5 Steps to Managing Metabolic Syndrome
This blog is part 2 of a series on metabolic syndrome (MetS). You can read part 1 here – Metabolic Syndrome – What Is It and What Causes It? Now that you know what MetS is and what can cause it, what can you do about it? This blog will focus on diet, lifestyle, and the nutritional supplements that can support you if you have MetS or are on the road to it.
As a brief review, if you have three or more of the following five factors, then you are considered to have metabolic syndrome – a constellation of signs and symptoms that increase your risk for heart disease, diabetes, and other adverse health conditions.
- Increased waist circumference (>102 cm/40 inches men and >88 cm/34 inches women)
- Elevated blood pressure (>130/85 mmHg)
- Elevated blood sugar (fasting glucose ≥100 mg/dL)
- High triglycerides (>150 mg/dL)
- Low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol) (<40 mg/dL in men and <50 mg/dL in women)
1. Dietary considerations
The largest body of evidence in relation to what is the best diet for metabolic syndrome clearly points to the so-called “Mediterranean diet.” Long-term research conclusively demonstrates that the diet eaten in the regions surrounding the Mediterranean Sea provides protection against multiple diseases and disorders, including the health markers associated with MetS.1
The Mediterranean diet consists of eating large amounts of vegetables and moderate amounts of fruit (of a variety of colors), as well as whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds. Fish, dairy products, eggs, and low-fat meat and poultry are eaten in moderation. Fresh fruit is the typical daily dessert and olive oil is the primary source of fat. If you know you are allergic to a particular food, then it should be avoided, because eating such foods can lead to the inflammation that contributes to MetS. Common allergens include gluten, dairy products, soy, eggs, and peanuts.
Intermittent fasting (IF) can also be incorporated into a healthy Mediterranean-style diet. IF involves eating only during particular time periods. One common pattern is 16:8 – fasting for 16 hours and eating during the other eight hours in a 24-hour period. Research supports IF for weight loss, improved insulin sensitivity, decreased lipids, and decreased risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.2
The glycemic index (GI) ranks carbohydrates on a scale of 0-100, based on the extent to which the carbohydrate content of a food increases fasting blood sugar in a healthy person. The lower the glycemic index number, the lower the food’s impact on blood sugar. The glycemic load, while based on the glycemic index, also takes into account the amount of carbohydrates in a specific serving. The recommended value of a food’s glycemic index is 55 or less, and for the glycemic load it’s 10 or less. Glycemicindex.com is a good general guide that allows you to type in a food and receive its glycemic index and glycemic load. Whenever possible, replace highly processed grains, cereals, and sugars with minimally processed whole grain products. For menu ideas, foods to eat, foods to avoid, and recipes, check out Thorne’s Metabolic Syndrome Guide.
Regular exercise is an essential component for reversing the conditions associated with MetS. Physical inactivity is associated with undesirable increases in body mass index, waist circumference, and various other MetS risk factors. Exercise increases lean muscle mass, increases the uptake of sugar from the bloodstream, has a positive effect on blood pressure, reduces stress, and increases the level of “good cholesterol” (HDL cholesterol).
Low levels of inflammation are associated with being overweight, and exercise decreases inflammation. Several studies show that moderate exercise decreases an important blood marker of inflammation called C-reactive protein.
3. Stress reduction
As you read in part 1, stress can be a contributing factor to MetS. Chronic stress can result in a consistently elevated cortisol level. Cortisol, a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands, can cause increased cravings for sugary foods and increased blood sugar, which can lead to fat production and weight gain. Stress reduction techniques help lower cortisol and decrease stress-associated weight gain.
Enroll in a yoga class or join an online yoga class. Yoga decreases cortisol production and increases a brain chemical called GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), which acts as a brake during times of runaway stress. You can also consider Thorne's nutritional supplement product PharmaGABA®, which has been shown to decrease salivary cortisol levels during episodes of acute stress.*
Your cortisol level has normal 24-hour fluctuations, with lower levels at night when it’s time to go to sleep and higher levels on waking in the morning. If you want to see how your salivary cortisol levels ebb and flow, then consider taking Thorne’s at-home Stress Test.
Burning the midnight oil might not be good for your metabolism, particularly as more is known about the relationship between sleep and weight. One recent study analyzed data from 1,165 adults and found higher rates of poor quality and/or insufficient sleep were related to overweight/obesity in women but not men.3 The researchers hypothesize this gender difference is related to differences in leptin secretion and metabolism between women and men.
And falling asleep with the TV on might not be good for your metabolic health either. A study of 42,000 U.S. women, average age 55, found any amount of artificial light at night is associated with a higher prevalence of obesity.4 Compared to no artificial light, habitually having a light on or the TV on was associated with a weight gain of at least 11 pounds and a 10-percent increase in body mass index.
Create a cool, quiet, and dark sleeping environment conducive to restful sleep. Wind down your exposure to blue-light emitting electronic devices a couple of hours before going to bed. Studies show that for every hour you are exposed to blue light, melatonin production is suppressed for a half hour. If you need to use a blue-light emitting device before bed, then us an app that reduces blue light from screens or blue-light blocking glasses that have yellow lenses.
Explore Thorne’s sleep-supportive supplements. Looking to know what effect the hormones melatonin and cortisol are having on your sleep? Then try Thorne’s easy, at-home Sleep Test. If you are not sure which sleep support supplement might be right for you, then take this Sleep Quiz.
5. Nutritional supplements
Several Thorne nutritional supplements can provide support to individuals who either have metabolic syndrome or are close to having it.
MediBolic®, the cornerstone of a supportive program, combines protein and fiber with a complete assortment of vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and botanicals that address various aspects of metabolic syndrome.* One serving of MediBolic, which provides 10 grams of easily digestible fiber, tastes great when simply mixed with water or you can make a smoothie with other ingredient combinations to add extra nutrition and flavor. Check out Thorne’s Metabolic Syndrome Guide for tasty shake recipes.
Thorne’s newest product, Metabolic Health, is an encapsulated product that supports healthy lipid and blood sugar levels – which can be out of whack in a person with MetS.* This formula combines two well-researched botanical extracts – bergamot and curcumin – as well-absorbed phytosome complexes, to target important metabolic processes in the body.*
Who can benefit from Metabolic Health?
- Individuals who want to optimize fat metabolism and body composition*
- Men and women who want to combat abdominal weight gain*
- Anyone experiencing a slowing metabolism or having trouble maintaining a desired weight with a healthy diet*
- Individuals experiencing excessive daily stress that creates an obstacle to weight management*
- Anyone wanting to maintain normal blood sugar and cholesterol levels and a healthy liver*
Another factor that can play a role in metabolic health is the gut microbiome. Both animal and human studies show a strong association between the gut microbiome and development of MetS.5 Therefore, a probiotic should be considered an essential part of a plan for metabolic support. Lactobacillus gasseri, one of three beneficial flora species in FloraMend Prime Probiotic, has been shown to benefit weight management. A study showed a nearly 5-percent average reduction in visceral and subcutaneous body fat with correlating positive effects on body weight, waist circumference, and BMI.*6
When it comes to optimizing your body’s metabolism, it’s best to take a comprehensive approach that is centered around a good diet, exercise, stress reduction, restful sleep, and carefully selected nutritional supplements.
- Kesse-Guyot E, Ahluwalia N, Lassale C, et al. Adherence to Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of metabolic syndrome: a 6-year prospective study. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis 2013;23:677-683.
- Kunduraci YE, Ozbek H. Does the energy restriction intermittent fasting diet alleviate metabolic syndrome biomarkers? A randomized controlled trial. Nutrients 2020;12(10):3213. doi:10.3390/nu12103213
- Hur S, Oh B, Kim H, Kwon O. Associations of diet quality and sleep quality with obesity. Nutrients 2021;13(9):3181. doi: 10.3390/nu13093181.
- Park Y, White A, Jackson C, et al. Association of exposure to artificial light at night while sleeping with risk of obesity in women. JAMA Intern Med 2019 Jun 10. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2019.0571
- Festi D, Schiumerini R, Eusebi LH, et al. Gut microbiota and metabolic syndrome. WJG 2014;20(43):16079. doi:10.3748/wjg.v20.i43.16079
- Kadooka Y, Sato M, Imaizumi K, et al. Regulation of abdominal adiposity by probiotics (Lactobacillus gasseri SBT2055) in adults with obese tendencies in a randomized controlled trial. Eur J Clin Nutr 2010;64(6):636-643.