Alternative Names: Metabolic Syndrome X, Cardiometabolic Syndrome, Insulin Resistance Syndrome, Reaven's Syndrome, Dysmetabolic Syndrome, "Pre-Diabetes".
Syndrome X refers specifically to a group of health problems that can include insulin resistance (the inability to properly deal with dietary carbohydrates and sugars), abnormal blood fats (such as elevated cholesterol and triglycerides), overweight, and high blood pressure.
Doctors have known for years that each of these health problems can increase the risk of other diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes
. For a long time, they failed to connect the dots and see these health problems as part of a syndrome. We now know that eating large amounts of dietary carbohydrates
(for example sweets, pastas, and breads) can raise cholesterol
levels. We know also that elevated insulin can promote obesity and high blood pressure. Because these problems are related and tend to occur in clusters, they form a syndrome.
Many believe that Syndrome X is a disorder that most people are seriously at risk of developing by the time they reach middle age, if not before. Syndrome X can remain effectively hidden for years, masquerading as symptoms of other conditions including fatigue
, poor mental concentration, abdominal
(apple-shaped) obesity, edema
(fluid retention), nerve damage and an intense craving for sweets.
Syndrome X also generates high levels of cell-damaging free radicals
and causes premature aging, setting the stage for catastrophic health problems such as heart disease, diabetes
, cancer, and other age-related diseases.
The letter "X", of course, has always represented the unknown, whether it referred to hidden conspiracies in the X-Files television show or the unknown value in algebra. Researchers added "X" when the syndrome was first identified, but still largely unproved and mysterious. Today, many believe Syndrome X is a very common – and often ignored – disorder that can derail one's health. The good news is that it does not have to be.
Causes and Development
The key to understanding Syndrome X is insulin
resistance – a diet-caused hormonal problem that interferes with the body's ability to efficiently burn the food one eats. Syndrome X occurs when insulin resistance is combined with high levels of blood fats (cholesterol
), too much body fat, and high blood pressure.
Because of the foods now eaten across much of the world, levels of glucose
and insulin have in many cases gone out of control. Quite simply, we are overdosing on glucose and insulin – and both substances in high doses accelerate the aging of our bodies and encourage the development of disease.
Signs and Symptoms
The following symptoms may
indicate whether you are in the 20% of people that have a genetic disposition to be less able to cope with a high glycemic diet. This list is not intended for self-diagnosis. If you are in any doubt, you should see a doctor who can carry out a proper evaluation of your health:
- Excess body fat (often distributed around the middle, in the neck and the face
- Craving for sweet foods and drinks ("sweet" can be deceptive, as many foods such as white bread, potatoes and white rice contain high levels of hidden sugars)
- High blood pressure or hypertension
- A chronic lack of energy and general lethargy
- Mental fuzziness – the mind loses its sharpness and alertness
- Skin tags in the neck, groin or armpit area
- A bloated feeling after eating
- Dry and flaky skin, splitting nails and dull hair
- Diagonal creases in the lower ear lobe
Diagnosis and Tests
Anyone with a family history of type 2 diabetes
who is also overweight and who gets little exercise should be evaluated for the glucose
and blood pressure abnormalities associated with Syndrome X.
Treatment and Prevention
Syndrome X is primarily a nutritional disease caused by eating the wrong foods. We all have the power to easily modify our lifestyles to protect ourselves against Syndrome X.
If your condition is serious, your doctor may need prescribe an aggressive course of medication aimed at reducing the impact of any life-threatening symptoms.
In addition to working with your doctor, you can of course help yourself in many ways.Diet:
Eliminate unhealthy foods that are known to contribute to Syndrome X: all types of alcoholic beverages, fried foods, sugar and artificial sugar substitutes, refined carbohydrate
foods, and foods that contain hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated fats (also known as trans fats). Avoid processed and packaged foods and canned fruit juices, and limit consumption of fresh fruit juices because of naturally high sugar content.
Limit consumption of starchy foods such as bread products, pasta, and potatoes. Research shows that the more carbohydrates
one consumes, the greater the risk of developing Syndrome X. When choosing carbohydrate
foods, emphasize whole grains and legumes and eat them in small portions. Healthy carbohydrate foods include amaranth, barley, buckwheat, bulgur, brown rice, millet, and quinoa, along with legumes, yams, and whole grain breads.
Eat good servings of fresh vegetables throughout the day, along with healthy protein-rich foods, such as lean meats, skinless poultry, egg whites, and wild caught fish. It is also recommended that you eat foods with a low glycemic index.
Eating 4-6 small meals a day is better than three large meals each day. Snacking on nuts between meals, and drink plenty of water.Exercise:
At least 30 minutes of exercise each day is very important. Aerobic
exercise is especially good, and includes activities such as walking, cycling, jogging, swimming, and Tai chi.Lifestyle:
Lose excess weight and if you smoke, seek help in stopping.Nutritional Supplements:
Some of the most useful supplements for managing and reversing Syndrome X are Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids
), which trigger lipoprotein lipase
activation, resulting in an immediate breakdown of triglycerides
in the blood without drugs or side-effects.Vitamin C
and vitamin E
can also be helpful, as can the minerals chromium
, and zinc
. Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) can also help.
Recovering from Syndrome X does not happen overnight, but gradually over a several-month period, provided that there has been a commitment to a low glycemic diet, regular exercise and nutritional supplementation. However, most individuals who commit to these changes do notice some weight-loss and a large increase in vitality in a much shorter period, often just a few weeks.
resistance and Syndrome X increase one's risk of heart disease and diabetes-and many other serious, life-threatening diseases-because they impact, directly or indirectly, virtually every disease process.