Reducing Carbs Better than Lowering Fat Intake for Metabolic Syndrome

Reducing fat intake has been the standard diet recommendation for people with metabolic syndrome. Continued research is showing that reducing carbohydrates in the diet may be more effective at improving symptoms. Since metabolic syndrome is associated with an insulin imbalance, reducing carbohydrates may help to improve insulin’s response.

Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors. When someone has three or more of these interrelated risk factors, they are considered to have metabolic syndrome. The risk factors are:

  • An elevated fasting blood sugar: When the blood sugar taken before breakfast is 100 mg/dl or higher it could indicate insulin resistance. This is when the body does not use the hormone insulin as it should. The insulin is unable to convert the sugar (glucose) into energy. The body will continue to make insulin but since it does not work, the blood’s glucose will continue to be high.
  • High blood pressure: A blood pressure of 130/85 or higher is a risk factor. This includes people who are currently taking high blood pressure medicine.
  • A large waist size: Abdominal obesity is considered a waist of 35 inches or larger in women, and 40 inches or larger in men.
  • High triglycerides: A triglyceride level of 150 mg/dl or higher is a risk factor. This includes anyone taking cholesterol medicine.
  • Low HDL level: This is the good cholesterol. An HDL level less than 50 mg/dl for women or less than 40 mg/dl for men is a risk factor. Like triglycerides, this includes people who take cholesterol medicine.

If you have been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome you are not alone. It has been estimated that close to 40 percent of Americans are affected. This puts people at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and stroke.

Treatment

Standard dietary treatment is to follow a heart healthy diet. This includes foods low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and trans fat. Limiting salt intake is also recommended. This is still good advice and should be followed.

Data is showing that reducing carbohydrates in the diet may actually help better than reducing fats when it comes to controlling the symptoms of metabolic syndrome. The logic is that since metabolic syndrome is closely linked to the imbalance in insulin that controlling the carbohydrates will help to control the insulin and its response.

According to a study by Volek and Feinman restricting carbohydrate intake will control high blood sugar, lower the triglycerides, raise the HDL, and lower blood pressure. It is interesting to note that when someone follows a low fat diet but consumes a large amount of carbohydrates that the triglyceride level actually increases, the HDL decreases and the blood sugar is more difficult to control.

The cause of metabolic syndrome is unknown but the generally accepted theory is that obesity causes it. This includes a diet chronically high in carbohydrates that leads to the body producing high levels of insulin. Weight loss is an important part of treatment as well as exercise.

The study concluded that all five of the symptoms of metabolic syndrome were improved by following a low carbohydrate diet.

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Keep carbohydrates to less than 50 percent of the total calories. Choose complex carbohydrates like whole grains and brown rice. Avoid refined sugar and increase fiber intake with legumes, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Thirty-percent of the total calories should be from good fats like olive oil, canola oil and nuts. Also, lose weight and do aerobic exercise for at 30-minutes.

By following these recommendations and understanding the reasons for them will help anyone gain control over metabolic syndrome. It is a healthy lifestyle that can be followed for a lifetime.