Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic Syndrome

According to estimates metabolic syndrome is present in approximately 25% of the adult population in the UK. Metabolic syndrome is also referred to as syndrome X. Its incidence is increasing day by day. Metabolism refers to all the biochemical processes that are involved in the normal functioning of the body. During metabolic syndrome, the body’s normal functioning is disrupted.

What is Metabolic Syndrome?

Metabolic Syndrome is the name given to a group of risk factors that increase your risk for developing heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes and stroke. The five conditions which are considered the metabolic syndrome risk factors are described below. At least three risk factors must be present to be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome.

  • The presence of abdominal obesity or a large waistline.
  • A high triglyceride level.
  • A low level of HDL cholesterol or good cholesterol.
  • The presence of high blood pressure.
  • The presence of high fasting blood sugar level.

What are the symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome?

A diagnosis of metabolic syndrome is made if you have 3 or more of the below-mentioned symptoms:

  • Waist circumference of 37 inches or greater in European men and 31.5 inches or more in European women.
  • High levels of triglycerides and low levels of good cholesterol (HDL), which may result in atherosclerosis.
  • Increase blood pressure that is persistently 140/90mm Hg or greater.
  • Insulin resistance or uncontrolled levels of blood sugar.
  • A raised risk of developing clots in the bloods including DVT or deep vein thrombosis.
  • A tendency for inflammation of the body (swelling and irritation of the body).

Who is most likely to get the disease?

The below mentioned factors raises the chances of your developing metabolic syndrome:

  • Age: Risk of developing metabolic syndrome is increased with age.
  • Race: Some ethnic groups such as African-Carribean and Asian people are at an increased risk.
  • Obesity: Being overweight, and if the weight is concentrated around the abdomen raises the risk.
  • Diabetes: The risk of developing metabolic syndrome is increased if you have a history of gestational diabetes or a family history or diabetes type 2.
  • Other diseases: The risk of metabolic in increased in persons having heart disease, polycystic ovarian syndrome or non alcoholic fatty liver disease.

What are the causes of Metabolic Syndrome?

There is a close link between metabolic syndrome and obesity or overweight and inactivity.

A link also exists between metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance. Under normal circumstances, the foods you ingest are broken down into glucose or sugar by the digestive system. Insulin is a type of hormone secreted by pancreas that helps glucose enter the body cells and be utilised as fuel.

In persons who have insulin resistance, the response of cells to insulin is abnormal and sugar is unable to enter the body cells and used as fuel. Due to this, your blood sugar levels increase despite the efforts of your body to use glucose as fuel by secreting more insulin.

What is the prognosis of Metabolic Syndrome/can it lead to other diseases?

The risk of developing the following diseases is increased if you have metabolic syndrome:

  • Diabetes: If you don’t lose excessive weight, it can result in insulin resistance leading to further increase in blood sugar levels. This may ultimately lead to the development of diabetes.
  • Heart Disease: Increased blood pressure and high cholesterol may result in building up of plaques in the walls of your arteries. The arteries are narrowed and hardened by these plaques, ultimately leading to a stroke or heart attack.

Lifestyle and exercise changes to manage Metabolic Syndrome

A long-term commitment to lead a healthy lifestyle is generally needed to prevent serious complications of metabolic syndrome such as heart disease and diabetes. Some of these lifestyle changes are:

Getting regular physical exercise: It is recommended by doctors to include at least 30 minutes or more of exercise of moderate intensity into your daily routine. This could include brisk walking, biking, swimming or jogging. Find out ways to increase your physical activity such as walk instead of driving and use stairs instead of using elevators.

Lose excess weight: By reducing excess weight and maintaining optimum weight for your height you can reduce the risk of developing insulin resistance, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Quit Smoking: The complications of metabolic syndrome are worsened by smoking cigarettes. Consult your physician if you require help in quitting smoking.

Manage stress: Meditation, yoga, physical activity and other programs such as pilates, tai chi etc. can help manage stress in a better way and also improve your physical and emotional health.

Dietary changes to manage Metabolic Syndrome

Foods that worsen Metabolic Syndrome

Processed foods: Significantly reduce processed foods. These foods contain fewer nutrients and are often full of unhealthy preservatives and additives that may be harmful to your health. According to a study published in the journal PLoS One, the incidence of metabolic syndrome is increased in both adults and children by eating processed foods. Additionally, a study done in Brazil demonstrated that increased consumption of processed foods increased the incidence of metabolic syndrome in adolescents.

Artificial Sweeteners: According to accumulating evidence consumers who frequently use artificial sweeteners containing sucralose, saccharin and aspartame are at an increased risk of gaining of weight and development of diabetes type 2, metabolic syndrome and heart disease.

Diet Sodas: Diet sodas contain several unhealthy ingredients along with artificial sweeteners; hence should be avoided. According to a study published in the journal Diabetes Care consumption of diet soda daily was associated with a 36% higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome and a 67% higher risk of developing diabetes type 2.

Trans Fats: Trans fats are present in foods prepared with hydrogenated fats and oils such as cakes and pies, cookies, crackers, margarine and coffee creamers. According to a 2009 study, consumption of trans fats causes metabolic dysfunction resulting in metabolic syndrome, coronary heart disease and diabetes mellitus.

Refined carbs and sugar: Consumption of both refined carbs and sugar leads to insulin resistance causing metabolic syndrome and diabetes mellitus. According to a 2014 study done in Korea, consumption of carbohydrates and refined grains is associated with an increased incidence of metabolic syndrome in the Korean population.

Alcohol: Limiting your alcohol intake reduces the risk of metabolic syndrome and is also the key to overall good health. Your triglyceride levels and blood pressure may be raised by drinking too much alcohol. You should drink alcohol in moderation; males should have no more than 2 drinks per day and females should have no more than 1 drink per day.

Foods that benefit Metabolic Syndrome

Omega-3 foods and Fish: The omega-3 oils present in cold-water fish are found to reduce blood pressure, regulate heart beat, reduce the formation of blood clots and also reduce inflammation in the body, all of which help reduce the risk of strokes and heart attack. Foods rich in omega-3 oils also lower cholesterol and triglycerides. Apart from fish, other foods rich in omega-3 oils are flaxseeds, walnuts, grass-fed beef and natto.

Vegetables: Dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale, avocado, carrots, cabbage and broccoli are vegetables that are full of phytonutrients and anti-inflammatory antioxidants. While you make your daily choice of vegetables, think of a rainbow. Include all types of colourful vegetables in your diet.

Fruits: Just like vegetables, there are several options available that are not only tasty but also help fight metabolic syndrome. Some of the fruits that you can include in your daily diet are apples, oranges, pears, bananas, or prunes. Pomegranate seeds have been found to help relieve metabolic syndrome. According to a 2013 study, it has been found that pomegranate-derived compounds function in the amelioration of adverse health effects caused by metabolic syndrome.

Legumes: Legumes are a rich source of protein and fibre and they help in keeping the blood sugar stable. Hence, they are especially useful in preventing the occurrence of metabolic syndrome.

Whole grains: High-fibre foods such as whole grains including brown rice and oatmeal not only benefit heart health and diabetes but also prevent excess weight gain. Hence, whole grains are an important part of a healthy, balanced, diet plan for the treatment of metabolic syndrome.

Supplements that help Metabolic Syndrome

Omega Oils: There are three types of omega oils, omega 3, omega 6 and omega 9. The 3 types of omega oils are essential fatty acids. The different types of omega 3 oils are Docosapentaenoic Acid (DPA), Docohexaenoic acid (DHA), and Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), however Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA) is the most well known. The natural sources of omega 3 are fish oils, fish, linseed, walnuts and animal tissues. They help in maintaining normal blood cholesterol levels, thereby maintaining the health of the heart. There are also many types of Omega 6; these are Adrenic Acid, Arachidonic Acid, Gamma Linolenic Acid, and the most well known Linoleic Acid. The foods in which omega 6 are found are nuts, plant oils, some organ meats and linseed. They also help in maintaining blood cholesterol concentration. There are but a few Omega 9 oils, including Hexacosenoic acid, Eicosenoic acid and the most well known Oleic acid. Omega 9 oils are present in all animal and plant fats. The health benefits of omega 9 are their ability to control LDL concentration in the blood. According to a study published in the journal of physiology and biochemistry, omega-3 fatty acids have been found beneficial in obesity-associated metabolic syndrome features such as insulin resistance, hypertension and dyslipidaemia by reducing plasma triglycerides. They also have blood pressure lowering and anti-inflammatory properties.

Psyllium Husk: The psyllium husk is a fibre that is prepared from the seed husks of the Ispaghula, Plantago Ovato. It is a native plant of the Mediterranean, India and East Asia. It helps in the regulation of blood cholesterol/lipids. According to a study published in the journal Obesity Review, supplementation with psyllium improves glucose levels and insulin response, blood pressure and lipid profile, thereby reducing metabolic risk factors. It also helps in reducing appetite. Hence, supplementation with psyllium should be promoted in patients who present with metabolic syndrome risk factors such as hypertriglyceridaemia, hypercholesterolemia, and hyperglycaemia. According to another study published in the journal of clinical gastroenterology, many clinical and experimental studies suggest that psyllium lower serum and liver cholesterol concentrations and increase HDL cholesterol. It also has a favourable effect on reduction of body weight and satiety, fasting glucose levels and blood pressure. Thus there is a potential role of these fibres in the treatment of metabolic syndrome.

Ginseng: Ginseng is one of the native plants of Asian countries including Korea and China. It has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for greater than 7000 years. It has effects on the use of sugar utilization. A research published in the year 2009 demonstrated that ginseng along with other Chinese herbs is a potent natural remedy in treating metabolic syndrome. They help in the regulation of lipid and glucose metabolism, which positively and directly affect management of weight.

Spirulina: Spirulina is a blue-green form of algae, which is grown and extracted from freshwater lakes. It has effects in glycaemic control, maintains sugar levels and promotes maintenance of weight. Spirulina has an ingredient phycocyanin, which has been discovered to contain antihypertensive properties. According to a study published in Nutrition Research, Phycocyanin is beneficial for preventing endothelial dysfunction related diseases in metabolic syndrome such as hypertension.

Maca: Maca is native Peruvian root extract from the plant, Lepidium Meyenii. It is considered as a nutritional powerhouse. Maca raises the levels of glutathione in the body, which improves immunity and balances cholesterol. It also lowers blood glucose levels, thereby improving health of heart and conditions such as metabolic syndrome and diabetes.

Vitamin E: Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin. Natural sources of vitamin E are sunflower oil, olive oil, peanut oil, sesame oil, corn oil, spinach, butter and salmon. It has antioxidant properties. According to recent research, patients suffering from metabolic syndrome have increased levels of inflammatory and oxidative stress, and need more antioxidants including vitamin E due to this.

Metabolic Syndrome also referred to as syndrome X is the name given to a group of risk factors that raise your risk for developing heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes and stroke. A link exists between occurrence of metabolic syndrome and obesity and insulin resistance. By following various lifestyle changes you can reverse metabolic syndrome, which if not corrected may lead to heart disease or diabetes mellitus. There are various foods that you should avoid such as processed foods, refined carbohydrates, sugars, alcohol etc. The foods that you should eat include fruits and vegetables, omega 3 foods, whole grains etc. There are several supplements that you can take to relieve metabolic syndrome including omega oils, spirulina, vitamin E, maca, and ginseng and psyllium husk.


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