What is the underlying cause of metabolic syndrome?
A) Faulty genetics
B) Insulin resistance
C) High blood pressure
D) High cholesterol
The correct answer is B.
Insulin resistance is the underlying cause of metabolic syndrome. Unfortunately, most conventional physicians prescribe medications that treat metabolic syndrome symptoms (high blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels) rather than therapies that address the underlying cause of insulin resistance.
What Is Insulin Resistance?
Given how common metabolic syndrome is, insulin resistance is surprisingly misunderstood, so I'll give you the 25-cent tour.
After your digestive system has broken down the food you eat into its basic constituents, nutrients enter the bloodstream. The presence of glucose (sugar) prompts the pancreas to secrete insulin, which signals the cells to let nutrients inside. Unfortunately, inactivity, poor diet, and particularly excess weight reduce the cells' sensitivity to these signals, so the pancreas is forced to churn out more and more insulin in order to get the message across, resulting in chronically high levels of both insulin and blood sugar.
Beyond Blood Sugar
It's obvious that this would take a toll on the pancreas and increase the risk of diabetes, but what about the other aspects of insulin resistance?
Elevated insulin levels thicken the blood vessels and affect kidney function, which contribute to hypertension. They also promote fat storage and shut down fat burning, so more fat gets socked away, particularly in the abdominal area. Blood lipid levels also remain elevated, which triggers systemic inflammation and imbalances in hormones that affect appetite and energy utilization. This perpetuates the vicious cycle of insulin resistance and weight gain.
Insulin resistance is also linked to increased risk of fatty liver disease, gout, polycystic ovary syndrome, memory loss, and some types of cancer. But there's an upside. Insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome respond rapidly to lifestyle changes and nutritional therapies. Here are the ones I recommend:
- Get a handle on your weight.
- Eat a high-fiber, low-glycemic, Mediterranean-type diet.
- Exercise most days of the week.
- Take a potent daily multivitamin plus 2–6 g of fish oil and 2,000–5,000 IU of vitamin D per day.