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Knowledgebase: Nutritional Information
Steps you can take to reduce the risk (or severity) of metabolic syndrome include:
Posted by Stephan Mackenzie on 22 April 2011 11:18 AM
1. Increase activity level. The 'diabetes epidemic' that is sweeping the Western world, and is increasingly affecting affluent groups in developing nations, parallels the obesity epidemic that began a decade or so earlier. Although being obese is the single most important risk factor for type 2 diabetes, it is also true that being normal weight is not a guarantee of protection against diabetes. Some slim people also develop insulin resistance, and a small proportion of these will progress to diabetes. Physical activity can assist in reducing the risk (or severity) of metabolic syndrome independently of any effects of body weight. This also means that, even if you are having trouble losing weight, increasing physical activity will help to reduce your risk of developing heart disease or type 2 diabetes. This is the cornerstone of the 'health at any size' movement. You don't have to be extremely active to gain substantial benefit. By taking part in just 30 minutes of moderately-vigorous activity (such as brisk walking, cycling, swimming, light weight-training and so on) daily, you can substantially reduce the risk (or severity) of metabolic syndrome. 2. Improve health through better eating habitsEmphasis should be placed on eating foods with relatively low 'glycemic index' (GI). It is also important to eat only sparingly foods that are high in saturated fats (such as full-fat dairy products, fatty meats, biscuits, cakes, pastries, potato chips and most other fried takeaway foods). Suitable replacements are whole-grain cereal foods, fruits and vegetables, foods rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, including those that provide high levels of 'omega-3' fats. Fish (especially those with dark-flesh) is an excellent source of omega-3 fats. It is now usually recommended that we eat two or three fish meals (preferably not fried or battered) per week. Green leafy vegetables are also a good source.Other good sources of health-promoting fats include avocado, nuts, seeds (pumpkin, sunflower), canola oil, olive oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, peanut oil, and margarine spreads. The increased risk of stroke and heart disease from high blood pressure means that careful attention should be paid to the dietary guideline on salt (sodium chloride): 'Choose foods low in salt'. Low salt foods are defined in the food regulations as having a sodium content not exceeding 120 mg/100 g. With the requirement to include sodium content in a 'nutrition information panel' on the label, reading the labels on supermarket foods will allow you to identify those processed foods that are 'low salt'. 3. Lose some weight (if overweight or obese).Weight loss should result from increasing physical activity and making appropriate alterations to diet, as recommended above. Weight loss has beneficial effects on several components of metabolic syndrome, including the risk of developing insulin resistance. Although only a relatively small percentage of those with insulin resistance do progress to type 2 diabetes, everyone who does develop type 2 diabetes did experience insulin resistance first, so it is an indicator that you are 'at risk' of developing diabetes. Because developing insulin resistance increases with increasing body fat levels, weight reduction should lower the risk of insulin resistance. It has been reported that carrying as little as 11 kg of excess body fat during early adulthood increases the risk of later onset of type 2 diabetes twenty-fold. Also with respect to weight, if you have recently undergone significant weight gain, despite attempting to use diet and physical activity to maintain normal weight, you would be well-advised to ask your doctor to check for insulin resistance. You might also like to ask if your doctor believes that a 'glucose tolerance test' would be appropriate, measuring both 'glucose response' and 'insulin response'. A reduction in body fat also almost invariably leads to improved blood pressure. So losing weight reduces the risk of stroke, because high blood pressure is the strongest individual risk factor for stroke.Losing about 5-10% of your current weight (if you have substantial excess body fat) will have worthwhile effects on several aspects of metabolic syndrome. Although 5-10% may not seem a lot, it can actually be quite a high percentage of your initial body fat level. For example, if you weigh 165 pounds and have a body fat level of 33% (indicative of mild obesity), your body fat content is ~54 pounds. Losing 10% (7.5 kg) of your body weight as fat means that you have lost about 30% of your body fat. 4. Quit smoking (if you are a smoker)Smoking is associated with increased risk of heart disease (in addition to other conditions not directly related to metabolic syndrome, including lung cancer, bronchitis, emphysema and impotence). Quitting smoking is one of the healthiest lifestyle alterations that can be made by a person who smokes. 5. Reduce stress levelsAlthough not necessarily a direct cause of metabolic syndrome, our increasingly busy lifestyles and other sources of stress have profound influence on health outcome. Light physical activity, meditation, yoga, music and/or other relaxation techniques can all be used to reduce stress.
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