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Metabolic syndrome is also known as syndrome X, metabolic syndrome X, insulin resistance syndrome, Reaven's syndrome, and CHAOS. Approximately one-third of the U.S. population suffers from each of the risk factors for metabolic syndrome. In general, it is more prevalent in older age groups. However, there is also an increase in metabolic syndrome among children and adolescents. This is due, in part, to the increase in obesity in this age group.
What is Metabolic Syndrome?
Metabolic syndrome is a combination of medical disorders that increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The World Health Organization, the European Group for the Study of Insulin Resistance, and the American College of Endocrinology all have named similar but slightly different parameters. However, taking a composite of each of these definitions, the main components of metabolic syndrome are:
How is Metabolic Syndrome Diagnosed?
Several organizations offer slightly different definitions and criteria for metabolic syndrome, but 2 clinical findings -- visceral obesity and insulin resistance -- underpin all the definitions. The key clinical manifestations of metabolic syndrome are visceral obesity, hypertension, hypertriglyceridemia, low HDL-C, and glucose impairment.
The American Association of Clinical Endocrinology Position statement of 2002 and the National Cholesterol Education Program Third Adult Treatment Panel (NCEP ATP III), which was updated in 2005 use the following diagnostic criteria:
The diagnosis of metabolic syndrome requires 3 of 5 criteria to be met.
What Causes Metabolic Syndrome?
Obesity in general and physical inactivity are known to cause metabolic syndrome, but it takes a second set of factors to trigger its accelerated onset the vast majority of the time. One of these is visceral, or abdominal, fat and the other is stress which is also a contributing factor in the deposition of abdominal fat.
Abdominal fat is composed of two different kinds of fat. The fat that accumulates under the skin is called subcutaneous fat and is relatively harmless. The dense visceral fat found deep in the abdomen, surrounding the intra-abdominal organs, is the type of fat linked most strongly with the metabolic syndrome as well as heightened cancer risk. Fat tissue secretes several inflammatory and immune mediators known as adipokines. When abdominal fat accumulates, adipokine secretion is increased, insulin resistance is increased, risk of diabetes is increased, and cardiovascular disease is increased.
Recent research indicates that prolonged stress can be an underlying cause of metabolic syndrome. Stress upsets the hormonal balance of the Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA-axis). This causes high cortisol levels which causes high glucose and insulin levels which promotes the accumulation of abdominal fat, insulin resistance, high blood pressure, elevated triglycerides and reduced HDL cholesterol.
How is Metabolic Syndrome Treated?
A recent study, conducted at the Pritikin Longevity Center, and published in The Journal of Applied Physiology found that three weeks of a high-fiber low fat diet combined with an exercise program reversed metabolic syndrome in half of the participants. The participants lost 2 to 3 pounds per week and were still considered obese, but still had significant reductions in serum lipids, insulin, oxidative stress, and inflammation. Those with metabolic syndrome dropped from 48 to 19 percent and those with diabetes dropped from 42 to 23 percent, after only 3 weeks.
"The results are all the more interesting because the changes occurred in the absence of major weight loss, challenging the commonly held belief that individuals must normalize their weight before achieving health benefits," Dr Roberts added.
A different medical approach is to consider each of the risk factors identified above as an independent entity and treat it with the indicated medications. Metformin is a widely prescribed drug with few adverse effects that is used to lower blood sugar and treat diabetes, especially in overweight individuals. Consult your doctor if wish to use medications to enhance the effects of lifestyle modification. Life style modification, of course, means reducing calories, increasing fiber and increasing exercise.
Another approach is to use a nutritional product called Irvingia that is derived from the West African medicinal food called Irvingia gabonensis. In a recent controlled study, humans taking this new compound lost 28 pounds over a 10-week period compared to less than 3 pounds in the placebo group. These study participants did not alter their diet in any way. The same mechanisms that enable this compound to remove body fat also lower heart attack risk factors like LDL, glucose and C-reactive protein. Irvingia reduces leptin resistance, reduces CRP, increases insulin sensitivity, increases adiponectin and decreases the enzyme glycerol-3-phosphate dehydrogenase.
In short, the metabolic syndrome can be corrected by:
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