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Maximum Wellness, Episode 26: Dietary Patterns Influence Risk of Metabolic Syndrome


Metabolic Syndrome (MetS) – a cluster of conditions, such as increased abdominal obesity, pre-hypertension, dyslipidemia (triglycerides, HDL cholesterol), and pre-diabetes – predisposes that individual, who meets the criteria, to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even potentially to certain forms of cancer. It’s now a public health concern world-wide.

According to research – Dietary Patterns and Metabolic Syndrome in Adult Subjects: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis – which appears in the September 2019 online journal Nutrients, “the diagnosis of MetS requires three or more of the following criteria: (i) waist circumference >102 cm in men (40 inches) and >88 cm in women (35 inches); (ii) HDL-C <40 mg/dL in men and <50 mg/dL in women; (iii) triglycerides ?150 mg/dL; (iv) blood pressure ?130/85 mmHg and (v) fasting glucose ?110 mg/dL.”

The study authors, from various departments of the University of Perugia in Italy, comment that consumption of specific foods or nutrients is strongly associated to the risk of developing MetS. Therefore, these researchers chose to examine – using a meta-analysis of many similar studies – the association between dietary patterns and the risk to MetS.

A comprehensive literature search, “without restrictions,” though March 31, 2019, using PubMed, Web of Science, and Scopus – all recognized databases. A total of 460 articles were identified that met the pre-exclusion criteria. The researchers commented that, “at the end of the selection process, 40 studies were enclosed for the identification of the different dietary patterns in the systematic review and meta-analysis.”

Two common dietary patterns were identified – healthy and meat/western patterns. The healthy patterns were characterized by the consumption of foods with high content of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, MUFA, and n-3 (Omega-3) fatty acids, while the meat/western pattern, characterized by high intake of red and processed meat, eggs, refined grains, and sweets.

The researchers determined that, “the meat/western pattern significantly increased MetS risk of 20% in Asia, 15% in Europe and 33% in America, while the healthy pattern was associated with a lower MetS risk and significantly decreased the risk in both sexes and in Eastern countries, particularly in Asia.”

The Italian researchers concluded, “a protective effect on MetS is attributed to adherence to the healthy pattern, which is characterized by high consumption of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, poultry, fish, nuts, legumes, and low-fat dairy products, whereas the meat/western pattern is positively associated with MetS.”

They further state that, “nutrition is one of the most important modifiable factors affecting health. Public health efforts should aim to adopt healthy dietary patterns and to reduce the burden of MetS, providing guidance for nutritional intervention.”

Let me add a separate comment by quoting the Italians, “other pre-defined representative dietary patterns exist worldwide, such as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, which is characterized by high intake of fruit, vegetables, whole grains and dairy, and the Northern Europe dietary pattern, which is characterized by high intake of fruit, vegetables, legumes, low-fat dairy, fatty fish, oats, barley and almonds.”

The star of the show is the anti-inflammatory Mediterranean eating plan.

Remember, you should always consult your physician before beginning any exercise, diet, or nutritional supplementation program.