A health condition tied to several of today’s most prevalent and harmful diseases, metabolic syndrome is quickly rising as one of the most reliable indicators of poor health. With an estimated 25 percent of American adults classified as having metabolic disorder, solutions are in great demand. While it is easy to reference a healthy lifestyle as metabolic disorder’s anecdote, eating well and exercising are not always sufficient to improve this multifaceted marker of wellness. In conjunction with a lifestyle based on good nutrition and regular physical activity, several nutrients, herbs and vitamins show promise for stopping metabolic syndrome from evolving into a more problematic condition.
About Metabolic Syndrome
Usually related to obesity, metabolic syndrome describes a group of risk factors that occur together and increase the risk for:
- Coronary artery disease
- Type 2 diabetes
In addition, metabolic syndrome increases the risk for:
- Fatty liver disease
- Kidney damage
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Polycystic ovaries
- Dementia and cognitive decline in the elderly
Also known as syndrome X, metabolic syndrome typically includes insulin resistance, high blood pressure, cholesterol abnormalities and an increased risk for blood clotting. The exact parameters for metabolic syndrome can differ slightly. Guidelines from the 2001 National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel say that any three of the following traits in the same individual meet the criteria for metabolic syndrome:
- Abdominal obesity defined by a waist over 40 inches in men and 35 inches in women.
- Serum triglycerides of 150 mg/dl or more.
- High density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol of 40 mg/dl or less in men and 50 mg/dl or less in women.
- Blood pressure of 130/85 or greater.
- Fasting blood glucose of 110 mg/dl or higher.
Strategies to Fight Metabolic Syndrome
From a Western medical perspective, metabolic syndrome is best treated by reducing each individual’s risk for heart disease and diabetes based on the individual’s waist circumference, blood glucose levels, blood lipid profile or blood pressure. Physicians typically advise a combination of lifestyle changes and medications to accomplish this goal.
Common lifestyle changes to battle metabolic syndrome include:
- Stop smoking
- Don’t drink alcohol
- Lose weight with the goal of a body mass index (BMI) of less than 25
- Eat foods low in fat with an emphasis of fruits, vegetables and whole grains
- Get at least 30 minutes of moderate activity five-six days a week
- Practice stress management techniques (relaxation, meditation) to ease blood pressure
- Avoid foods with a high glycemic index (sugar, white bread, white rice, regular pasta, French fries)
- Consume cold water, oily fish a few times a week
While every one of these lifestyle modifications is important, those with metabolic syndrome can also use nutraceutical intervention to help lower their risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. There are over a dozen natural supplements that could be beneficial to those with metabolic syndrome, but some of the most effective are:
- Oat beta-glucan – Believed to lower blood glucose levels after consuming sugar, oat beta-glucan can help prevent insulin resistance. In addition, oat beta-glucan may improve blood lipids and produce a feeling of satiety – a great help in cutting calories and, thus, losing excess weight.
- Omega-3 fatty acids – Found in cold water, oily fish, omega-3 fatty acids have potent anti-inflammatory properties. Not surprisingly, omega-3s support healthy cardiovascular function. As published in the March 2012 edition of the journal Nutrition, researchers found that omega-3 intake was inversely associated with metabolic syndrome in adults.
- Chromium – An essential trace mineral, chromium may play a beneficial role in improving blood cholesterol, managing weight control and achieving healthy insulin levels. According to Dr. Richard A. Anderson, a research chemist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center in Beltsville, MD, the signs and symptoms of chromium deficiency are the same as those for metabolic syndrome: elevated fasting glucose, elevated triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol, hypertension and visceral obesity.
- Vitamin Bs – Due to their support of cardiovascular function, many of the B vitamins benefit metabolic syndrome – especially vitamins B9 (folic acid) and B12. A 2004 Italian study found that treatment with vitamins B9 and B12 improved insulin resistance and endothelial dysfunction while decreasing homocysteine levels – all shifts that benefit those with metabolic syndrome.
As it becomes clearer that metabolic syndrome is one of the most prevalent threats to our longevity, more resources will be poured into its prevention. In the meantime, all hope is not lost. Adopting the lifestyle changes described above, taking necessary medications to manage insulin resistance, blood pressure and blood lipids and including oat beta-glucan, omega-3 fatty acids, chromium and the Vitamin Bs into a daily routine can help reduce the risks associated with syndrome X.