Metabolic Syndrome: What It Is And Why Address It

If you have excess fat around your waist, you may have Metabolic Syndrome.  Find out what other health markers combined with your growing waist line potentially lead to fatal conditions, such as heart attack, stroke, dementia and cancer.

Metabolic syndrome refers to a health condition where insulin resistance and fat around the waist area (otherwise known as abdominal obesity) are the primary signs.  The National Cholesterol Education Program-Adult Treatment Panel III 1 defines this as a syndrome where the following combination exists:

  • high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • high total cholesterol, high triglycerides, high LDL, low HDL (dyslipidemia)
  • fat around the waist (abdominal obesity)
  • high fasting glucose
  • low levels of the urine protein albumin

The definition of metabolic syndrome has been expanded to include the underlying mechanisms with associated laboratory indicators, as shown in the table below:

Insulin resistance and high insulin levelsFasting insulin, proinsulin, C-peptide
Increased propensity for clotting (Prothrombotic state)fibrinogen, thrombin, increased platelet aggregation, von Willebrand factor, Factor VII
Abdominal obesityWaist circumference:
Men >40 inches
Women >35 inches
Waist-Hip ratio (calculated by dividing your waist circumference with your hip circumference):
Men: >.90
Women: >.80
Body Fat:
Men: > 29% (healthy <16%)
Women: > 37% (healthy <22%)
Fasting glucosefasting glucose >110 or hemoglobin A1C over 6.5
DyslipidemiaTriglycerides > 130
HDL: Men: <40, Women: <50
Elevated Lipoprotein-a [Lp(a)]
Elevated Very Low Density Lipoprotein (VLDL)
Elevated Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL)
HypertensionBP > 135/85
Proinflammatory stateHS-C-Reactive protein, fibrinogen, Interleukin 6 (IL-6), IL-1B, TNF-alpha, leukocytosis (high levels of leukocytes in the blood)
Microalbuminuria> 30 mg in 24 hours
Potentially fatal conditions such as heart attack (myocardial infarction), stroke, dementia and cancer are often the end result of progression of metabolic syndrome.  These conditions are typically characterized by pathologic inflammation 2,3,4 and cellular glucose dysregulation 5,6. Glucose dysregulation has such powerful negative effects that even the effects in the developing child can influence his/her health in his/her adult years7.

Metabolic Syndrome Is Not Real?

The American Diabetes Association states that Metabolic Syndrome should not be defined as a unique syndrome because they contend that research does not support it.  They contend that the sum of the parts of Metabolic Syndrome do not impart a greater risk for heart disease than each individual health condition listed above8.

However, a great amount of research appears to support that metabolic syndrome not only is real, but its’ combination of conditions increases the risk for heart disease and the other potentially fatal conditions mentioned above9,10.  Furthermore, there’s an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s dementia if you have metabolic syndrome with high levels of inflammation11.

What are the Causes of Metabolic Syndrome?

Simply stated, metabolic syndrome is often caused by years and years of poor diet and lifestyle!  Therefore, as research studies indicate, it requires changes in diet and lifestyle, and in some cases significant changes, to resolve the processes involved in the development of Metabolic Syndrome 12.

What can you do to reverse Metabolic Syndrome?

I will share with you a method for reversing metabolic syndrome that uses nutrition and the functional medicine approach that I have used for my patients in my clinic in San Carlos.  I will address this on my next blog post.

Let me know what you think by posting a comment below.  If you have any questions, regarding nutrition, functional medicine, or the above recommendations for reversing metabolic syndrome, you can post it as a comment or contact me through our contact form above.

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  1.  Executive Summary of the Third Report of the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults (Adult Treatment Panel III) Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults. JAMA. 2001 285:2486-2497.
  2.  Yaffe K, Kanaya A, Lindquist K, The Metabolic Syndrome, Inflammation, and Risk of Cognitive Decline . JAMA 2004;292:2237-2242.
  3.  Conen D, Rexrode K, Creager M, et al.  Metabolic Syndrome, Inflammation, and Risk of Symptomatic Peripheral Artery Disease in Women. Circulation. 2009;120:1041-1047,
  4.  Kerner A,  Avizohar O, Sella R, et al. Association Between Elevated Liver Enzymes and C-Reactive Protein: Possible Hepatic Contribution to Systemic Inflammation in the Metabolic Syndrome. Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology. 2005;25:193-197.
  5.  Prevalence of Insulin Resistance in Metabolic Disorders: The Bruneck Study, Diabetes, 47(10);1643-1649, 1995.,
  6.  Fernández-Real J and Ricart  W.  Insulin Resistance and Chronic Cardiovascular Inflammatory Syndrome. Endocrine Reviews. 2003;24:278-3017
  7.  Holness M,  Langdown M, and Sugden M.  Early-life programming of susceptibility to dysregulation of glucose metabolism and the development of Type 2 diabetes mellitus.  Biochem J. 2000; 349: 657-665
  8.  American Diabetes Association News and Research Summary Statement on Metabolic Syndrome
  9.  Lakka H, Laaksonen D, Lakka T, et al.  The metabolic syndrome and total and cardiovascular disease mortality in middle-aged men. JAMA 2002;288:2709-2716
  10.  Boden-Albala B, Sacco R, Lee H, et al. Metabolic syndrome and ischemic stroke risk: Northern Manhattan study. Stroke. 2008;39:30-35
  11.  Yaffe K, Kanaya A, Lindquist K, et al.  The metabolic syndrome, inflammation, and risk of cognitive decline. JAMA. 2004;292:2237-2242
  12.  McAuley K, Williams S, Mann J, et. al. Intensive Lifestyle Changes Are Necessary to Improve Insulin Sensitivity. Diabetes Care 2002;25:445-452.