Diet for Metabolic Syndrome

Diet for Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic Syndrome (MetS) is the name of a group of medical conditions which increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease and other health problems such as diabetes and stroke.

There are five conditions considered metabolic risk factors. To be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, you must have at least three of the following: abdominal obesity, elevated fasting glucose levels, high blood pressure, low LDL (bad) cholesterol and high triglyceride levels.


The most obvious visible symptom of metabolic syndrome is central obesity. A waist circumference of over 37 inches in European men, over 35 inches in European and south Asian women, and over 35 inches in south Asian men is indicative of metabolic syndrome.

Other symptoms include:

  • Triglyceride levels higher than 150 mg/dL
  • HDL (good) cholesterol levels of less than 40 mg/dL for men and less than 50 mg/dL for women
  • A blood pressure of 130/85 or higher (only one number needs to be higher to increase the risk)
  • A fasting blood sugar level of 100 mg/dL


The various complex pathways of metabolic syndrome are not yet fully understood, but the most significant risk factors are diet, physical activity, genetics and age. It is thought that genetic tendencies, coupled with unhealthy lifestyle practices, is what increases the likelihood of metabolic syndrome.


When first diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, heart-healthy treatments are the first line of defence. Various studies have shown the effectiveness of regular exercise on metabolic and cardiovascular risk factors.

Around 150 minutes of moderate exercise per day is recommended. This could be in the form of resistance training, or aerobic activities such as walking, running, swimming, cycling or dancing. As little as 30 minutes of walking per day has been shown to help prevent type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and premature death. [21]

In the past, healthcare professionals may have advised people to eat less fat and more carbohydrates, in order to lower triglyceride levels and raise HDL, common risk factors of metabolic syndrome.

However, it is now recognised that these high-carb, low-fat diets actually raise triglyceride levels, and lower HDL levels, increasing metabolic syndrome risk factors. [21]

Following a diet that is lower in carbohydrates, focusing on the quality of carbs that are being consumed, is beneficial. Refined white grains should be replaced with whole grains. The type of fat consumed is also important. Instead of limiting total dietary fat amounts, focus on decreasing saturated and trans fats, whilst increasing mono and polyunsaturated fats. Also, focus on eating fruit and vegetables in abundance, and include low-fat dairy products.

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