Did you know you have a new organ in your body? Recently, an Irish surgeon declared that a flappy piece of connective tissue that surrounds parts of our intestines is actually an organ. It kind of looks like an angry potato, if you ask me.
In the recently released paper, “The mesentery: structure, function, and role in disease,” scientists describe this unique structure as an interface between the gut and the body:
The mesentery is interposed between the intestines and the body, making it is optimally positioned to sample intestinal (ie, environmental) cues and mediate local responses, systemic responses, or both. Mesenteric nodes sample bacterial components derived from the adjacent intestine and regulate migration of B cells, T cells, natural killer cells, and dendritic cells to nearby intestinal mucosa.
While the distinction of being an organ is new, the mesentery is no stranger to those studying resistant starch.
Resistant Starch and your Mesentery
Before being proclaimed an organ, the mesentary was referred to as mesenteric tissue. This tissue has a system of lymph nodes and a bad habit of accumulating fat. When the mesentary gets fat, you get sick.
We all know the dangers of visceral fat…that giant Wheat Belly that protrudes from people with metabolic syndrome. Much of this fat buildup that makes the large belly is found on the mesentery. A malfunctioning mesentery has been associated with gut dysbiosis such as Crohn’s disease, as described in this Wikipedia article:
Clarifications of the mesenteric anatomy have a clearer understanding of diseases involving the mesentery, examples of which include malrotation and Crohn’s disease (CD). In CD, the mesentery is frequently thickened, rendering haemostasis challenging. In addition, fat wrapping — creeping fat — involves extension of mesenteric fat over the circumference of contiguous gastrointestinal tract, and this may indicate increased mesothelial plasticity.
I’ve found many studies that measure mesenteric fat accumulation after feeding resistant starch to animals:
Resistant starch improves insulin resistance and reduces adipose tissue weight and CD11c expression in rat OLETF adipose tissue (2014) “Feeding the RS diet to OLETF rats for 5 wk improved insulin resistance, reduced the mesenteric adipose tissue weight,…”
Dietary resistant starch dose-dependently reduces adiposity in obesity-prone and obesity-resistant male rats (2012) “The RS diets lowered adiposity … This reduction in visceral fat mass was similar for all visceral fat sites including mesenteric fat…”
Resistant starch and exercise independently attenuate weight regain on a high fat diet in a rat model of obesity (2011) “Both exercise and RS lowered the average size of adipocytes in mesenteric fat”
Immunomodulatory activity of type-4 resistant starch in the mesenteric lymph nodes of rats (2010) “These results indicate that type-4 RS might ameliorate allergic inflammation in the Mesenteric Lymph Nodes (MLN) of rats through an increased CD4(+) T cell population and enhanced differentiation of MLN lymphocytes into type-2 T cells.”
There is a proven reduction of fat build-up in the mesenteric tissues of animals fed RS. I doubt we’ll find many human studies as the method of weighing this fat relies on an expeditious autopsy…we may conclude, however, that a healthy diet which includes several forms of resistant starch and fiber will lead to a reduction in visceral fat, including the buildup around a newly discovered, important organ called the mesentery.
Be kind to your mesentery…eat potatoes!