Metabolic Syndrome: Your Wake-Up Call!

Metabolic syndrome is perhaps *the* public health concern of this decade. Why? Because it represents a constellation of symptoms all resulting from certain lifestyle choices. Combine excessive consumption of sugar, refined foods, processed foods, alcohol, and calories with a too much sitting around, working at a desk, playing video games, and generally not being active. Hmmm...who does that sound like? Let's see. 7 out of 10 Americans, at least.

So what's the good news here? The good news is that most of the time, the damage is not irreparable by the time the diagnosis is made. Aggressive changes in lifestyle can and will cause a reversal in the classic group of signs that compose this syndrome: increased waist circumference, insulin resistance, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia (1). The sad thing is that the needed changes are ones that most people are already well aware of, and still unwilling to make the changes. And unfortunately, there is a drug for each condition, such as Lipitor, and most physicians are very agreeable to prescribing it. We live in a quick fix, pill popping culture. When the medical doctor offers this as an option for addressing high cholesterol, most people accept this solution and then feel less obligated to take the necessary measures in lifestyle changes to address all the aspects of the syndrome: daily exercise, weight loss, decreased caloric intake, smoking cessation, more fruits and vegetables, and less refined foods.

Patients with this diagnosis require a strong support system. A key player in this picture is a well informed practitioner to act as the patient's partner in health, creating an individualized plan that can be tweaked over time for optimal success. This is the opposite of the one-size-fits-all drug therapy. The individualized plan takes into account many other aspects of the patient's life and health history, thereby making the plan a better overall fit for the patient and improving outcomes and compliance.

In addition to the lifestyle changes listed above, there may be certain nutritional and herbal supplements to aid in the recovery of health. I have listed just a few possibilities (2,3,4):

  • Fish oil (total cholesterol lowering)

  • Chromium picolinate (raises HDL, increases insulin sensitivity)

  • Policosanol (raises HDL, lowers LDL)

  • B-6 (lowers homocysteine levels)

  • B-12 (lowers homocysteine levels)

  • Folic acid (lowers homocysteine levels)

  • Niacin (raises HDL, lowers LDL, decreased blood pressure)

  • Carnitine (improves fat burning)

  • Antioxidants (decreases oxidative stress)

  • Grape seed extract (decreases blood pressure)

Dosages are not included above, because it is very important that you seek the advice of a qualified professional to guide you through the complex world of natural therapies in order to choose the proper products and dosages. It took many factors and a long time to develop metabolic syndrome, and the journey back to a state of balance will take time and discipline. Let your holistic doctor help you along the way. Or, you can always try the cocktail of drugs and the interactions and nutrient depletions that go along with them. It's always your choice!

Mayo Clinic Staff. Metabolic syndrome. Updated November 5, 2009. Accessed March 14, 2010.

Wong C. Natural Treatment for Metabolic Syndrome. Updated February 25, 2010. Accessed March 14, 2010.

Ford ES, Mokdad AH, Giles WH, Brown DW. The Metabolic Syndrome and Antioxidant Concentrations: Findings From the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Diabetes, 2003;52:2346-2352.

Juturu V, Gormely JJ. Nutritional Supplements Modulating Metabolic Syndrome Risk Factors and the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease. Current Nutrition & Food Science, 2005, 1(1):1-10.