You may have heard or read about it, but if not, you’re certainly not alone. Metabolic syndrome is a medical term for a cluster of conditions that occur together and increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and stroke. In this blog, we’ll discuss the causes and risks associated with metabolic syndrome, along with the various methods of managing it.
Medical Definition of Metabolic Syndrome
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Sometimes also referred to as insulin resistance disease, the term metabolic syndrome was first coined in 1988, and it is one of the most debilitating disorders now affecting large populations all over the world. Metabolic syndrome is the umbrella term for a group of conditions which include
- Insulin resistance.
- Being overweight, particularly around the waistline.
- High blood pressure.
- Unhealthy levels of blood fats.
What Causes Metabolic Syndrome?
The causes of metabolic syndrome are usually a mixture of poor lifestyle choices and an unhealthy diet. Some other causes include genetic factors, various medications, hormonal imbalances, lack of physical activity, and certain diseases.
The link between obesity and metabolic syndrome is strong. This is because excess body fat increases your risk of developing metabolic syndrome. Carrying excess weight can also increase your risk of developing other conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and heart disease. However, it is possible for people who are not overweight to also be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome.
The Risks of Metabolic Syndrome
Those health conditions included under the heading of metabolic syndrome are considered risks because they increase your likelihood of developing heart disease. When a patient has three or more of the conditions they are medically assessed as having metabolic syndrome.
Understanding a little more about the risk factors may prove beneficial, especially in terms of managing or avoiding them. Here are some basic facts about each relevant condition.
This is when your body is no longer able to use insulin effectively. Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas and its function is to control the amount of sugar in the blood. If you have insulin resistance, this means your body struggles to respond to insulin, so your pancreas keeps churning out more and more to cope with the amounts of sugar in your blood.
Eventually the strain on your pancreas becomes too much, and it can no longer keep up the supply of insulin. This means that blood sugar levels rise and remain in an elevated state. This condition is called type 2 diabetes.
Insulin resistance is the stage that comes before type 2 diabetes is formerly diagnosed. It is usually referred to as pre-diabetes, and at this stage it is possible, with strict diet and physical movement changes, to prevent type 2 diabetes developing.
High Blood Pressure
This is the force that your blood puts on the walls of your blood vessels as it travels around your body. When your blood pressure is high, your heart needs to pump harder to keep the blood flowing and this puts extra strain on your heart. If this continues, it makes you extra vulnerable to stroke or heart disease.
The main causes of high blood pressure are being overweight, lack of physical activity, smoking, eating too much salt, saturated fat, and alcohol.
If high blood pressure isn’t lowered and controlled, it not only puts you at risk of heart attack and stroke, but it can also cause kidney disease and eye damage. Your GP will prescribe medication to help lower high blood pressure but there are also several things you can do to help bring your blood pressure down.
Most of the self-help requirements are essentially the same as those needed to manage other aspects of metabolic syndrome, namely: keep active, reach/maintain a healthy weight, eat plenty of vegetables, fruit, wholegrains, and fibre. Eat less saturated fat and salt, try to reduce stress.
High Cholesterol Levels
Unhealthy levels of blood fats (dyslipidaemia) often occurs when your LDL (triglycerides or bad cholesterol) are higher than your HDL (good cholesterol). Your GP will arrange for you to have a blood test to check on your cholesterol levels. Very often it is possible to correct high cholesterol with lifestyle changes, very similar to those needed to reduce high blood pressure, but if your cholesterol is very high you will be offered medication to reduce it.
Unhealthy patterns of blood fats arise when your body is struggling to cope with fat and sugar in your diet. Very often those with dyslipidaemia are overweight, but this is not always the case.
Having metabolic syndrome makes you more prone to heart disease so you may wish to be careful about the type and amount of fat you include in your diet. Saturated fat, such as that in red meats, full fat dairy products, such as butter, cream, cheese, and yogurt, if eaten regularly, will all increase your cholesterol levels.
This is when you are carrying excess weight around your middle. Obesity is the term used for when someone has put on enough excess weight to put their health at risk. If that weight has accumulated around the waistline, this can affect blood fats and increase the risk of developing diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
There are two kinds of fat that your body stores. One is called subcutaneous fat which lies beneath the skin and can accumulate anywhere on your body, whereas visceral fat clings around the main internal organs and is also known as ‘active’ fat. A large amount of visceral fat is dangerous as it is one of the components of metabolic syndrome. Read more about visceral fat, and how to deal with it in our blog.
Prevention and Management of Metabolic Syndrome
When it comes to avoiding or treating metabolic syndrome, it is necessary to focus on lifestyle changes. These include eating a healthy diet with plenty of fresh vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, lean meat and fish or plant-based equivalents. Switching saturated fats for unsaturated, and restricting sugar and refined carbohydrates.
It will help to include plenty of soluble fibre in your diet and substitute saturated fat (the kind that is solid at room temperature) with unsaturated fats. These are both great ways to help lower your LDL levels. Examples of good soluble fibre are oatmeal, prunes, beans, apples, and a natural plant extract called inulin. Read about inulin in our blog.
The main factors to address in prevention, reversal and remission of metabolic syndrome are:
- Early detection and advice/treatment.
- Commitment to much more physical movement and exercise.
- Diet modifications and, where appropriate, weight loss.
- Lifestyle changes.
- Regular check-ups to ensure you are on track.
It has been found that those who make small changes to their eating habits, which can then become permanent, have better success rates than those who go on ‘crash’ diets which may not be sustainable long term. If you need to lose weight to prevent or manage any conditions of metabolic syndrome, some medically devised guidelines for a permanent healthy eating plan are:
- Eat at regular times during the day; try to have breakfast, midday and evening meals but don’t miss meals.
- Include a small amount of complex carbohydrate food at each meal; complex carbs are whole grain breads, wholemeal pitta, brown rice, and pasta.
- Have at least two to three portions (2-3 heaped tablespoons) of vegetables each day; Dark green, leafy veg are best, but all vegetables are a healthy choice.
- Have a maximum of three portions of fruit per day but spread them out throughout the day so you don’t take in a large slam of fructose in one go.
- Cut down drastically on sugar which is a concentrated carbohydrate and will have an impact on your blood sugar very quickly.
- void any foods that have a high content of sugar such as cakes, biscuits, honey, agave syrup, sweetened breakfast cereals, drinks, including smoothies; even natural fruit juice should be restricted or avoided because it contains a high concentration of fruit sugar.
- If you drink alcohol, keep to moderate amounts.
- Cut down on salt both in cooking and on the table; beware of snacks such as nuts that are salted.
Here are some ideas for healthy alternatives to every-day food choices:
– Olive oil is a healthy choice to sauté meat or vegetables. For stir frying, try groundnut oil which will heat to a higher temperature than olive but is still high in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.
– Walnut oil or extra virgin olive oil with a little wine or balsamic vinegar to dress salads instead of mayonnaise and bought dressings which often contain sugar.
– Snack on a few fresh unsalted nuts such as walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans instead of salted nuts and crisps.
– Instead of butter use spreads made using plant-oil as these do not contain cholesterol.
– Plain low-fat Greek yogurt is a good substitute for sweetened fruity yogurts. Check the label on low-fat yogurt that the lack of fat has not been compensated for by added sugar. Add your own fresh berries to natural yogurt. Greek yogurt is also good instead of cream in recipes.
– White fish, grilled or baked with a tomato-based sauce is much better than fish cooked in a rich butter-based sauce.
– Substitute meat or pizza dishes for a portion of oily fish such as fresh tuna steaks, salmon, mackerel or sardines at least twice a week. This is a quick and easy meal to prepare and needs only a marinade of fresh lime juice and chilli or soy and sesame oil.
– Choose roast chicken and turkey with skin removed. Almost all the fat is in and just beneath the skin.
– Instead of meat, try occasionally substituting forms of protein derived from plant sources. Options such as nuts, kidney beans, haricot beans, butter beans, lentils, chickpeas, tofu, and other soya products are all healthy and slimming choices.
– If eating red meat and pork, trim off all visible fat and avoid processed meats such as salami, hot dogs, pepperoni. Try instead prawns, smoked salmon, feta cheese.
– Instead of processed, sweetened cereals choose porridge or unsweetened muesli.
– When preparing pasta, or cooking chicken/fish with a sauce, opt for a tomato based rather than a cream or cheese sauce. This will save you a lot of calories, boost your veg intake and protect your arteries.
Physical activity has a very positive effect on blood glucose levels. When you incorporate movement into your day, even something like light housework or a stroll to the shops, this helps to use up sugar from your blood, so all movement counts.
If you are overweight your body is less sensitive to the insulin it makes, so by losing weight you will help your body respond better, and this will improve your blood glucose levels. When aiming for a healthy weight you need to reduce your calorie intake, but also increase your level of physical activity.
Introducing much more activity into your daily routine is vitally important. This includes plenty of movement and less time spent sitting. Medical science has declared too much sitting to be as dangerous for the health as smoking. If possible, some aerobic exercise such as walking, jogging, and cycling is helpful. If you are struggling with excess weight and joint pain, swimming or walking in the swimming pool is an exercise which doesn’t impact on your hips and knees.
A good way to begin to incorporate more healthy movement into your routine is to aim to walk for 30 minutes each day. Walking is something most people can manage at varying levels of comfort. It can be done slowly and in short stages, or for those fit enough, it can be completed in one brisk interval.
Not everyone is able to walk easily, or at all. For many people, weight-bearing exercise is both painful, exhausting, and could put extra strain on joints. If you have mobility issues, or a joint/tendon injury, you may find exercises known as ‘chair cardio’ or ‘chair yoga’ helpful. These workouts are available on YouTube or in book, audio book and DVD formats. They involve sitting on a dining-type chair rather than an armchair as you need free movement for your arms and space to also move your legs. The cardio workout, although performed sitting down, is excellent aerobic exercise and increases your heart rate sufficiently to help use the glucose in your bloodstream. The yoga exercises will help you keep flexible, build strength into your muscles and they also help with easing stress levels.
Some takeaway pointers for boosting your activity levels:
- Try to do some physical movement each day.
- Aim for at least approximately two hours of moderate exercise each week.
- Do some strength exercises on two or more days each week; these are movements of major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, arms).
- Avoid sitting for long periods of time.
- If weight-bearing exercise is a problem, tap into the many forms of non-weight bearing exercises such as streamed chair workouts or swimming.
Your doctor may recommend medications to help manage your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar. It is important to keep these three at constant levels rather than allowing them to dip and soar. If you can do this, you will be less prone to other conditions developing at a later stage.
Managing stress and getting plenty of sleep is helpful as stress and sleep deprivation have been found to increase the risk of developing metabolic syndrome.
Make sure you remember to drink enough. You need at least eight cups of fluid each day. Water and herbal teas are remarkable in their health-giving effect on your metabolism but beverages such as tea and coffee, low sugar squash and diet drinks are better than not having enough fluids.
Supplements to Help Manage Metabolic Syndrome
In addition to diet and exercise, certain supplements may help manage metabolic syndrome. The dietary supplements recommended include:
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Found in fish oil, krill oil, flaxseed oil, and certain other vegetable sources, omega 3 can help reduce inflammation and improve insulin sensitivity. Read more in our blog on how Omega 3 can help with heart-related conditions.
Our Omega 3 supplement is sourced from algae so is suitable for vegans. The algae is grown in a pharmaceutical graded environment in tanks of pure, filtered water ensuring that the vegan omega 3 is unpolluted, free from ocean-borne toxins and heavy metals.
Worldwide studies have found that the relationship between B complex vitamins and metabolic syndrome is a positive one. They have proven effective in the reduction of cardiovascular disease and insulin resistance. Be sure to source a food-state B Complex. Find ours here.
A mineral that plays a vital role in insulin regulation. It may reduce blood sugar levels and improve metabolic rate. Our Super B Complex and Multivitamin and Minerals supplements both contain chromium and are wholefood.
Magnesium may help with metabolic syndrome in several ways, including its ability to help reduce insulin resistance and improve blood sugar levels. Our Magnesium Bisglycinate supplement may prove helpful for managing cardiovascular health, reducing stress, and regulating blood glucose levels. It is also known to help improve insulin sensitivity and give improved sleep quality.
Fibre helps manage glucose levels and reduces inflammation. Our Organic Baobab Powder is a wonderful source of superfood fibre. It is also a prebiotic, packed with vitamins and antioxidants, gluten free and free from all chemicals and preservatives, it makes an excellent and very healthy addition to your diet.
Inulin is a plant-derived soluble fibre which has been found to be an excellent supplement for helping burn dangerous visceral fat from around the major organs. Our inulin powder is also a powerful prebiotic and a natural food additive.
An antioxidant that can help with issues associated with heart failure. It can also help the body to release excess fluid. Co Enzyme Q10 occurs naturally in the body but depletes as we age so when taken in supplement form it improves muscle strength, energy levels and stamina. It shouldn’t be taken if you are taking statins. Read about our Coenzyme Q10 supplement.
Curcumin is the active compound of the turmeric root. It has highly antioxidant properties and is one of the top supplements when it comes to fighting inflammation in the body. There have been hundreds of clinical trials on the benefits of curcumin and its powerful properties are now very well known.
Research has found that 200 mg per day of curcumin protects the arteries and therefore reduces the risk of heart disease without the need for aspirin or statin drugs. This is because curcumin helps blood vessels to expand, alleviating the need for blood-thinning drugs.
Due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, curcumin is now one of the most promising natural treatments for diabetes. It is also valuable in treating fatty liver and pancreatic conditions. Read about our Curcumin supplement here.
The moringa oleifera tree is native to India and its leaves are highly valuable for health. When it comes to managing metabolic syndrome, moringa has much to offer as it has been found to have powerful benefits to help with high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol. It has also been found to give antioxidant protection. Discover more about moringa in our blog.
Read about our Moringa Leaf Extract supplement here.
Reduchol, our own unique formula, contains Red Yeast Rice extract, Coenzyme Q10 and Policosanol. These ingredients work synergistically to promote healthy cholesterol levels, blood glucose levels and blood pressure, reducing the risks of cardiovascular disease.
Other Natural Supplements – Resveratrol, garlic, and green tea are other supplements that can help manage metabolic syndrome.
When choosing to use natural supplements to help manage your condition, speak to your doctor or healthcare nurse before starting on your supplement regime, particularly if you are already taking medication. It is likely that you may need less in the way of pharmaceutical drugs if you are losing weight, getting regular exercise, and taking appropriate dietary supplements.
A Summary of Key Points on Metabolic Syndrome
- Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke.
- Abdominal obesity, glucose intolerance, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and insulin resistance are the main elements of metabolic syndrome.
- You can prevent metabolic syndrome by making healthy lifestyle changes, such as eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, avoiding smoking, and drinking alcohol only in moderation.
- Certain natural supplements can help you manage metabolic syndrome.
- It is essential to seek early detection and treatment to prevent further complications.
- Regular check-ups and maintaining a balanced diet and regular mealtimes, along with a daily exercise routine are critical for preventing metabolic syndrome.
- The link between obesity and metabolic syndrome is strong.
- Having excess weight can increase your risk of developing other conditions, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
- Medical treatment such as certain drugs may be recommended to help you stabilise your condition.
When it comes to keeping you informed on health and nutrition, we’re here for you and aim to help where we can
If you would like to discuss any aspect of using natural supplements, or would find advice helpful, please feel free to contact us on 01297 553932.