As metabolic syndrome becomes a larger problem in the U.S., practitioners are urging patients to make lifestyle changes.
Blood sugar issues have become a major issue in the U.S. According to the American Diabetes Association, 29.1 million (9. 3 percent) of Americans had diabetes 2012. That number jumped from 25.8 million (8.3 percent) just two years earlier. Even more concerning, of that 29.1 million, 8.1 people went undiagnosed.
“Twenty-five million people in the USA have diabetes, [the] seventh leading cause of death,” said Utah-based Systemic Formulas’ Jack Tips, PhD, CCN. “But of greater concern, insulin resistance, aka. Metabolic syndrome is the driving engine behind heart and cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, obesity and inflammatory diseases. All chronic-degenerative and autoimmune disease and an inflammation component.”
According to Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS, author of Living Low Carb, The Great Cholesterol Myth, among other books on health and nutrition, approximately 20 to 25 percent of Americans meet the criteria for metabolic syndrome. But many more than that have one or more of the conditions that define the syndrome. For example, abdominal obesity was found in one study to affect 56 percent of the American population.1
“Metabolic syndrome is a constellation of clinical risk factors for cardiovascular disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes,” Dr. Bowden explained. “Those risk factors include abdominal obesity (waist circumference), high fasting blood sugar, high blood pressure, high triglycerides and low HDL cholesterol. Most of these can be linked in one way or another to insulin resistance, which, in turn, can almost always be traced to a diet high in sugar, starch and processed carbs.”
The “SAD” Diet
The American obesity epidemic has become a serious problem in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 34.9 percent (78. 6 million) of Americans are obese. Further, the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) reported that obesity rates have doubled in both adults and children since the 1970s. A large contributor to the country’s obesity issue is the standard American diet, which lives up to its acronym, SAD. SAD consists of foods that are high in unhealthy fats, carbohydrates, processed foods and sugar and not much of fiber, fruits, vegetables and nutrients. Couple poor eating habits with the fact that many Americans are not active enough, are stressed and do not get enough sleep—when it comes to health, many are on a dangerous road.
According to Dr. Tips, an overconsumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates are among the main causes of metabolic syndrome. “Sugar consumption, especially from sugary drinks, is the largest (and preventable) contributor to the global epidemic of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, bad cholesterol and unhealthy weight gain,” he said. “Sadly, the same is true of sugar substitute drinks that contain aspartame and sucralose, as they decrease insulin receptor sensitivity.”
“There are years of data from many studies that indicate consuming carbonated beverages—diet or regular soda— and/or food and beverages containing high fructose corn syrup—is directly linked to our epidemic of obesity, diabetes, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome in both adults and children,” added Lou Paradise, president and chief of research for New York-based Topical BioMedics, Inc. “Unfortunately, high fructose corn syrup is found in many foods, making it essential we read food ingredient labels in order to avoid it.”
According to Dr. Tips, fructose is the sugar that is driving culprit because high fructose corn sweetener can be found in sodas, ketchup, among a number of other products “Research cites that it causes fatty liver, high insulin levels (drives inflammation), insulin resistance on cell membranes, excessive fat storage (the obesity connection) and leptin hormone resistance that governs appetite and fat storage,” he explained.
Sadly, metabolic syndrome is also affecting children. According to the CDC, more than one-third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese in 2012. Further, the American Diabetes Association reported that approximately 208,000 Americans under the age of 20 have been diagnosed with diabetes. Childhood obesity has become such as issue that First Lady Michelle Obama created the Let’s Move! Initiative to get children to eat healthy and be active. “The physical and emotional health of an entire generation and the economic health and security of our nation is at stake,” she said at the Let’s Move! Launch in 2010.
Dr. John Westerdahl, PhD, MPH, RD, CNS is director of health science for California-based Bragg Live Food Products and director of the Bragg Health Institute. According to him, “29 Million Americans have type 2 diabetes and approximately 47 million Americans have classical metabolic syndrome. These numbers are on the rise every year as Americans continue to follow the standard American diet (SAD) and become less active,” he explained. “Ten years ago we probably had less than half these numbers. And now younger children are developing these diseases. We find 7-year-old children today with adult onset diabetes and the beginnings of metabolic syndrome symptoms.”
In the past, taking prescription medication for just about any issue was the path of least resistance for most people. But today, many do not want to rely on medication or wish to deal with the side effects they may cause. “The conventional approach fails to address the underlying pathology of metabolic syndrome…The only limited success that conventional doctors have is treating the high blood pressure component of metabolic syndrome,” explained Florida-based Life Extension’s Michael A. Smith, MD. “But unless diet, exercise, sugar metabolism, insulin sensitivity and oxidative status all improve, prescription medications are only band-aides.”
“People really do not want to take drugs,” agreed Dr. Westerdahl. “They do not want the side effects. There is a growing need for healthier food and food products, as well as supplements that can address this health care crisis with increasing type 2 diabetes, blood sugar issues and metabolic syndrome.”
The first step that practitioners usually recommend for patients with metabolic syndrome is a change in diet and exercise habits. Dr. Bowden recommends a low carb diet for those with metabolic syndrome. “A lower carb diet—or a controlled carb diet—will drop triglycerides like a rock. It will also normalize blood sugar (therefore improving insulin sensitivity), and will generally result in fat loss (reducing abdominal obesity). And when body fat is lost, blood pressure frequently goes down,” he explained. “So the best possible approach for metabolic syndrome (and for blood sugar issues in general) is to cut the sugar and starch. I like a higher fat diet, moderate in protein, with carbs coming predominantly from vegetables, low sugar fruit, beans and legumes.”
In Dr. Westerdahl’s experience, a whole food, plant-based diet (ideally vegan diet) is most effective when controlling diabetes. He also noted that certain food ingredients, such as organic apple cider vinegar, can help keep blood sugar levels under control and the insulin response to meals under control.
“Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar has been used in a research study to show that it is effective when taken with or just before a meal to help keep blood sugar under control with those at risk of type 2 diabetes,” he said. “It appears that apple cider vinegar with the ‘mother’ enzyme inhibits the enzyme that rapidly converts starch into sugar. It makes the starch more like a fiber so that it actually lowers the glycemic index of a meal. The research shows that it works as well as some of the most commonly prescribed diabetes medications, and without the side effects.”
“It’s a simple shift of dietary ‘do’s and don’ts’ coupled with exercise (resistance and burst training). Stop drinking sodas (including ‘sugar free’ sodas), stop eating refined carbohydrates (processed breakfast cereals, candy and commercially-produced breads),” said Systemic Formulas’ Dr. Tips. “Start eating whole, organic vegetables (both raw and lightly cooked), whole proteins (grass-fed, organic animal products; organic nuts; wild caught, deep-cold water fish), and have generous portions of healthy fats (raw, organic butter; organic bone broths, etc.). Also, in today’s world of increased nutritional needs that is coupled with reduced nutritional content of commercial foods, supplements are extremely desirable and valued.”
According to Dr. Smith, besides changing eating and exercise habits, four things need to be done to treat blood sugar issues and metabolic syndrome: improve sugar metabolism, reverse insulin resistance, reduce oxidative stress and prevent glycation. “Chromium and water-based cinnamon extracts improve how the body metabolizes sugar,” he said. “Lipoic acid, green tea, green coffee bean extract—all have been shown to improve insulin sensitivity. Ubiquinol, CoQ10 and pomegranate reduce oxidative stress, while benfotiamine and carnosine are anti-glycation agents. Interestingly, blueberries were shown to improve metabolic syndrome.”2
Systemic Formulas offers Synulin, which features a proprietary form of trace chromium (chromium 04 isoleucinate) with synergists and research-proven botanicals from all over the planet. “What’s appealing about that is it serves a wide variety of genomes and individual epigenetic expressions that govern glucose uptake and utilization by the mitochondria— the chemical energy producers that make everything work in the body,” Dr. Tips explained.
Life Extension carries a number of products for blood sugar issues/metabolic syndrome including TriSugar Shield. According to Kira Schmind, ND, the company’s scientific director, TriSugar Shield combines three-plant three plant-derived ingredients (sorghum bran extract, mulberry leaf extract and phloridzin) that provide a multi-pronged approach for supporting healthy glucose metabolism in aging individuals. “By targeting several diverse glucose pathways, this popular formula delivers the widest possible support to help naturally stabilize already healthy glucose levels,” she said.
Chronic pain can also be a side effect of metabolic syndrome. Topical BioMedics offers Topricin pain relief and healing cream that contains the most comprehensive biomedicine combinations that work with the body’s natural chemistry to support the body’s desire to maintain healthy cells (joint nerve and muscle) and heal inflamed or damaged cells that are causing pain, according to the company.
“Topricin has proven an invaluable tool for patients and doctors that encourages staying active or getting active, thereby supporting a robust, active lifestyle. This is especially true for people with physical ailments, for the pain associated with them (as an example metabolic syndrome) discourages activity,” said Paradise. “Topricin encourages the exercise necessary to reverse the damage of this condition. The activity leads to weight loss and feeling well, and encourages healthier eating habits. Benefits can also include a reduction in medication, thus restoring hope of getting better and a measurable improvement in quality of life.”
The more people know about metabolic syndrome and how it can hurt a person’s overall health, the more likely they will do something about it. So it is vital that practitioners educate their patients about what are the causes of metabolic syndrome and what patients can do about it.
“The answer is education, and the true definition of ‘doctor’ is ‘teacher,’” said Dr. Tips. “Not only is the future strong, it’s absolutely essential that the truth about the causes become imbued in consumer consciousness to drive the market toward the foods and activities that results in improved health. Education about the true causes of metabolic syndrome, methods about how to correct the causes, employment of supplemental program that bring recover, change and relief— establishing healthy lifestyles.”
“The prevalence for both high blood sugar and metabolic remain high. Refined sugars are here to stay and our consumption of them will unfortunately continue to rise. Obesity is at an all-time high and a new concept, ‘The Metabolically Obese,’ will be studied more in the future,” concluded Dr. Smith. “It’s not a good thing that the metabolic and blood sugar markets are strong, but they are. We need to provide natural products to address them, especially since conventional medicine offers no real solutions.”
Study: Mediterranean Diet, Olive Oil and Nuts Can Help Reverse Metabolic Syndrome
For people with metabolic syndrome, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts may help reverse the condition, indicate findings from a clinical trial published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).
Approximately 25 percent of adults around the world have metabolic syndrome. The syndrome exists in the presence of three or more factors, such as large waist circumference, high blood pressure, low HDL-cholesterol, high levels of triglycerides and high blood sugar concentrations that can increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease and death.
Spanish researchers analyzed data from the PREDIMED randomized controlled trial, which included men and women aged 55-80 years old at high risk of heart disease. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three diets: a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts or a low-fat diet as the control. In this secondary analysis, the research team looked at the long-term effects of the Mediterranean diet on metabolic syndrome in 5,801 people. Almost 64 percent (3,707) of the participants had metabolic syndrome at the start of the study.
After a median follow up period of 4.8 years, the researchers found that people in the two Mediterranean diet groups decreased their central obesity and blood glucose levels and 958 participants (28.2 percent) no longer met the criteria of metabolic syndrome.
For more information, visit www.cma.ca.
1 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23810877 2 J Nutr. 2010 Sept;140(9):1582-7.