According to the American Heart Association, 47 million Americans have something called metabolic syndrome. That’s almost one out of every six people. Metabolic syndrome, also known as syndrome X, increases your risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Here’s how you get it and what you can do about it.
Do You Have Metabolic Syndrome?
Metabolic syndrome is characterized by a cluster of cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors that increases your risk for heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. You have metabolic syndrome if you have three or more of these measurements.
- Large waistline: Greater than 40″ (men); greater than 35″ (women)
- High triglycerides: Greater than 150 mg/dL
- Low HDL (“good cholesterol”) level: Less than 40 mg/dL (men); less than 50 mg/dL (women)
- High blood pressure: 130/85 mm/Hg and higher
- High fasting blood sugar: 100 mg/dL and higher
Metabolic Syndrome Health Effects
Compared to someone without metabolic syndrome, a person with metabolic syndrome is:
- Twice as likely to develop heart disease.
- Five times as likely to develop diabetes. If your waistline is over 40″, your risk is 12 times higher for diabetes.
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a calorie-controlled diet rich in whole grains reduced cardiovascular risk factors. They studied two groups — one group ate whole grains and the other ate refined grains.
Refined grains have a high glycemic load which means they’re rapidly absorbed into your bloodstream. Examples of refined grains include: white pasta/noodles, white rice, white bread/rolls/tortillas, enriched wheat bread/bagels, and corn flakes.
Whole-Grain Diet Results
Weight loss and cholesterol levels decreased similarly in both whole-grain and refined-grain groups, BUT the whole grain group had the following results:
- 38% decrease in inflammation. C-reactive protein (CRP) levels decreased. CRP is an inflammatory biomarker and an emerging risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD). It is a predictor of cardiac events in persons with and without CVD.
- Significantly greater decreases in the percentage of abdominal fat.
Why Whole-Grains Reduce Inflammation
The reduction in inflammation could be due to:
- Lower blood glucose concentrations throughout the day. This is the result of increased fiber in the whole grains.
- The antioxidants in the whole grains which have anti-inflammatory properties.
- The release of inflammatory compounds from the loss of abdominal fat. Abdominal fat (visceral fat) is highly inflammatory. Eating whole grains decreased belly fat substantially.