Metabolic Syndrome, Diet & Nutrition
Nutrition and diet is the first step to avoiding the conditions of metabolic syndrome that can lead to heart disease, strokes and diabetes.
LAST UPDATED: February 2018 by Ben.
The Link Between Metabolic Syndrome & Diet
What should you eat – and avoid – to reduce the risks of metabolic syndrome?
Have you noticed recently that you’re packing on the pounds around your waistline?Struggling with high blood pressure?
You could be suffering from metabolic syndrome – a disorder than affects around 40% of people over the age of 60 (and is creeping into younger age groups, too, thanks to our sedentary lifestyles and food-focused culture).
But the good news is that metabolic syndrome – and the cluster of conditions that can lead to it – can all be reduced or even reversed with a healthier diet.
What Is Metabolic Syndrome?
Your metabolism is the sum of all the biochemical processes that keep your body functioning normally: from digestion to circulation, cell regeneration, and breathing.
Everything your body does even at rest is governed by your metabolism.
Metabolic syndrome is far more than struggling with your weight as you get older.
Metabolic syndrome can also be called insulin resistance or dysmetabolic syndrome syndrome X.
Whatever you call it, the name is referring to a group of conditions.
The syndrome is characterized by three or more of the following: abdominal obesity (belly fat), high blood sugar or high triglyceride levels, low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol, or high blood pressure. It’s a familiar list. 
People with metabolic syndrome will find that their bodies are not functioning properly.
True metabolic syndrome puts you at increased risk of serious illnesses including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
Can Diet Impact Metabolic Syndrome?
Metabolic syndrome is not a life sentence of bad health.
Your daily diet can have a positive effect on metabolic syndrome at any stage, and could even reverse it.
Metabolic syndrome is caused by physical criteria (blood pressure, cholesterol, body fat levels) that are themselves brought about by diet, activity levels, and lifestyle choices.
So by tackling the underlying issues, you can get things back on track.
Studies have shown that losing as little as 3%-5% of body weight can have a huge impact on lowering triglycerides and blood glucose, and slashing your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
If you lose more weight than this, you will improve blood pressure, lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase HDL (good) cholesterol.
So what is the best diet and nutrition to reduce metabolic syndrome and get you back on the path to health?
READ: Best performing natural fat burners
10 Risk Factors For Metabolic Syndrome
- A large waist circumference of 40+ inches for men or 35+ inches for women, with most of your body fat around your waist.
- High blood sugar, along with signs like increased thirst and tiredness. Normal fasting blood levels are less than 100 mg/dL – any higher is considered a metabolic risk factor.
- High triglyceride levels (the lipids in your blood), measured as higher than 150 mg/dL.
- Low HDL (good) cholesterol of less than 50 mg/dL for women and less than 40 mg/dL for men.
- Being overweight
- Not doing much physical activity
- Poor insulin resistance
- Age (metabolic syndrome is increased in people aged 60+)
- Family history of diabetes
- Resting blood pressure of 130/85 or higher
What Diet Is Best For Metabolic Syndrome?
It won’t surprise you to hear that a diet full of nutrient-dense whole foods will have a massive positive impact on metabolic syndrome, or help you avoid the risk factors that can lead to it.
Oily fish and omega 3 fatty acids
Omega 3 fats are fond in cold water oily fish like salmon.
These healthy fats help reduce blood pressure and reduce inflammation, leading to better heart health and reducing your risk of metabolic syndrome.
You can also find omega-3 in walnuts, flaxseeds, and grass-fed beef.
Eat your greens
Dark green vegetables and leafy greens are full of antioxidants, fiber, and micronutrients – eat more of them.
Fruit and berries are also packed with vitamins, micronutrients, and fiber.
Pomegranate in particular can help ward off metabolic syndrome, because they have hypoglycemic effects, and can improve insulin sensitivity, reduce total cholesterol, improve blood lipid profiles, and help reduce inflammation. 
Beans, lentils, and legumes
These high fiber, low fat powerhouses are a great addition to your diet, helping to boost protein levels and keep your weight in check. 
Oats, rice, and other whole grains are a healthy addition to your diet which can help you to manage your weight and contribute to a healthy diet.
Avoid These Foods
Including processed meats, pastries and highly processed foods that are very low in nutrients and fiber.
Trans fatty acids are found in foods like margarine, pastries, baked goods and processed foods.
They are made with hydrogenated oils and fats which raise LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which is directly linked to metabolic disorders. 
Dramatically decreasing saturated fat intake will have a hugely beneficial effect on metabolic syndrome and all the compounding factors that can lead to it.
Ditch processed and refined carbohydrate foods in favor of natural carbs like potatoes, rice, and fruit.
Too much alcohol on a regular basis is liked to metabolic syndrome, and will raise your blood pressure and triglyceride levels plus add unnecessary extra calories to your diet. 
Paleo For Metabolic Health
If you want to try a specific diet approach to avoid or reverse metabolic syndrome, Paleo is a good place to start.
Paleo will reduce your intake of industrial oils and saturated fats, refined carbohydrates and sugars, processed foods, and snack foods. In addition, it will encourage you to eat more fruit and veg, legumes and beans, natural carbohydrates, and healthy fish and meat for protein.
The Paleo diet could radically improve your way of eating, having a huge impact on your weight and waistline, blood pressure, insulin sensitivity, and cholesterol levels.
Pair it with more activity and exercise and you will be looking at a much healthier future.
Lifestyle changes are the best treatment for metabolic syndrome.
Alongside improving your diet to include more vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and healthy fats (and minimized processed foods), you should cut back on alcohol, give up smoking, and get more active to maintain a healthier weight.   
It’s a lot better than a lifetime of medication!
 Pomegranate: a fruit that ameliorates metabolic syndrome. Medjakovic S, Jungbauer A. Food Funct. 2013 Jan;4(1):19-39. doi: 10.1039/c2fo30034f. Epub 2012 Oct 12. Review. PMID: 23060097
 Relationship between legumes consumption and metabolic syndrome: Findings of the Isfahan Healthy Heart Program. Sajjadi F, Gharipour M, Mohammadifard N, Nouri F, Maghroun M, Alikhasi H. ARYA Atheroscler. 2014 Jan;10(1):18-24. PMID: 24963309
 Trans fatty acids: effects on metabolic syndrome, heart disease and diabetes. Micha R, Mozaffarian D. Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2009 Jun;5(6):335-44. doi: 10.1038/nrendo.2009.79. Epub 2009 Apr 28. Review. PMID: 19399016
 Alcohol consumption and risk of metabolic syndrome: a meta-analysis of prospective studies. Sun K, Ren M, Liu D, Wang C, Yang C, Yan L. Clin Nutr. 2014 Aug;33(4):596-602. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2013.10.003. Epub 2013 Oct 14. Review. PMID: 24315622
 The association between smoking and the prevalence of metabolic syndrome and its components in patients with psoriasis aged 30 to 49 years. Owczarczyk-Saczonek AB, Nowicki R. Postepy Dermatol Alergol. 2015 Oct;32(5):331-6. doi: 10.5114/pdia.2015.54743. Epub 2015 Oct 29. PMID: 26759540
 Diet, exercise and the metabolic syndrome. Pitsavos C, Panagiotakos D, Weinem M, Stefanadis C. Rev Diabet Stud. 2006 Fall;3(3):118-26. Epub 2006 Nov 10. PMID: 17487335
 Impact of weight loss on the metabolic syndrome. Case CC, Jones PH, Nelson K, O’Brian Smith E, Ballantyne CM. Diabetes Obes Metab. 2002 Nov;4(6):407-14. PMID: 12406040
Author: Nicola Joyce is a member of the National Union of Journalists and has written for many well known fitness related publications.
Much of Nicola’s writing stems from her experiences as an amateur athlete competing in both lifting and endurance events which have resulted in two international amateur bodybuilding titles and two completed English Channel crossings.
This article is supported by 8 cited references from reliable sources.
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