What is Metabolic Syndrome?

July 1, 2019 • 2 min read

There are various definitions of Metabolic Syndrome (MetS). Essentially, it is a group of metabolic conditions that are major risk factors for the development of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

The US National Cholesterol Education Program’s Adult Treatment Panel III (NCEP/ATP III) describes MetS as the presence of three or more of the following metabolic disorders: [1]

  1. Central obesity reflected by increased waist circumference ( ≥ 102cm for men, ≥ 88cm for women) | High fat levels in the abdominal region pose a greater risk for heart disease than in other areas of the body. [2]
  2. Hypertension (Systolic and diastolic blood pressure ≥ 130/85mmHg) | High blood pressure threatens the integrity of artery walls in the heart, increasing the risk for plaque buildup, which can lead to heart disease. [2]
  3. Dyslipidemia (HDL < 40mg/dL for men, < 50mg/dL for women, or TGs ≥ 150mg/dL) | High levels of triglyceride (TG) or low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) increases risk of heart disease. [2]
  4. Insulin Resistance (fasting blood glucose ≥ 110mg/dL) |Consistently high levels of fasting blood glucose is a sign of diabetes and increases the risk of heart disease.[2]

Why Metabolic Syndrome Matters

MetS affects 34 percent of the United States adult population, and it is associated with an increased risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes mellitus over the next five to ten years. Healthcare costs for heart disease and type 2 diabetes mellitus totaled $650 billion in the United States in 2003.[2]

Factors Contributing to MetS Development

The increasing prevalence of MetS (and other health challenges) is due largely to low-quality diets common in the United States. Americans in general have more access to a greater abundance of calorie-dense, nutrient-poor diet choices than their ancestors did. [3] Specifically, the Standard American Diet (SAD) is low in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains  but high in added sugars, saturated/trans fats, and sodium intake.[4]

In addition, chronic inflammation is one underlying cause of MetS and associated chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. [2]

How Nutrients Help Manage MetS

Several nutrients provide support for MetS management, including:

  • Protein (i.e. low glycemic index special protein blends)
  • Fiber
  • Mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids (i.e. omega 3 fatty acids)
  • Flavonoids
  • Magnesium
  • Phytonutrients in specialty crops (i.e. avenanthramide in select oats)

Increased fiber intake helps with weight loss and affects appetite; not surprisingly, fiber intake is linked to lower levels of obesity and lower risk for MetS and heart disease.[5-8] Omega-3 fatty acid intake addresses dyslipidemia and its connection to MetS. These polyunsaturated fatty acids have been shown to decrease unhealthy cholesterol levels . [9] Magnesium intake is associated with blood pressure management, and bioactive flavonoids from plants are associated with reduced risk of heart disease deaths. [10-12]

Consumption of whole grain oats has long been connected to supporting healthy glucose metabolism and metabolic health due to soluble and insoluble fiber content.[13]  A unique phytochemical class identified in oats called avenanthramides has been reported  to influence glucose uptake through interaction with bitter taste receptors in the GI tract.[14] Activation of these intestinal GI taste receptors results in an enteroendocrine hormone influence on GLP-1, insulin, glucagon, ghrelin, and CCK – all important regulators of glucose uptake, storage, and release. Regulation of specific bitter receptor signaling in the extraoral tissues may reduce the risk factors associated with metabolic diseases.

Lastly, select nutrients are also important for stabilizing the underlying systems, such as B vitamins, Vitamins C, D, and E.

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  1. Alexander, C.M., et al., NCEP-defined metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and prevalence of coronary heart disease among NHANES III participants age 50 years and older. Diabetes, 2003. 52(5): p. 1210-4.
  2. Kern HJ, M.S., Role of nutrients in metabolic syndrome: a 2017 update. Nutrition and Dietary Supplements, 2017. 10: p. 13-26.
  3. Grotto, D. and E. Zied, The Standard American Diet and its relationship to the health status of Americans. Nutr Clin Pract, 2010. 25(6): p. 603-12.
  4. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020, U.S.D.o.H.a.H.S.a.U.S.D.o. Agriculture, Editor. 2015.
  5. Wei, B., et al., Dietary fiber intake and risk of metabolic syndrome: A meta-analysis of observational studies. Clin Nutr, 2018. 37(6 Pt A): p. 1935-1942.
  6. Pereira, M.A., et al., Dietary fiber and risk of coronary heart disease: a pooled analysis of cohort studies. Arch Intern Med, 2004. 164(4): p. 370-6.
  7. Du, H., et al., Dietary fiber and subsequent changes in body weight and waist circumference in European men and women. Am J Clin Nutr, 2010. 91(2): p. 329-36.
  8. Anderson, J.W., et al., Health benefits of dietary fiber. Nutr Rev, 2009. 67(4): p. 188-205.
  9. Bradberry, J.C. and D.E. Hilleman, Overview of omega-3 Fatty Acid therapies. P & T : a peer-reviewed journal for formulary management, 2013. 38(11): p. 681-691.
  10. Zhang, X., et al., Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Blood Pressure: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Trials. Hypertension, 2016. 68(2): p. 324-33.
  11. Peterson, J.J., et al., Associations between flavonoids and cardiovascular disease incidence or mortality in European and US populations. Nutr Rev, 2012. 70(9): p. 491-508.
  12. McCullough, M.L., et al., Flavonoid intake and cardiovascular disease mortality in a prospective cohort of US adults. Am J Clin Nutr, 2012. 95(2): p. 454-64.
  13. Li, M., et al., Phenolics from Whole Grain Oat Products as Modifiers of Starch Digestion and Intestinal Glucose Transport. J Agric Food Chem, 2017. 65(32): p. 6831-6839.
  14. Vishwas Tripathi, A.S., Mohd. Tashfeen Ashraf, Avenanthramides of Oats: Medicinal Importance and Future Perspectives. Pharmacognosy Reviews, 2018(12): p. 66-71.

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