What is metabolic syndrome? Concept and Definition

Metabolic syndrome is not a disease in itself.

It is a set of risk factors: high blood pressure, high blood sugar, unhealthy levels of cholesterol and belly fat.

Some people still refer to the metabolic syndrome as “syndrome X” , however, now the usefulness of the term “metabolic syndrome” is being questioned.

An accurate diagnosis has not been universally accepted and there is no evidence that a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome performed by the physician is better for predicting cardiovascular risks than the usual methods.

Obviously, the presence of any of these risk factors is not good, but when combined, the scenario is prepared for serious problems.

These factors double the risk of disease of the blood vessels and the heart, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. They increase the risk of diabetes five times.

Metabolic syndrome is becoming more common, but the good news is that it can be controlled, in large part with changes in lifestyle.

Symptoms of metabolic syndrome and risk factors

It’s scary, but the truth is that most of the disorders associated with the metabolic syndrome are asymptomatic.

However, a very common visible sign is a large waist circumference: at least 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women. If most of your fat is around your waist instead of your hips, then you are at an increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Other symptoms and risk factors include:

High levels of fasting blood sugar: if you have high blood sugar levels, then it is possible to experience the signs and symptoms of diabetes, such as constant thirst, increased urination, fatigue and blurred vision.

A normal fasting blood sugar level is less than 100 mg / dL. A fasting blood sugar level between 100-125 mg / dl is considered prediabetes.

A fasting blood sugar level of 126 mg / dL or more is considered diabetes. A fasting blood sugar level of 100 mg / dL or higher (being the person under treatment of blood sugar) is considered a metabolic risk factor.

High blood pressure

High blood pressure is another risk factor for the metabolic syndrome, which may go unnoticed unless blood pressure is taken regularly. A blood pressure of 130/85 mmHg or more is considered a metabolic risk factor.

High levels of triglycerides

Another possible sign of the metabolic syndrome is a high level of triglycerides. Triglycerides are a type of fat or lipid found in the blood.

When you eat food, your body converts calories that you do not need to use right away, into triglycerides. The level of triglycerides of 150 mg / dl or higher is a risk factor for the metabolic syndrome.

Low HDL cholesterol

HDL cholesterol is often referred to as “good” cholesterol because it helps eliminate cholesterol from the arteries. An HDL cholesterol level below 50 mg / dL for women and less than 40 mg / dL for men is a risk factor for the metabolic syndrome.

A doctor can diagnose the metabolic syndrome based on the results of a physical examination and blood test.

Other risk factors, most of which are unfortunately beyond your control and that increase your chances of having metabolic syndrome include:

Age – The risk of metabolic syndrome increases with age , which affects 40% of people over 60.

Family history of diabetes – You are more likely to have the metabolic syndrome if you have a family history of type 2 diabetes or if you have had, in the case of women, diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes).

Other diseases – The risk of metabolic syndrome is higher if you have ever had cardiovascular disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease or polycystic ovarian syndrome.

Causes Metabolic Syndrome

The two main causes of the metabolic syndrome are overweight or obesity and lack of physical activity. It is a disease that is directly related to insulin resistance, which is more common in obese and inactive people.

A healthy digestive system breaks down food into glucose. Next, insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, helps glucose enter cells to be used as fuel.

However, if you experience insulin resistance, your cells typically do not respond to insulin and, therefore, glucose can not enter cells as easily.

This phenomenon results in an increase in blood glucose levels despite your body’s efforts to manage glucose by producing more and more insulin.

If this continues long enough, your body is unable to produce enough insulin to maintain normal blood glucose levels and may develop diabetes.

Given that 85 percent of people who have type 2 diabetes also have the metabolic syndrome, then if you have diabetes your likelihood of having the metabolic syndrome increases greatly.

How is the metabolic syndrome treated?

The metabolic syndrome has, perhaps surprisingly, no special treatment regimen. The treatment focuses on simply addressing each risk factor.

In most cases, the best treatment for metabolic syndrome depends on yourself. Changes in your behavior, such as eating healthier and exercising more, are the first things your doctor will suggest.

Unhealthy habits may have led to this problem. But by changing your lifestyle, you may be able to completely combat the risk factors.

Diet for the Metabolic Syndrome

Even if you do not lose any weight, if you change the foods you eat regularly, you can improve your blood pressure, lower blood glucose levels, and correct your cholesterol levels.

Here are some foods that you can include in your diet:

Increase your fiber

When you add more fiber to your diet, you’ll notice that it will not make you that hungry, because fiber fills it faster. Foods that have more fiber include whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, avocados and vegetables that are found in the cabbage family.

Add more fruits and vegetables to your daily diet

You have been listening to this for years, but eating fresh fruits and vegetables can help you not have the metabolic syndrome and may even avoid certain types of cancer.

Consider the portion sizes for each group:

Fruits and vegetables- 1/2 cup;

  • Green leafy vegetables – 1 cup;
  • Fruit or vegetable juice – 1/2 cup;
  • Nuts – 1/4 cup.

Remember that it is better fresh, nothing processed, since it would only add unnecessary preservatives to your diet.

Eat healthy salads

Many people think that by eating a salad they are eating healthy automatically, but what they put in their salad could make it as bad as eating a hamburger.

Always have salad dressing separate or you can end up adding about 1000 calories to healthy food.

Instead of using creamy salad dressings or those that are full of fat, switch to balsamic vinegar, salsa, lemon juice or rice vinegar.

Know the fats you eat

If you are not sure which fats are good for you and which ones should be part of your metabolic syndrome diet, here is a simple list:

  • Good: omega-3, omega-6, monounsaturated fats.
  • Bad: Animal fats, saturated fats, trans fats.

Omega-3 fats are found through supplements of fish oil, nuts, soybeans and flaxseed. Omega-6 oils can be found in sunflower oil, corn oil, safflower oil, soybean oil and cottonseed oil.

The monounsaturated fats are also a very healthy option and are abundant in nuts, canola oil and olive oil. Even though these fats are good for you, like everything else, they should be used sparingly.

What you should avoid in your diet

If it is metabolic syndrome, you must first work on reducing your blood pressure levels and LDL cholesterol . These are the two contributing factors in heart disease.

If you are diabetic, you should also focus on lowering your blood sugar levels. Here are some things you should avoid for a heart-healthy eating plan:

Unhealthy fats

The two types of fat that raise your cholesterol levels are trans fats and saturated fats. Foods that contain saturated fats are usually those of animal origin.

Trans fats are found in foods that use fats and hydrogenated oils like most sweets, candies in containers (cake, cookies, cakes and coffee creamers).

Trans fats are also found in the fat and meat of animals. In a heart-healthy diet, you should limit your intake of saturated fats to 5 to 6 percent each day.


Excess salt is not good for any diet, including a diet of metabolic syndrome. With added salt and sodium in most of our foods, the addition of salt in the preparation of food only increases the problem.

Too much salt causes fluid retention, which affects your blood pressure levels. The recommended amount of sodium is not more than 2,300 milligrams per day. For people who have high blood pressure, you may want to keep it below that.


This category is not a requirement for a healthy diet. In fact, all it does is add to triglyceride levels, a specific type of fat that is found in the blood, and increases blood pressure.

Since alcohol has no nutritional value, excess calories could result in weight gain. The number of drinks a man can have a day is two; for a woman, it is not more than one.

A portion of alcohol is equal to:

  • Beer – 12 oz.
  • Wine – 5 oz.
  • Liquor – 1 1/2 ounces.

Dietary advice to follow

For a healthy diet of metabolic syndrome, knowing what to include and what to avoid is not enough, you also have to have healthy eating habits.

Do not skip breakfast. In fact, you should eat shortly after waking up in the morning. Eat smaller meals. When you extend meals to eat them every 3 or 4 hours, it keeps your energy levels high and does not make you that hungry.

Substitute your 2 larger meals for smaller meals and small snacks consumed more often.

Eat half of your usual food. The control of the portions will help to have your metabolic syndrome under control.