Metabolic syndrome can be challenging as it is not a specific diagnosis but a group of risk factors that can contribute to cardiovascular disease. This health issue is becoming increasingly prevalent, particularly among people who live sedentary lifestyles and are overweight.
Although metabolic syndrome is not a disease in itself, it is a serious condition that may result in diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The good news is that making positive changes to our daily habits, such as increasing physical activity and consuming a balanced, nutritious diet, not only helps prevent metabolic syndrome but also promotes overall health and wellbeing. So, by adopting a proactive approach to our health, we can improve our quality of life and enjoy the benefits of a healthier, happier lifestyle. Read on to find out more.
Metabolic syndrome is when someone has a group of health problems that can increase their risk of heart disease.
Difficulty processing glucose (insulin resistance)
High blood pressure
Abnormal cholesterol levels
Increased risk of blood clots
High levels of fats in the blood
Unhealthy weight, particularly around the belly
Abnormal body composition
To maintain proper function and health, the body must keep a consistent blood sugar level. Insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels, becomes less effective when cells develop insulin resistance. Consequently, higher insulin levels are required to regulate blood sugar levels, which can eventually result in consistently high blood sugar levels. This can lead to negative long-term health effects, making insulin resistance a significant factor in metabolic syndrome.
If you think you may be at risk of developing metabolic syndrome, your GP can help identify potential symptoms. It's important to take action early to prevent further health issues. Health experts recommend managing each symptom separately as the most effective way to address metabolic syndrome.
The most effective way to achieve healthy weight loss is through a combination of dietary and lifestyle changes. Options include stress management, regular exercise, a low-glycaemic food plan, and nutritional intervention aimed at promoting healthy weight loss and improving body composition.
Overall, a nutritional therapist can provide you with the knowledge, tools, and support you need to achieve healthy weight loss and improve your overall health and wellbeing in a sustainable way.
Insulin resistance and dyslipidaemia
Along with adopting a personalised, low-glycaemic food plan and taking steps to achieve a healthy weight, certain nutrients and supplements can aid in managing symptoms of insulin resistance and dyslipidaemia.
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Omega-3 fatty acids:
Omega-3s have been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, reduce inflammation, and lower triglyceride levels in people with metabolic syndrome[i].
Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with an increased risk of metabolic syndrome. Taking a vitamin D supplement may help improve insulin sensitivity and reduce inflammation[ii].
Magnesium plays a crucial role in insulin signalling and glucose metabolism. Supplementing with magnesium may help improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the risk of developing metabolic syndrome[iii].
Chromium is a mineral that plays a role in insulin sensitivity. Supplementing with chromium may help improve glucose metabolism and reduce insulin resistance[iv].
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that live in the gut and can help improve gut health. Some studies have suggested that probiotics may help improve insulin sensitivity and reduce inflammation in people with metabolic syndrome[v].
Also known as phytosterols, are naturally occurring compounds found in plants. They have a similar structure to cholesterol, a type of fat present in our bodies. When consumed as part of a healthy diet, plant sterols have been shown to be beneficial for people with dyslipidaemia[vi].
Foods To Avoid:
Foods that are high in sugar typically contain simple, refined carbohydrates. If you're looking to lose weight and improve your blood sugar control, lowering the amount of refined carbohydrates in your diet may be beneficial[vii].
According to a small study, the consumption of significant amounts of diet drinks and artificially sweetened foods may raise blood sugar levels and potentially increase the risk of developing diabetes. Try to avoid sweeteners, especially types such as aspartame and saccharin. A small study suggests consuming large amounts of artificial sweeteners may increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes[viii].
Partially hydrogenated oils, which are frequently used in processed foods to extend their shelf life, often contain trans fats. These fats can increase levels of unhealthy cholesterol and the risk of heart disease and stroke[ix].
Studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet can help reduce inflammation, improve insulin sensitivity, and lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels in individuals with Metabolic Syndrome. Additionally, the diet is rich in antioxidants, which can help protect against oxidative stress and reduce the risk of chronic diseases. Overall, the Mediterranean diet is said to be a healthy and effective dietary approach for managing Metabolic Syndrome[x].
The Mediterranean diet emphasises whole, minimally processed foods and includes a variety of flavours and textures, making it a satisfying and enjoyable way to eat.
The adrenal stress index (ASI) is a test that measures cortisol and other hormones in the body to evaluate adrenal gland function and stress response. While the ASI is not specifically used to diagnose metabolic syndrome, it may be useful in assessing the impact of stress on the body, which can be a contributing factor to the development of metabolic syndrome.
Chronic stress can lead to increased cortisol levels, which can disrupt insulin production and glucose metabolism, contributing to the development of metabolic syndrome. The ASI test can measure cortisol levels throughout the day to assess the body's stress response and identify any imbalances that may be contributing to metabolic dysfunction.
Regular exercise is an essential component of managing Metabolic Syndrome. Physical activity can help regulate blood sugar levels, reduce blood pressure, and improve cholesterol levels. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week[xi].
Managing stress levels, monitoring blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels regularly, getting enough sleep and rest, and considering medication or other treatments as recommended by a healthcare professional are other important lifestyle suggestions with regard to Metabolic Syndrome.
[i] Lepretti M, Martucciello S, Burgos Aceves MA, Putti R, Lionetti L. Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Insulin Resistance: Focus on the Regulation of Mitochondria and Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress. Nutrients. 2018 Mar 14;10(3):350. doi: 10.3390/nu10030350. PMID: 29538286; PMCID: PMC5872768.
[ii] Sung CC, Liao MT, Lu KC, Wu CC. Role of vitamin D in insulin resistance. J Biomed Biotechnol. 2012;2012:634195. doi: 10.1155/2012/634195. Epub 2012 Sep 3. PMID: 22988423; PMCID: PMC3440067.
[iii] Liu H, Li N, Jin M, Miao X, Zhang X, Zhong W. Magnesium supplementation enhances insulin sensitivity and decreases insulin resistance in diabetic rats. Iran J Basic Med Sci. 2020 Aug;23(8):990-998. doi: 10.22038/ijbms.2020.40859.9650.
[iv] Havel PJ. A scientific review: the role of chromium in insulin resistance. Diabetes Educ. 2004;Suppl:2-14. PMID: 15208835.
[v] Salles BIM, Cioffi D, Ferreira SRG. Probiotics supplementation and insulin resistance: a systematic review. Diabetol Metab Syndr. 2020 Nov 11;12(1):98. doi: 10.1186/s13098-020-00603-6. PMID: 33292434; PMCID: PMC7656736.
[vi] Trautwein EA, Vermeer MA, Hiemstra H, Ras RT. LDL-Cholesterol Lowering of Plant Sterols and Stanols-Which Factors Influence Their Efficacy? Nutrients. 2018 Sep 7;10(9):1262. doi: 10.3390/nu10091262. PMID: 30205492; PMCID: PMC6163911.
[vii] Saslow, L. R., Kim, S., Daubenmier, J. J., Moskowitz, J. T., Phinney, S. D., Goldman, V., Murphy, E. J., Cox, R. M., Moran, P., & Hecht, F. M. (2014). A randomized pilot trial of a moderate carbohydrate diet compared to a very low carbohydrate diet in overweight or obese individuals with type 2 diabetes mellitus or prediabetes. PloS one, 9(4), e91027.
[viii] Diabetologia. (2017, September 13). ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 7, 2023, from https://www.sciencedaily.com/r...
[ix] Mozaffarian, D., Katan, M. B., Ascherio, A., Stampfer, M. J., & Willett, W. C. (2006). Trans fatty acids and cardiovascular disease. New England Journal of Medicine, 354(15), 1601-1613. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMra...
[x] Di Daniele N, Noce A, Vidiri MF, Moriconi E, Marrone G, Annicchiarico-Petruzzelli M, D'Urso G, Tesauro M, Rovella V, De Lorenzo A. Impact of Mediterranean diet on metabolic syndrome, cancer and longevity. Oncotarget. 2017 Jan 31;8(5):8947-8979. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.13553. PMID: 27894098; PMCID: PMC5352455.
[xi] Myers J, Kokkinos P, Nyelin E. Physical Activity, Cardiorespiratory Fitness, and the Metabolic Syndrome. Nutrients. 2019 Jul 19;11(7):1652. doi: 10.3390/nu11071652. PMID: 31331009; PMCID: PMC6683051.
Please note that the information contained within this website does not and should not replace medical advice, and is not intended to treat or diagnose. We always recommend you consult with your doctor. Our Nutritional Therapy team is highly trained and we offer one to one Nutritional Therapy Consultations, which are designed to be complementary to any medical treatment from a functional medicine approach, as well as offering a preventative & optimal health focus.