Metabolic Syndrome: Epidemic of the Century

Metabolic Syndrome, or Syndrome X, is arguably the “epidemic of the century” and is as widespread as pimples and the common cold. This is the name given to a health disorder characterized by four hallmark symptoms: central obesity, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and hyperglycemia.

Meet Roy, a baby boomer born into a middle-class family. During the first year of his life he was protected with an overwhelming amount of love, milk, and baby food.

Throughout his childhood, he began to carelessly indulge in fatty items such as butter, cheese, and eggs (with yolk) as well as carbohydrate filled foods like pancakes and chocolates. As Roy grew up and went to school, his cafeteria was filled with a wide variety of both carbonated and caffeinated sodas, bacon, beef, and other red meat. At such a tender age, he was eating around 2000 -2500 calories per day; and thus, Roy weighed about 200 pounds at the age of 18 with a BMI over 30, which is classified as obese.

Attending college, Roy enrolled in a meal plan with unlimited cafeteria food. Food items such as chips and candy became a part of Roy’s routine. He loved eating pizza, pasta, and desserts, while considering green vegetables and lettuce as “grass”. His calorie intake increased to a whopping 2500-3000 calories per day and consequently, his resulting weight was 250 pounds with abdominal obesity.

Roy started noticing certain issues such as the discomfort of travelling, both for him and his co-travelers. Furthermore, if Roy and a co-worker were engaged in a discussion, walking through a three-foot doorway seemed to be an obstacle since Roy was unable to accompany his companion. Overall, his weight gain chart looked like a stock market boom and the scales didn’t go up to his weight!

He started experiencing shortness of breath while walking at a fast pace or climbing stairs. In addition, he was unable to sleep comfortably on his back at night, having excessive snoring, frequent episodes of absent breathing (apnea), and daytime sleepiness (obstructive sleep apnea). Roy also experienced leg edema and progressive weight gain (right-sided heart failure), frequent urination, increased waves of thirst and hunger (diabetes), and intermittent headaches (hypertension).

Not sleeping well, he awoke tired. His snoring required sleeping away from his wife for the past two years so she was not kept awake. His fasting insulin levels exceeded 300 (as high as the test would go). His triglycerides were at 280, and the coronary risk was rated an 8, with 4 being the normal high mark. Even his vitamin D levels were at 24, while 50 is normally considered low. Moreover, he had low testosterone levels.

However, a turning point came in Roy’s life when his doctor informed him about Metabolic Syndrome. Roy was told to change his lifestyle and heating habits to avert cardiovascular complications. He soon started eating healthier foods such as low-calorie salads consisting of lettuce, spinach, cucumbers, mushrooms, zucchini, raw onions, and tomatoes. Roy also increased his soy and whey protein ingestion by treating himself to seafood, lean beef (collagen), non-fried chicken, and egg whites (albumin). He realized fat and carbohydrate intake is one of the main culprits for obesity. This occurs because the body has four sections of energy to draw from to meet its metabolic needs: blood glucose, glycogen (in a form of stored glucose), muscle, and fat. It pulls from these reserves in a order: blood glucose is burned first, followed by the glycogen reserve. After the glycogen is drained, the body turns to its muscle and fat compartments. If we refill the glycogen stores, the fat burning halts until glycogen is one again depleted. Specifically, Insulin and Glucagon mediate the bodily energy shifts between compartments.

Reflecting on our main character Roy, although he had difficulties implementing his new medically supervised diet, Roy was highly motivated, and greatly reduced his carbohydrate and fat intake by eating 30-40 grams of carbohydrates and fats and 110-120 grams of protein, which is around 900 calories per day along with vitamins and mineral supplements. Thus, Roy started losing weight at a steady pace due to fat metabolism as a primary source of energy. Along with a boost of confidence, he enjoyed shopping for new outfits since his waist size had reduced from 44 to 32 inches over a span of 6-9 months. Roy also gained more energy, self-esteem, vitality, and a better sexual life and family life. He said goodbye to any blood pressure, diabetes, or cholesterol lowering medications. In the end, he had better control of his portions and food choices, and in effect, of his life.

Consequently, I urge you all to follow Roy’s example and live healthier lives. Overweight patients want rapid results and a program they can stick to. This low intake carbohydrate/fat diet with appetizing protein meal supplements is an effective treatment tool meant for patients who are looking to engage in a healthier lifestyle with longer lasting outcomes. A word of advice: “Don’t dig your grave with your own knife and fork.” As the esteemed Hippocrates once said, “Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.”

Article co-authored by Karishma Kadakia and Natasha Kadakia
Sunil Kadakia, M.D., FACC, FSCAI, CPE