Metabolic syndrome is the term used to describe a cluster of disorders that are estimated to account for 75% of global health care costs. If you are suffering from 3 or more of the following conditions, it is likely that you have metabolic syndrome:
- Abdominal obesity
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Heart disease
- Pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes
- High triglycerides
- Low HDL cholesterol
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
- Certain types of cancer
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
It used to be thought that all of these problems began with weight-gain; if you eat too much and don't get enough exercise you'll get fat and develop health problems. On the face of it, that would appear to be true, but when you take a closer look at exactly who has metabolic syndrome, the picture isn't so clear. In fact, 40% of normal weight adults are suffering from metabolic syndrome and 20% of overweight adults are otherwise healthy. So if being overweight is not the cause of metabolic syndrome, what is?
The answer is high blood insulin levels or hyperinsulinaemia. Insulin is hormone created in the pancreas that acts as a nutrient sensor to allow the preservation of stored energy. In other words, insulin promotes the storage of energy from food in the liver, muscles and fat cells. It must be present for fat storage and it prevents the breakdown of stored fat in the body. The foods that stimulate the body to produce the most insulin are those that contain sugars and refined carbohydrates. Insulin is essential for life; we can't live without it. In a healthy individual who has not eaten for several hours, blood insulin levels will be very low. After a meal, blood insulin levels will increase naturally to ensure that the energy absorbed by the body can be stored for future use. When this job is done, insulin levels will drop back down again and stay low until the next meal. However, for a number of reasons, insulin levels can become chronically raised. For some people, this is caused by a genetic tendency towards insulin resistance but for many, their insulin levels are high for extended periods of time simply because they consume lots sugar and processed carbohydrates and snack frequently. Chronically high levels of insulin, or hyperinsulinaemia cause inflammation throughout the body, and if hyperinsulinaemia persists, it will eventually trigger metabolic syndrome.
The good news is that metabolic syndrome can be managed and even reversed through simple dietary changes. By cutting out sugar and the highly processed carbohydrates found in processed food, ditching the snacks and increasing the length of time between your meals you can reduce your insulin levels and reclaim your health.
If you'd like support to lose weight and manage chronic health conditions contact:
Helen Chauhan, Integrative Nutrition Health Coach
Iris Family Medicine, 1486 High St, Glen Iris
Tel 9509 2144