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
- Central obesity reflected by increased waist circumference: (Greater than 102cm for men, greater than88cm for women) | High fat levels in the abdominal region pose a greater risk for heart disease than in other areas of the body.2
- Hypertension: (Systolic and diastolic blood pressure greater than 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
- Dyslipidemia: (HDL less than 40mg/dL for men, and less than 50mg/dL for women, or TGs greater than 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
- Insulin Resistance: (Fasting blood glucose greater than 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 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 dollars 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)
- Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids (i.e. omega 3 fatty acids)
- 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 gastrointestinal (GI) tract.14 Activation of these intestinal GI taste receptors results in an enteroendocrine hormone influence on glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1), insulin, glucagon, ghrelin, and Cholecystokinin (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.