Mediterranean Diet for Weight Loss and to Prevent Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is the presence of three or more of the following conditions…

  • Fasting blood sugar of 100 mg/dl or higher
  • Systolic blood pressure of 130 mm Hg or higher and/or diastolic blood pressure 85 mm Hg or higher
  • HDL cholesterol less than 40 mg/dl in men or 50 mg/dl in women
  • Triglycerides of 150 mg/dl or higher
  • Waist circumference 40 inches or greater for men and 35 inches or greater in women in the US

This “cluster” of factors known as metabolic syndrome doubles heart disease risk with a five-fold risk increase of developing Type 2 diabetes. Metabolic syndrome has also been connected to cancers, including prostate, breast, endometrial, colorectal, and liver.

Metabolic syndrome affects 35 percent of US adults and 10 percent of adolescents.

Here are three steps to counteract metabolic syndrome:

#1 Lose weight

Stored fat is metabolically active. Body fat contains immune cells and produces hormones and signaling proteins, some of which promote inflammation linked to heart disease and cancer. If you have metabolic syndrome, recommendations are to lose 5-10 percent of your body weight. So, if you weigh 250 pounds, this would equal a weight loss of 12.5 – 25 pounds. However, it’s worth noting that weight loss of only 3-5 percent provides relevant improvements in triglyceride and blood pressure levels for some. For a 250-pound individual, this is a very doable 7.5-12.5 pound weight loss.

#2 Increase Physical Activity

While physical activity helps achieve step #1, weight loss, physical activity independent of weight loss reduces metabolic syndrome. Activity reduces insulin resistance and increases blood sugar uptake improving fasting blood sugar levels.

#3 Follow a Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean Diet includes…

  • High in plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains
  • Herbs and spices instead of salt to add flavor
  • Healthy fats like olive and canola oil in place of butter
  • Fish and poultry at least twice weekly with red meat limited to a few times a month

This nutrient rich diet, emphasizing plant foods and healthy fats has been found to reduce inflammation and insulin resistance, while boosting antioxidant defenses and blood vessel function.

Following the Mediterranean Diet for weight loss has also been found to reduce metabolic syndrome risk.

Vegetarian and vegan diets have also been found to be protective.

The Paleo diet may be another option resulting in reduced waist circumference, triglycerides, and blood pressure. However, research studies have been small and short term. Therefore, we need more data for conclusive results connecting this diet that excludes dairy, grains, legumes, and added salt and sugars to reduced metabolic risk.

Knowing what you need to do to reduce your risk for metabolic syndrome is just one step of your journey. Now you must implement the necessary changes. Click here to access the free guide How to Make Heart Healthy Changes into Lifelong Habits.

All the best,
Lisa Nelson RD
Health Pro for HealthCentral


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