Unfortunately, America not only sets the latest trends in technology and business around the world, imitation of our Western lifestyle is causing a global epidemic of “metabolic syndrome.” Metabolic syndrome is the combination of three of the following conditions including increased abdominal circumference, increased blood pressure, increased glucose levels, decreased HDL cholesterol, and increased triglycerides. This deadly group of symptoms increases risks for diabetes, hypertension, cardiac disease, and stroke.
Risk factors for metabolic syndrome include genetics, age, gender, family history, inflammation, microbiome imbalance, substance use, and lack of movement. Genetics also plays a part and a family history of a premature cardiovascular event is indicative of an increased risk.
At the crux of metabolic syndrome is diabetes. Overt symptoms for diabetes begin 10-15 years after onset of insulin function impairment. Diabetes is caused by a decreased peripheral glucose uptake due to impaired insulin secretion by beta cells or impaired sensitivity to insulin. We see various presentations of insulin resistance such as fatty liver, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease, which is now being called type 3 diabetes. Testing in conventional medicine for diabetes includes a fasting glucose and Hemoglobin A1C, however other labs such as an fasting insulin and C-peptide level can give patients more information on insulin dysfunction in its early stages.
Cholesterol issues contribute to metabolic syndrome and are linked to abnormal glucose and fat metabolism in the body. Atherosclerosis is the formation of plaques that narrow arteries. Abnormal lipid levels cause initial plaque formation as LDL cholesterol is wedged in arterial cracks caused by high blood pressure and inflammation. Inflammation is caused by poor dietary choices, lack of exercise, visceral fat, chronic infections, dysbiosis, use of antibiotics, and/or toxins such as organic pollutants and heavy metals. Once the LDL is deposited, it gets oxidized and glycated making it a target for immune cells trying to heal the area. As the body tries to deal with the insult through various mechanisms, the plaque worsens eventually occluding the artery. Chemicals released along this process are a clue to the progression of atherosclerosis.
Therefore a standard lipid profile may not give the whole picture of cardiovascular risk. Many people with normal standard cholesterol panels end up having a stroke or heart attack. Testing for inflammation and obtaining a more detailed analysis of the various cholesterols, along with other biomarker testing can give a fuller picture of cardiovascular risk. Some of tests include homocysteine, C-reactive protein, F2 isoprostanes, LDL-P, Apo B, and many more biomarkers which indicate what is occurring on a cellular level . Getting a more detailed laboratory is often unavailable in conventional medicine and seeing a functional medicine provider who can explain these tests allow patients to make more informed decisions about aggressiveness of treatment and whether statins are indicated.
Some key nutrients for preventing or treating metabolic disorder include chromium, vitamin D, magnesium, COQ10, ALA, EPA/DHA, vitamin Bs, vitamin C, zinc, and selenium. Levels can be checked by doing a nutrition analysis like the Genova Nutreval. Herbals such as berberine, resveratrol, aged garlic extract, green tea, plant sterols, probiotics, and Omega 3 fatty acids are just a few natural treatments used in a functional medicine practice to tackling metabolic syndrome. Be sure to check with a functional/integrative medicine provider before taking any of the supplements listed. As metabolic syndrome grows and conventional medicines are not enough to control disease, a functional integrative approach may be key to understanding root cause, identifying disease in its early stages, creating a personalized treatment approach, and using complementary nutraceuticals in addition to heavier pharmaceutical medications, if needed.
The information on this site is purely educational and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please see your health provider for medical care.
Elyaman, Y. (2020). Cardiometabolic Module Lecture. Institute of Functional Medicine.
Saklayen MG. (2018). The Global Epidemic of the Metabolic Syndrome. Current Hypertension.