Metabolic Syndrome Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Published: 29th July 2008
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Also called: Insulin resistance syndrome, Metabolic Syndrome X. Not all doctors agree on the definition or cause of metabolic syndrome. The cause might be insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone your body produces to help you turn sugar from food into energy for your body. If you are insulin resistant, too much sugar builds up in your blood, setting the stage for disease

Who Gets Metabolic Syndrome?
Metabolic syndrome tends to run in families, along with the propensity for type 2 diabetes. Metabolic syndrome will occur in susceptible people who become overweight and sedentary. So, metabolic syndrome (like type 2 diabetes) can most often be prevented with exercise and maintaining a healthy body weight.

Signs and symptoms
Fasting hyperglycemia - diabetes mellitus type 2 or impaired fasting glucose, impaired glucose tolerance, or insulin resistance;

Central obesity (also known as visceral, male-pattern or apple-shaped adiposity), overweight with fat deposits mainly around the waist;

An elevated level of the blood fat called triglycerides and a low level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol - the "good" cholesterol

Resistance to insulin, a hormone that helps to regulate the amount of sugar in your body

How is the metabolic syndrome diagnosed?
There are no well-accepted criteria for diagnosing the metabolic syndrome. The criteria proposed by the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Adult Treatment Panel III (ATP III), with minor modifications, are currently recommended and widely used.

What causes metabolic syndrome?
As is true with many medical conditions, genetics and the environment both play important roles in the development of the metabolic syndrome. 

Metabolic syndrome results from eating a diet that has too many calories and too much saturated fat, and not getting enough physical activity. You can lower your risk of heart disease and diabetes by improving your eating habits, getting more physical activity and losing weight. If you smoke, you should stop smoking.

How do I prevent or reverse metabolic syndrome?
Lose weight -- Moderate weight loss, in the range of 5 percent to 10 percent of body weight, can help restore your body's ability to recognize insulin and greatly reduce the chance that the syndrome will evolve into a more serious illness.

Can it be prevented?
Although much more research has to be done to work out the relationship between different factors in metabolic syndrome, and how drug treatments might be used to help people, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk.

How Is Metabolic Syndrome Treated?

Goals of Treatment

The major goal of treating metabolic syndrome is to reduce a person's risk for heart disease. Treatment is directed first at reducing LDL cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein cholesterol), high blood pressure, and diabetes (if these conditions are present).

Nutritional factors leading to central obesity are complex and the total amount of energy consumed is more important than particular food types. Dietary patterns are associated with socioeconomic group, smoking, alcohol intake and physical activity. However, allowing for these factors, there is evidence that fat intake is positively associated with both BMI and a central distribution of fat, while carbohydrate intake is negatively associated with these factors and alcohol intake is weakly associated with central fat distribution.

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