Psyllium Fiber Activates Fat Burning Genes

By: Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist
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Psyllium fiber is well-known for its ability to assist cholesterol and fat metabolism by helping clear cholesterol containing bile, and smoothing out calorie absorption to prevent swings in blood sugar. These highly beneficial actions take place within the digestive tract. A new animal gene study shows that psyllium fiber helps turn on fat burning genes in muscle – an entirely new perspective on its metabolic benefits.

The 10-week study involved three groups of mice.  Mice on a low-fat diet (the controls), compared to mice on a high fat diet with or mice on a high fat diet without psyllium. After 10 weeks the mice were sacrificed and their liver, white adipose tissue, and muscles were analyzed. Researchers found that the psyllium mice on a high fat diet had lower levels of cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar – data that is consistent with many human studies. Additionally, the total weight of their white adipose tissue was significantly less.

The groundbreaking aspect of this study was the DNA microarrays of skeletal muscle. Researchers found that gene signals associated with transport of fat to muscle as well as the burning of fat by muscle (beta oxidation) were significantly up-regulated by psyllium intake. This means that psyllium signals muscles to be more efficient at fat burning, which is a metabolic feature independent of its previously understood benefits for metabolism.

I find this study particularly interesting as many people who take additional psyllium fiber find that their energy level is much better. I typically think of this as improvements in fat clearance, stabilization of blood sugar, and enhanced clearance of toxins – all of which remain true. It can now be understood that psyllium may have additional metabolic benefits, which include helping create a gene signaling environment more favorable to burning fat.

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