Metabolic syndrome is a blanket term for a cluster of risk factors that significantly increase your odds of developing heart disease and other chronic ailments.
While it may seem complex – and there are a lot of factors in play – there is one thing you can do from now on that will greatly diminish your susceptibility to this condition: eat real food.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there are five main risk factors that characterize metabolic syndrome. They are: high fasting blood sugar, high triglyceride levels, low HDL ‘good’ cholesterol, high blood pressure and visceral fat (aka belly fat). Having three or more of these risk factors may be indicative of metabolic syndrome.
The NIH also states that individuals with metabolic syndrome have approximately double the risk of developing heart disease, and about five times the risk of developing diabetes, than that of individuals who do not have metabolic syndrome.
So, how can eating real food help? For one thing, it is not filled with the refined sugars, carbohydrates and chemical additives of processed, boxed foods and fast food items. The sugars, artificial sweeteners and flavorings, preservatives, and refined flour found in these foods can lead to system-wide inflammation and spikes in blood sugar. These ‘fake’ foods directly foster high blood sugar and belly fat, as well as pave the way for the other risk factors of metabolic syndrome.
A 2013 study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition followed 1,476 Iranian adults, ages 19 through 70, for three years. On their results, researchers write, “higher consumption of fast food was accompanied with more increase in serum triglyceride levels and triglyceride to HDL-C ratio after the 3-year follow up… the risk of metabolic syndrome, in the highest quartile of fast foods compared with the lowest, was 1.85.”
The researchers add, “the effects of fast food consumption on the occurrence of MetS [metabolic syndrome] were more pronounced in younger adults.
While genetics also play a role, eating only real foods from natural sources is instrumental in the prevention of metabolic syndrome. The phytochemical antioxidants found in many fruits and vegetables, such as dark, leafy greens, for example, have anti-inflammatory properties, and their natural fibers help stabilize blood sugar while keeping cravings for unhealthy snacks at bay.
Choosing a variety of fresh, organic fruits, veggies and legumes, grass-fed meats and dairy, and cooking at home instead of eating out, ensures that your food is nutritious and not filled with the additives that deteriorate health and pave the way for metabolic syndrome. Staying away from wheat, even whole wheat, is also important for avoiding inflammation, even if you are not gluten intolerant.
Regular aerobic exercise is essential, as well. A sedentary lifestyle has been closely associated with metabolic syndrome. Additionally, a 2014 study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that aerobic exercise helped reduce arterial stiffness in those who already had metabolic syndrome.
If you have already been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, it’s not too late. Changing your diet now, and incorporating regular exercise into your week, can greatly reduce your chances of developing heart disease and other debilitating illnesses.
-The Alternative Daily