How Metabolic Syndrome Occurs and the Role of Sugar in Your Health

8 minute read

If you haven’t heard of metabolic syndrome, you’re sure to hear it in the news, as it’s quickly becoming a hot button topic. Cases of metabolic syndrome are on the rise, and it now qualifies as a global epidemic.

Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has weighed in. Their findings concluded that the syndrome was on the rise and they estimated that nearly a third of all U.S. adults met the criteria for metabolic syndrome. The fact that sugar consumption has increased concurrent with metabolic syndrome is no coincidence either—here is what you need to know.

What Is Metabolic Syndrome?

According to the World Health Organization, metabolic syndrome is a pathologic condition characterized by abdominal obesity, insulin resistance, high blood pressure, and a high concentration of lipids in the blood. While this definition is accepted on the whole, there has been some controversy and some changing definitions of metabolic syndrome.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that metabolic syndrome, sometimes referred to as syndrome X, is a group of metabolic abnormalities that occur concurrently in the same person. The conditions that most often occur are:

Hyperglycemia: There are several conditions that can bring about higher than normal blood glucose or blood sugar levels, which are referred to as hyperglycemia.

Hypertension: When a person has hypertension, they have a condition where they regularly have high blood pressure.

Hyperlipidemia: Hyperlipidemia is an elevated lipid or fat level in the blood and is often evidenced in high cholesterol or high triglyceride levels.

Abdominal obesity: Excess weight around the abdomen or center of the body can leave a person in the abdominal obesity or overweight category.

The occurrence of all of these conditions together leaves the individuals at much greater risk of developing heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

It must be noted that to have metabolic syndrome, you need to have more than one of these diseases or conditions. But the existence of one of these conditions does put you at greater risk of developing complications and the other conditions.

Causes of Metabolic Syndrome and Risk Factors

Because metabolic syndrome is a cluster condition, there is not one overarching cause or a specific situation that can be pointed to as the reason it occurs. In most cases it’s a combination of factors, but some of the more common concerns are as follows:

Lifestyle Choices

Metabolic syndrome is closely linked to being overweight and inactive. If you live a relatively sedentary lifestyle with little or no exercise and if you’re overweight, it’s more common to develop one or some of the conditions found in metabolic syndrome.

Insulin Resistance

Normally your digestive system breaks down the foods you eat into sugar, and the insulin created by your pancreas transforms that sugar into fuel for your body.

When you have insulin resistance, your body does not utilize insulin as efficiently and thus has a harder time using sugar as fuel. This causes the sugar to stay in your blood system and your blood glucose levels to rise, causing your body to produce more insulin to counteract this elevated blood glucose level.

Age, Ethnicity, and Gender

Another one of the ways that aging catches up with you is that your risk of metabolic syndrome rises. Also, there is no race or gender that’s immune to metabolic syndrome, but it’s been found in the United States that Hispanics, especially Hispanic women, are more apt to develop metabolic syndrome.

Other Diseases

Having gestational diabetes, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, polycystic ovary syndrome, sleep apnea, or a family history of type 2 diabetes seems to increase your odds of developing metabolic syndrome.

Sugar and Metabolic Syndrome

Sugar is part of the reason you’ll hear more discussions of metabolic syndrome in the news. There’s a growing concern and controversy swirling around sugar consumption and its role in modern health problems.

Part of the modern awareness of sugar can be attributed to the work of Cristin Kearns, DDS, MBA who has dug into the sugar industry to uncover past documents relating to now defunct sugar companies and the spin put on the public perception of sugar.

Furthering the controversy, there is a lot of data that supports the fact that sugar plays a direct causal and contributory role in the conditions that form metabolic disease. There is even evidence that sugar plays a role in the indirect causes of metabolic disease.

An article entitled, “Sugar Consumption, Metabolic Disease and Obesity: The State of the Controversy, published in Critical Reviews in Clinical Laboratory Sciences, dives deep into both sides of the situation. While it concludes that a lot of evidence is out there suggesting sugar can definitely raise the risk factors of developing metabolic syndrome, it also points out that not all the evidence is in yet and suggests a few clinical trials need further investigation.

Preventing Metabolic Syndrome

While genetics, race, and even gender can play a role in developing metabolic syndrome, there may still be steps you can take to stave off this condition and boost your overall health.

Liver Support Supplements

Taking a supplement that is specifically designed to support your liver health can help your body process sugar and feed cells while discouraging a build-up of glucose in the blood.

| Related: Why Milk Thistle Is Good but Silybin Is Better for Liver Health |

Look for a supplement, like 1MD’s LiverMD, that is designed for optimal liver health and treats the entire liver with a proprietary blend of healthy ingredients that add to the body’s natural antioxidant and detoxification functions.

Diet and Exercise

Warding off those extra pounds and fighting abdominal weight gain appear to make a big difference in metabolic syndrome. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most days and a diet that’s rich in vegetables, fruits, lean protein, and whole grains. Also, focus on limiting your sugar intake.

Routine Check-Ups

Stay on top of your health by having annual check-ups and blood work with your primary care physician. Compare your blood results and physical history year over year to see if you're showing signs of developing any of the conditions associated with metabolic syndrome.

The Bottom Line

Metabolic syndrome is on the rise in epidemic proportions. While some of the causes or risk factors of this condition are out of your control, there are others that you can influence.

Sugar is a prime example of an easy dietary change and seems to have significant impact on the body in direct and indirect ways that can lead to the development of metabolic syndrome.

In addition to avoiding sugar, adding a liver supplement to your daily routine can help your body process sugar and stay clear of developing insulin resistance, one of the conditions in metabolic syndrome.

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