evidence concerning an association between H pylori infection and insulin resistance, chronic inflammation, the secretion of gastric-related hormones, and insulin secretion deficiency implicate H pylori in a predisposition to diabetes.” 11

H pylori and metabolic syndrome summary

Phew!

I realize this has been a tough, dry article full of boring science.

BUT, I hope you can see how the research is gradually unearthing links between H pylori and metabolic syndrome.

I’m sure you’ll agree that we can no longer pass off H pylori as just a tummy bug.

It’s more than that.

It’s really important to realize that H pylori can cause changes in the cardiovascular system without causing obvious digestive symptoms.

H pylori doesn’t necessarily cause metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular diseases in everyone, but it certainly plays a role in some people.

What are your action steps?

The health of your entire digestive system has a profound influence on the health of your body.

It’s not just about H pylori – it’s other possible bad bacteria, parasites and fungi, as well as low good bug levels like Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus.

If you have digestive symptoms of any kind, please don’t allow yourself to be “fobbed off” by doctors who don’t want to test and treat you.

I recommend you get your digestive function properly tested using a comprehensive stool test.

As far-fetched as it might seem, by fixing your gut you might find you reverse high cholesterol, high blood pressure, insulin resistance and other indicators of metabolic syndrome.

Our doors are always open if you’d like assistance.

If you’d like help unraveling and overcoming your health challenges, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

You CAN rejuvenate your health and we’re here to show you the way.

H pylori and heart disease articles in this series:

H pylori and heart disease introduction

Associations between H pylori and cardiovascular disease

H pylori and high blood pressure / hypertension

H pylori and metabolic syndrome [you’re reading this article now]

H pylori and oxidative stress

H pylori and inflammation

H pylori, vitamin B12, folic acid and homocysteine

Questions or stories about H pylori and metabolic syndrome / heart disease?

It’s over to you – do you have any comments, questions or stories relating to H pylori, digestive health or even cardiovascular disease?

If so, we’d love to hear from you and you’re very welcome to join the discussion by leaving a comment, below.

Related Posts