Metabolic syndrome is a disease of modern civilisation. Human beings are not genetically adapted for high caloric intake and low energy expenditure (sedentary lifestyle); the tendency is for the excess energy to be indefinitely accumulated in the body in the form of fat; this fat, when accumulated in the region of the abdomen, will contribute to the appearance of the metabolic syndrome (fat associated with a chronic inflammatory process, related to metabolic diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes).

Metabolic syndrome, on its own, does not cause symptoms and the only signal is a prominent abdomen (which can actually be the “tip of the iceberg”, where the main problems are not visible).

The diagnosis of metabolic syndrome can be made when there are at least three of the following five factors present:

Abdominal Obesity: An abdominal circumference that exceeds 102cm in men and 88cm in women (indicates excess abdominal fat, the type of “dangerous” fat that promotes a chronic inflammatory condition and consequent metabolic diseases);

Triglycerides equal to or over 150mg/dl;

HDL Cholesterol equal to or less than 40mg/dl in men and 50mg/dl in women;

Blood Pressure equal to or over 135/85 mmHg;

Fasting Blood Glucose equal to or over 110mg/dl.

But, the good news is that metabolic syndrome is treatable, based on its risk factors.

Diabetes, high blood pressure and abnormal cholesterol levels (dyslipidaemia) are treated with drugs, however physical exercise and changing eating habits are essential. As for the diet, it is important to mention that, in order to be effective, it must be able to reverse the chronic inflammatory process present in obesity.

Among the systemic repercussions of such an inflammatory process are, as already mentioned, its involvement in the development of metabolic diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes and its interference with the Central Nervous System in the signals that regulate satiety. Therefore, a diet, to be effective, will have to reduce abdominal fat and consequently the pro-inflammatory lipid mediators, contributing to normal blood glucose levels, lipid profile, insulinemia and a natural balance of appetite.

The fundamental measure in the treatment of metabolic syndrome is therefore weight loss, to reach a body mass index below 25 kg/m2.

On the other hand, smokers with a metabolic syndrome should stop smoking, as quitting this habit contributes to the reduction of insulin resistance and chronic inflammation.

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