Metabolic Syndrome and a Low-Glycemic Diet - dummies

Metabolic Syndrome and a Low-Glycemic Diet

By Meri Reffetto

Metabolic syndrome (also known as Syndrome X or insulin resistance syndrome) is a cluster of symptoms that include high cholesterol, high inflammation markers, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, increased abdominal weight, and elevated insulin levels. This is a very tricky health condition, but diet can have a big impact on it if done in the right way.

The hard part is you can’t just focus on fat for the cholesterol and inflammation; you also need to focus on carbohydrates for the blood sugar, insulin levels, and triglycerides. This balancing act requires a little more structure than some conditions, and a low-glycemic diet can provide this much-needed structure.

Because insulin resistance is so common among people dealing with metabolic syndrome (some health professionals even consider it to be the underlying cause), a low-glycemic diet is key to managing this condition. By getting your insulin levels under control and losing weight, you greatly reduce your risk for developing multiple symptoms of metabolic syndrome.

So just how does a low-glycemic diet affect metabolic syndrome? Well,

  • It helps reduce inflammation in the body. One study showed that women who ate higher amounts of whole grains, bran, and cereal fiber — all of which are important foods on a low-glycemic diet — had lower inflammation markers. Women who specifically ate a low-glycemic diet also had lower inflammation markers.

  • It can decrease triglycerides by lowering the amount of excess calories, which can be converted into triglycerides, and reducing insulin levels, which can also increase triglyceride levels if they’re too high.

  • It helps lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure by promoting weight loss. It’s also beneficial for cholesterol levels because of the increase in fiber intake, which helps remove excess cholesterol from the body.

Recent research shows there may be some excellent outcomes with losing a moderate amount of weight as well as eating low-glycemic foods. For people with metabolic syndrome, research shows a 6.5-percent reduction in weight can significantly reduce blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and triglycerides.

Depending on your situation, this means you don’t need to lose a drastic amount of weight in order to make major changes in your condition. So, for example, someone who weighs 185 pounds only needs to lose 12 pounds to begin seeing significant results in her health status.

Eating low-glycemic, high-nutrient foods can keep you feeling fuller for longer, cutting down on the cravings and eating binges that can make it tough to lose weight.

Here are some dietary tips for following a low-glycemic diet when you have metabolic syndrome:

  • Pick low-glycemic carbohydrates for your meals and snacks, in reasonable portion sizes, and spread them out throughout the day to avoid experiencing a blood sugar spike in one sitting.

  • Avoid eating carbohydrates alone; pair them with a protein or fat source.

  • Decrease the amount of saturated fats and eliminate the trans fats in your diet.

  • Start eating fatty fish, walnuts, and/or flaxseeds for their omega-3 fatty acids. (Omega-3s are also known to decrease inflammation.)

  • Incorporate at least five servings of fruits and vegetables in your diet each day.

Metabolic syndrome can be extremely frustrating and scary because one condition (a symptom such as high blood pressure) can lead to another. Working with a team of health professionals is important to improve and/or correct these conditions. Speak with your doctor and meet with both a registered dietician and an exercise trainer. This team of health professionals can tailor guidelines to your specific needs so you can improve your overall health.