Obesity Expedites Dangerous Metabolic Syndrome Says LSU AgCenter Nutritionist

Heli J. Roy  |  4/19/2005 10:28:31 PM

News You Can Use For September 2004 

In the late 1980s, researchers realized that a group of symptoms tended to occur together in obese individuals. The scientists named it Syndrome X or Metabolic Syndrome, according to LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Heli Roy.

The complications that were seen together with obesity were hypertension, insulin resistance, hyperinsulinemia, abnormal blood lipids and diabetes, as explained by Dr. George Bray and Dr. Catherine Champagne from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

The blood lipids used as a profile defining Metabolic Syndrome are altered High Density Lipoprotein (HDL), and triglyceride levels.

"HDL is the ‘good’ cholesterol, which helps protect against heart disease," Roy says, explaining, "It picks up cholesterol from the bloodstream and brings it to the liver for disposal."

A level that is too low can signify there may be cholesterol accumulating in the bloodstream, leading to plaques and narrowing of arteries. A level below 40 milligrams per deciliter in men and below 50 milligrams per deciliter in women can indicate the existence of the Metabolic Syndrome, together with other symptoms. Triglyceride levels higher than 150 milligrams per deciliter are a risk factor for the Metabolic Syndrome.

Roy says another feature of this syndrome is that most of the excess fat accumulates around the abdominal area. When fat deposits mainly in the abdominal area, it increases insulin resistance, particularly in men. Having large abdominal fat deposits also increases blood lipid levels, and this is a risk factor for arteriosclerosis.

"This is why one of the assessments for risk of chronic diseases is abdominal circumference measurement alone," Roy points out, noting that abdominal circumference in males more than 40 inches and in women more than 35 inches is a risk factor for the Metabolic Syndrome.

The risk of having Metabolic Syndrome increases with age. About 6 percent to 8 percent of women and men who are 20-29 years of age have the symptoms, compared to 43 percent of those who are 60 to 69 years of age.

Roy says the risk for having the Metabolic Syndrome can occur from diabetes, genetic predisposition, high fat diets, inactivity, aging, taking medications or low birth weight.

"Diet and physical activity are very important parts of the treatment regimen for the Metabolic Syndrome," the nutritionist says, adding, "Eating a diet based on the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines and engaging in regular physical activity are preventive against many chronic diseases."

The three main aims of the Dietary Guidelines are to Aim for Fitness, Build a Healthy Base and Choose Sensibly.

Aiming for Fitness encourages people to seek a healthy weight; if overweight, to lose weight; and to be physically active every day.

Building a Healthy Base suggests that people use the Food Guide Pyramid as a guide for food choices, and to have grains, especially whole grains, frequently. It also encourages people to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and to keep food safe to eat.

Choosing Sensibly means choosing a diet low in saturated fat, cholesterol and salt and choosing non-sweetened beverages. It also encourages those who drink alcoholic beverages to moderate their intake.

For more about the latest USDA dietary guidelines, visit www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/

For information on related family and consumer topics, visit the FCS Web site at http://www.lsuagcenter.com/Inst/
Extension/Departments/fcs/.  For local information and educational programs, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.

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On the Internet: LSU AgCenter: http://www.lsuagcenter.com/
Inst/Extension/Departments/fcs/
On the Internet: USDA Dietary Guidelines: http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/
Source: Heli Roy (225) 578-4486, or HRoy@agcenter.lsu.edu

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