Known as the calm before the storm, metabolic syndrome is by conventional standards the pre-diseased state of the body that raises risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes. It means metabolic abnormalities are present, and if not addressed can lead to chronic disease. In order to be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, an individual has to have at 3 of the 5 risk factors. These risk factors or metabolic abnormalities are abdominal obesity, high triglycerides, low levels of HDL cholesterol, high blood pressure and high blood sugar.
Together, these risk factors promote insulin resistance which ultimately damages blood vessels. Compromised blood vessels have a strong correlation to adverse cardiovascular events. In addition to cardiovascular disease, recent research suggests that metabolic syndrome increases risk factors for several conditions such as neurodegenerative disease and PCOS.
So, Metabolic syndrome isn’t just harmful for heart health?
Seemingly cardiovascular in nature, why does metabolic syndrome impact other parts of the body such as the brain and the reproductive system? This is because the systems of the body are interconnected through several mechanisms. One mechanism are the blood vessels which deliver oxygen and nutrients to tissues throughout the body.
For example, Alzheimer’s has been rightfully referred to as type 3 diabetes for the role the insulin resistance and blood vessel dysfunction plays in the pathogenesis.
When the function of the blood vessels is compromised, there will be dysfunction in other areas through which they run. What part of the body or system will be affected is determined by how your environment interacts with your genes.
How Does Metabolic Syndrome Develop?
There is this misconception that genes play a role in the development of metabolic syndrome. Dissecting this, there is a little more to the story. Our genes haven’t changed in 100s of years. Despite this, there is a global increase in metabolic syndrome and subsequently the diseases associated with it at numbers unprecedented in human history. From this, science has confirmed that metabolic syndrome is what is referred to as a lifestyle disease. Lifestyle diseases are a result of the way our body and genes interact within the context of our environment.
Risk factors for metabolic syndrome are:
- Diets high in refined sugars and oils
- Diets low in fruits, vegetables, phytochemicals and fiber
- Sedentary lifestyle (ie- minimal exercise/movement)
- High stress levels
- Poor sleep hygiene
- Chronic exposure to environmental chemicals
Putting Out The Fire
Since metabolic syndrome is a result of years of the interaction between the body and the environment- if the environment changes, so does the physiology that contribute to metabolic syndrome. The environment of our blood vessels is plastic, meaning we are able to modify it, for worse or better.
Through incorporating the use of lifestyle medicine and nutraceutical therapy we are able favourably modulate gene expression through epigenetic changes and have a positive effect on metabolic syndrome markers through improving the cardiovascular environment.
Addressing nutrition from several angles is the most comprehensive approach to healing from metabolic syndrome. However, one of the most significant dietary shifts when it comes to nutrition choices is to change the oils that are used on a daily basis.
Research has repeatedly shown those with a high consumption of vegetable oils, in particular sunflower oil, have exponentially higher rates of metabolic dysfunction.
Vegetable oils such as sunflower and canola oil are known to promote inflammation in the blood vessels, while simultaneously promoting insulin resistance. Replacing these inflammatory oils with heart healthy oils such as olive, avocado and coconut in moderation can improve metabolic syndrome markers and prevent the downstream affects.
Metabolic syndrome is dangerous because it prompt’s a chronic inflammatory response in the blood vessels, adversely affects energy production through damaging the mitochondria and causes the blood vessels to harden and narrow.
When choosing a nutraceutical support, it is advised to look for compounds that promote blood vessel integrity, mitochondrial health, lower inflammation and help the body to once again become sensitized to insulin. Our favourite trio for supporting metabolic syndrome is: Quercetin, Acetyl L-Carnitine and Alpha Lipoic Acid.
Quercetin is a flavonoid that has been extensively studied for its role in heart health. It has been shown to lower risk factors of metabolic syndrome. Researchers have found it plays a role in lowering blood pressure, managing cholesterol and reducing inflammation in blood vessels.
Acetyl L-Carnitine has profound effects on re-establishing integrity of the mitochondria. The mitochondria endure damage when metabolic disease is present. The damaged mitochondria then perpetuate and escalade the progression of metabolic syndrome. In addition to ALCAR favourably affecting the mitochondria and there is evidence that it can help promote insulin sensitivity and regulate both carbohydrate and fat metabolism! Lypo-Spheric® Acetyl L-Carnitine provides a therapeutic, bioavailable dose of ALCAR!
Alpha Lipoic Acid is a potent antioxidant that has implications in regulating glucose levels through increasing cellular insulin sensitivity. Used by natural health care practitioners in diabetes, ALA is perfect compound to help combat metabolic syndrome and can aid in stopping it in its tracks.
In addition to the individual effects of these three supplements, they all act as antioxidants. This is important because a hallmark feature of metabolic illness is the generation of free radicals that further damage tissues in the body.
Wrapping It Up
Metabolic syndrome is a lifestyle disease, and although the factors contributing to it are vast- making simple tweaks in diet, lifestyle and supporting the body with nutraceuticals can prevent it progressing. We recommend speaking with a health care practitioner to get a protocol tailored to your unique physiology! But the tips outlined in this article are a great place to start!Author: Lisa Kowalyk, CNP, B.Kin