Diet and Metabolic Syndrome

By  ,  National Institute of Health
Jan 18, 2013

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A new study has implicated meat, fried food and, surprisingly, diet soda in the development of metabolic syndrome.  More research is needed to explain these intriguing findings.

Metabolic syndrome increases your risk for heart disease and stroke.  Doctors consider someone to have metabolic syndrome when they have 3 or more risk factors.  These include high blood pressure, low HDL (good cholesterol) and diabetes or pre-diabetes.

Although scientists know that diet is linked to metabolic syndrome, they don’t completely understand how.  In this new study, NIH-funded researchers looked at the eating habits of almost 10,000 middle-age adults.

Within 9 years, nearly 2 out of 5 people had developed metabolic syndrome.  Their risk was greater if they ate a Western diet, with lots of refined grains, processed meat, fried foods and red meat.

The researchers found that hamburgers, hot dogs, processed meats and fried foods were each linked to a higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome.  In contrast, whole grains, refined grains, nuts, coffee or fruits and vegetables did not appear to be linked to the syndrome.  On the other hand, people who ate more dairy were less likely to develop metabolic syndrome.
Strikingly, diet soda was strongly associated with an increased risk for metabolic syndrome.  Sweetened drinks like regular soda and fruit drinks, however, weren’t.

These findings aren’t conclusive.  Earlier studies found that whole grains are linked to a lower risk of metabolic syndrome, but this study didn’t.  Certain foods may not in themselves contribute to metabolic syndrome.  Instead, they may serve as markers for other behaviors that do lead to metabolic syndrome.  Scientists hope future research will clarify this picture.


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