What is Metabolic Syndrome?
It is a group of risk factors or a combination of medical disorders which increases the risk of developing several health problems such as heart problems, diabetes and stroke. Although, it may lead to other health problems, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes are the major concerns.
The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) defines metabolic syndrome as central obesity and any one of these conditions: raised triglycerides, reduced HDL, raised blood pressure, raised fasting plasma glucose.
According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the word metabolic refers to certain biochemical processes which are involved in the body’s normal functioning.
Various health organizations, such as IDF, WHO, EGIR, NCEP, AHA etc define the metabolic syndrome in their own different ways. However, the cardiovascular and diabetes elements remain common in almost all the definitions. According to a statistical estimate, in the USA and the UK, one in four adults has metabolic syndrome. Another estimate says that a quarter of the world’s population is suffering from the syndrome.
Risk factors associated with metabolic syndrome are: stress, being overweight, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, aging, diabetes mellitus, coronary heart disease, lipodystrophy, schizophrenia, psychiatric illnesses, rheumatic diseases and others.
Causes of Metabolic Syndrome
The National Heart, Lung and Blood institute divides the causes into two groups. The first group consists of those causes which one can control. These may include causes such as overweight and obesity, inactive lifestyle and insulin resistance. The second group consists of those causes which does not have any control. This includes causes such as aging, genetics, ethnicity and family history.
Symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome
- Insulin resistance
- High blood pressure
- High blood fats
- Low HDL cholesterol
- An apple shaped abdomen
- Waist circumference of 40 inches or more in men
- Waist circumference of 35 inches or more in women
- Tendency to develop inflammation
Olive oil and Metabolic Syndrome
The main causes of the syndrome are lack of exercise and unhealthy diet which is rich in bad fats. Olive oil as a part of a healthy diet may prevent it because of the effect of polyphenols, squalene and monounsaturated fat.
What does research says about olive oil and metabolic syndrome?
According to a study published by the US National Library of Medicine and National Institute of Health, Mediterranean diet when coupled with an increased physical activity causes weight loss, greater improvement in blood pressure and other health issues. Olive oil is an essential part of Mediterranean diet. The study shows that the olive oil rich Mediterranean diet with exercise is ideal for metabolic syndrome.
Spanish researchers from the University Hospital Reina Sofia of the University of Cordoba and the Institute of Salud Carlos III conducted a study to determine the effects of Mediterranean diet with exercise on metabolic syndrome patients. The study examined two groups, one given only Mediterranean diet and the other Mediterranean diet with exercise. Both groups improved but the latter group showed higher improvement in terms of weight loss and health related quality of life components. The study was published in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology.
The Journal of the American College of Cardiology published a review of 50 studies in which half a million people participated. The study finds that the olive oil in Mediterranean diet is associated with the reduced risks of metabolic syndrome and its risk factors such as smaller waist circumference and lower triglyceride levels. The study explains that components of the diet such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains and fish could have antioxidants and anti-inflammatory effects to reduce the risk of the metabolic syndrome.
In another study published by BMC Genomics, 2010 it was found that 20 people found changed genes whose activity is regulated by the olive oil polyphenols. The study further suggests that olive oil suppressed 98 genes. These genes are linked to heart diseases, pro-inflammatory process, diabetes, high fat, and obesity. The researchers even suggested that olive oil can switch off certain genes which control the immune cell and hence less chances of inflammation.
Another study in which participants who participated were at high risk of cardiovascular disease, found that those who stuck to the Mediterranean diet had lower chance of metabolic syndrome. Those people who had adherence to MD had a half lower chance of MS as compared to those who had lower adherence to MD. The study was published in the Journal of Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Disease, 2009.