May 2, 2021

Metabolic Syndrome & Nutrition

Here at Nutriving, we are passionate about helping our clients prevent, slow progression and reverse chronic disease. When we say chronic disease, we are talking about medical conditions that can develop over time in part due to lifestyle factors, such as what we are eating and how much we move and care for our bodies. One of these chronic diseases is Metabolic Syndrome. Today we are zooming in to learn a bit more about what metabolic syndrome is and how nutrition plays in a role in prevention and management.

 

What is metabolic syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of risk factors that increases the likelihood that a person will develop other medical conditions like Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Those risk factors include:

  • High triglycerides

  • Low HDL cholesterol

  • Hypertension aka high blood pressure

  • High fasting blood glucose aka blood sugar

  • High waist circumference

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) considers a person to have metabolic syndrome when they have 3 or more of the above risk factors. The prevalence of metabolic syndrome has increased significantly over the past few decades. According to National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data, the prevalence of metabolic syndrome in US adults during the time period of 2007-2012 was 34.2%. That’s 1 in 3 adults! 

Blood pressure is a component of metabolic syndrome

What are the symptoms of metabolic syndrome?

To the naked eye, there are no true symptoms aside perhaps from gaining weight and increased waist circumference. If you have high blood sugar, you may notice some symptoms associated with that such as increased thirst, urination, fatigue, or blurry vision. 

The symptoms so to speak are seen if and when you go to the doctor to get blood drawn and labs performed. That is how you know if you have high triglycerides, low HDL, high blood pressure, etc. This is one of the many reasons that regular physician visits are so key in preventing disease. Of course, this is tragically a privilege in many countries. If you are able to see a doctor regularly, we highly encourage you to do so. 

What causes metabolic syndrome? Is metabolic syndrome genetic?

Risk for metabolic syndrome increases with age, physical inactivity, smoking, other conditions like sleep apnea or nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. As with many things in life, there are some factors that are within our control and some that are not. For example, our genetics can also influence our risk of developing metabolic syndrome. A family history of type 2 diabetes or a personal history of gestational diabetes increases risk for developing metabolic syndrome. Obviously, we cannot control things like age or genetics.

What we can control, however, are factors related to nutrition, physical activity and how we handle stress.

 

Is there a “metabolic syndrome diet”?

You know we are anti-diet here at Nutriving. So, no we do not have clients follow a specific diet or a meal plan. However, there are certainly aspects of nutrition that we can target to make small, sustainable changes that translate to improvements in how you feel, and also to improvements in some of the metabolic syndrome risk factors.

  • Choosing more nutrient-dense carbohydrates like more whole grains, legumes, starchy vegetables and fruits. Nutrient-dense carbohydrates give us more bang for our nutritional buck in the form of more fiber, more protein, and more micronutrients our bodies need.
  • Increasing fiber in the form of more fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains is key for so many reasons. Fiber helps us feel full and s