Do you have Metabolic Syndrome, also known as Syndrome X? It is a medical condition that is becoming more and more common in Australia and the United States. Metabolic Syndrome is the name doctors give to a group of risk factors that occur together and increase your chances of Coronary Heart Disease, Stroke and Type 2 Diabetes.
Do this quick medical quiz to see if you are at risk of Metabolic Syndrome?
Q2 – Do you have a low level of HDL (good) cholesterol or take medication for this?
Q3 – Do you have a high level of triglycerides or take medication for this?
Q4 – Do you have high blood pressure or take blood pressure medication?
Q5 – Do you have high fasting blood glucose levels or take medication for high blood glucose levels?
If you answered yes to 3 or more of these questions, then you may have Metabolic Syndrome.
The two most important risk factors for Metabolic Syndrome are:
- Extra weight around the middle and upper parts of the body (central obesity), also described as being “apple shaped”.
- Insulin resistance, where the body cannot use insulin effectively.
Insulin Resistance is a condition in which the body produces insulin but doesn’t use it properly. Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas, and it helps the body to use glucose for energy. The body’s digestive system breaks food down into glucose. After a meal, the pancreas releases insulin to help cells take in and use the glucose. When people are insulin resistant, their cells do not respond to insulin properly and the body needs more and more insulin to help glucose enter the cells. The person ends up having high levels of insulin and glucose circulating in their blood. The pancreas works harder and harder to keep up with the demand for extra insulin and eventually the pancreas wears out. When the pancreas eventually fails, the person can end up with Diabetes.
Testing your blood insulin levels is expensive. Diagnosing insulin resistance is therefore usually done by measuring blood glucose levels.
The good news is that Insulin Resistance and Metabolic Syndrome are preventable lifestyle diseases. You will not develop them if you follow a healthy lifestyle. This means you need to
- Keep your weight under control
- Keep active eg. walk 30 min a day 5 days a week
- Have a healthy diet – keep reading – this is the bit that many people get wrong!
Healthy Diet to Prevent or Treat Metabolic Syndrome
Many people eat more carbohydrates in their diet than they need. We get carbohydrates from many foods including bread, breakfast cereals, biscuits, cakes, pastries, rice, pasta, potatoes, fruit, jam, lollies, chocolate, icecream, soft drink, cordial and so on and so on. We even get carbohydrates from milk, yoghurt, custard, nuts, baked beans and other “healthy foods”. All carbohydrates in our food break down to eventually form glucose which is used by the cells for energy. But when you eat more carbohydrates than your body needs, the excess carbohydrates will convert to fat and be stored on your body. There is a fine line between too many carbs and not enough.
Despite popular belief, cutting ALL the carbohydrates out of your diet is not conducive to good health, fast metabolism or permanent weight loss. We know that small amount of carbohydrates at each meal are useful for many reasons, but mainly because we need some to help our bodies burn fat. Long periods with low carbohydrate intake causes our cells to go into a starvation mode where they try to conserve energy and store fat. So even though initially you can lose weight, there will come a point where you cannot lose any more.
The best diet to prevent or treat insulin resistance or Metabolic Syndrome involves small, regular meals that provide small amounts of low GI carbohydrates, moderate amounts of protein, and moderate amounts of the “healthy” fats (from avocado, fish, nuts, olive oil etc.)
For more specific advice, see your APD.