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Metabolic syndrome: causes, symptoms, treatment and prevention

Metabolic syndrome

According to WHO, we are now facing an epidemic of metabolic syndrome. Its cases are currently two times higher than that of diabetes mellitus, and they are expected to further increase by 50% over the next 25 years. In recent years, a lot of research has been conducted to investigate this condition, and in the last three years alone over 3,600 articles have been published on the various aspects of the metabolic syndrome.

Yet, the majority of Americans know little or nothing about this health condition. Those who have, are likely to have heard about it in connection to obesity. Whilst this is true, metabolic syndrome is not just about obesity. Instead, the development of this condition is associated with a number of serious complications.

In this article, we discuss what metabolic syndrome is and why it is dangerous for our health. We will learn to recognize the symptoms and get prepared to take early preventative action if needed.

What is metabolic syndrome

Metabolic syndrome (MS) is a set of metabolic disorders based on insulin resistance caused by a combination of genetic and epigenetic factors, resulting in impaired carbohydrate tolerance (type 2 diabetes), dyslipidemia, arterial hypertension, visceral type obesity, and accelerated atherogenesis.

Nata Gonchar

Holistic Nutritionist, founder
of the project WOW Bali

TOP-10 ingredients
for your health and
balanced meal plan
Nata Gonchar

Holistic Nutritionist, founder
of the project WOW Bali

As Hippocrates said, you are what you eat. The meaning of this phrase concerns every person, who takes care of his health. The food we eat has a big impact on our vital activity, state of health and quality of life.

Nowadays healthy diet is very popular and everyone knows that he should give up junk food. But not everyone knows what he must eat except for grain, vegetables and protein food.

It's essential to diversify your diet. Every bite of food should provide you with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that are necessary for good health.

So how can we have a proper nutrition plan?

We prepared a PDF-file to help you. It contains TOP-10 ingredients, which should be added to everyone's diet.

According to the guidelines of the Adult Treatment Panel III (ATP III), metabolic syndrome can be defined as the combined metabolic complications of obesity.

Causes of metabolic syndrome

The following factors can cause the development of metabolic syndrome.

Unbalanced diet

Excess fat and carbohydrate intake, as well as high-calorie intake relative to calorie expenditure can lead to malnutrition, affect blood sugar levels, and increase the risk of developing insulin resistance and diabetes.

Causes of metabolic syndrome

Sedentary or inactive lifestyle

Studies have shown that a lack of physical activity increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Vascular dysfunction – an abnormality in the function of the blood vessels – is often a contributing factor in the development of heart disease and has been linked to insulin resistance.

Physical Inactivity Rapidly Induces Insulin Resistance and Microvascular Dysfunction in Healthy Volunteers
Pathophysiology of Physical Inactivity-Dependent Insulin Resistance: A Theoretical Mechanistic Review Emphasizing Clinical Evidence
sitting for long periods increases risk of type 2 diabetes

Chronic stress

Chronic stress can disrupt almost all your body’s processes. It can lead to problems with metabolism.

Hormonal imbalance in women

The imbalance of the estrogen-progesterone hormone as well as the estrogen deficiency promotes a metabolic dysfunction which in turn predisposes to obesity, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes.

The Role of Estrogens in Control of Energy Balance and Glucose Homeostasis

Risk groups

In the adult population, the metabolic syndrome is detected in 5-10% of cases in the 20-30-year-old, in 15-25% of cases in the 30-69-year-old, and in 40-45% of cases in people over 70 years of age. This shows that the risk increases with age.

However, age alone is not the prerequisite for the development of this disease. Frequently, other co-morbidities are also present. The main risk groups are those who suffer from:

  • hypertension;
  • overweight;
  • obesity.

In addition, other health conditions can lead to the development of metabolic syndrome:

  • coronary heart disease, atherosclerosis;
  • nutritional deficiencies;
  • genetic predisposition to obesity, diabetes mellitus;
  • lack of physical activity;
  • polycystic ovary syndrome;
  • erectile dysfunction;
  • gout;
  • menopause.

Symptoms of the metabolic syndrome and the associated conditions

During the developmental stage, metabolic syndrome manifests in the following symptoms:

  • increased fatigue;
  • rapid mood swings;
  • anger;
  • apathy.

Symptoms of the metabolic syndrome and the associated conditions

The following symptoms occur during the acute phase of the disease:

  • insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia;
  • dyslipidemia;
  • arterial hypertension;
  • impaired glucose tolerance;
  • coronary heart disease;
  • hemostasis and bleeding disorders;
  • hyperuricemia and gout;
  • microalbuminuria;
  • hyperandrogenism;
  • polycystic ovarian syndrome.

The metabolic syndrome can lead to atherosclerosis, chest pain, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, and digestive tract disorders.


The diagnostics criteria of the US National Cholesterol Program, International Diabetes Federation, and WHO are as follows:

  • high blood pressure: systolic blood pressure (BP) over 130 mmHg and/or diastolic BP over 85(80) mmHg;
  • high triglyceride (TG) levels: more than 1.7 mmol/l;
  • low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL): less than one mmol/l for men and less than 1.3 mmol/l for women;
  • low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL): more than three mmol/l;
  • fasting blood sugar levels: more than 6.1 mmol/l or more than 7.8 mmol/l if 2 hours after an oral glucose tolerance test;
  • abdominal obesity: waist circumference (WC) over 80 cm in women and over 94 cm in men.

The solution: metabolic flexibility

The best line of treatment for metabolic syndrome is to reduce body weight and normalize blood pressure. This can be achieved by getting rid of unhealthy habits and replacing them with healthy habits. For example, stopping drinking alcohol and smoking, sleeping at least 8 hours per night, staying active, and eating well.

Importantly, metabolic syndrome is associated with poor metabolism, therefore it is very important to increase metabolic flexibility. Metabolic flexibility is the ability to efficiently use fuel from different macronutrient sources such as carbs and fats.

Here are the top 9 benefits of increasing your metabolic flexibility:

Reason #1. It’s easier to lose weight.

Poor metabolic flexibility, also known as inflexibility, makes it very difficult to lose weight. As soon as the sugar levels drop, we start to feel hungry. This in turn leads to overeating.

Reason #2. Improved sleep quality.

People with reduced metabolic flexibility tend to have difficulty sleeping. Low blood sugar levels can change our circadian rhythms. Because of the low sugar levels, we tend to feel hungry at night and wake up to eat.

Reason #3. Improved detoxification.

The elimination of toxins allows the body to get rid of waste and harmful compounds.

Metabolic inflexibility prevents normal toxin elimination from happening. The toxins can accumulate in the body for a long time leading to serious health issues such as cancer and nerve damage (neuropathies).

Reason #4. Slowing down aging.

Reason #5. Improved cognitive functions.

Reason #6. Increased energy levels.

Reason #8. Improved insulin sensitivity.

Reason #9. Reduced risk of tumors.

The following tips will help you to improve your metabolic flexibility:

  • Get enough rest.
  • Balance your meals with the proper ratios of protein, carbohydrates, and fats.
  • Eat more fiber.
  • Maintain a regular exercise routine.
  • Your last meal should be at least 2-3 hours before sleep.
  • Consider discussing a tailored health plan with a qualified nutrition professional.

The material is based on research: