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The Syndrome Marked X

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It's estimated that between 20 and 40 per cent of us sufferfrom a potentially deadlymetabolic syndrom.

The Syndrome Marked XIt's estimated that between 20 and 40 percent of us sufferfrom a potentially deadlymetabolic syndrome.

This detrimental disorder, which has gone by the name of syndrome X, insulin resistance syndrome, or even the deadly quartet, is slated to become the leading cause of premature death in western nations.

Syndrome X was coined by Gerald Reaven, MD, in the late 1980s using medical evidence that showed a clustering of major health risk factors connected with cardiovascular disease and insulin resistance. These factors became officially known as the "metabolic syndrome" by the World Health Organization in 1998. Anyone with three or more of the five risk factors listed below is classified as suffering from syndrome X. Sobering studies have found that only about one-third of adults in western society are actually free of all major characteristics, which include obesity,
hypertension, insulin resistance, glucose intolerance and dyslipidaemia (a condition marked by high triglyceride levels and low HDL-cholesterol or "good cholesterol").

Insulin resistance, a condition characterized by decreased tissue sensitivity to insulin action, is considered the common underlying thread of syndrome X. Glucose, a simple form of sugar, is controlled in the bloodstream by insulin, which is produced by the pancreas. Insulin is
necessary for cells to absorb glucose. If this mechanism isn't working, the result is fluctuating blood sugar levels. Insulin resistance eventually leads to hyperinsulineamia, a compensatory state of greater insulin secretion by the body. If left untreated and undiagnosed, most who develop insulin resistance go on to develop type II diabetes. The few with insulin resistance who escape this fate still remain at very high risk for heart attack, stroke and other diseases, including certain types of cancer.

PDF Table of General Features Defining Syndrome X

Root Causes

It is no coincidence that as we find ourselves in the throngs of an obesity epidemic, we also face an epidemic of syndrome X. Ironically, the root causes of this disease of the prosperous are improper nutrition and inadequate physical activity. It has been shown that treating people with syndrome X can prevent, or even improve, cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes, which are among the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in industrialized nations.

There is both a behavioural (or acquired) and a genetic component to the development of syndrome X. The "acquired" causes include overweight and obesity, physical inactivity, and high carbohydrate diet in susceptible individuals (where carbs are more than 60 per cent of energy intake). By addressing these factors, we can effectively avert the development of insulin resistance. It is empowering to know that conquering this grave disorder is feasible by the majority of us.

In particular, abdominal obesity has a higher correlation with metabolic risk factors. The outstanding benefits of addressing obesity were conclusively demonstrated by the results of the Diabetes Prevention Program, which found that a modest average weight loss of seven per cent reduced the risk of developing type II diabetes by 58 per cent in patients who had impaired glucose tolerance. Simple dietary modifications that continuously result in positive outcomes include increasing servings of vegetables, fruits, and high-fibre whole grains, while displacing intake of foods high in calories and low in nutrients.

Role of Exercise

In addition to nutrition, the role of physical activity in treatment and prevention of syndrome X cannot be overemphasized. Low levels of physical activity are related to most components of this condition. Even more promising is that the benefits of regular exercise for improving insulin
resistance are age-independent, meaning that all ages can experience a positive effect. For best results in overcoming insulin resistance, a program should integrate both aerobic exercise and resistance training. It is worth noting that not all forms of exercise have been shown to have a
positive impact on insulin sensitivity. Two types of exercise, eccentric (performed beyond the body's reasonable "normal" capacity, for example, running downhill regularly) and extreme exercise (long-term marathon training) may actually decrease insulin sensitivity. The greater muscle damage that occurs with eccentric exercise, and the ongoing enhanced use of fatty acids as fuel in extreme exercise, account for this negative reaction.

A leading research expert, B.C. Hansen, said, "The new millennium is likely to establish metabolic syndrome X as one of the most prevalent diseases of mankind, and one of the most costly in its contributions to morbidity and premature mortality.... It is also likely to be designated one of the most preventable diseases of man." Avoiding the fate of this metabolic syndrome is a viable choice for the majority of us. Unfortunately, almost a third of us decline taking this opportunity while it is still available.

Not surprisingly, as we find ourselves in the throngs of an obesity epidemic, we also face an epidemic of insulin resistance, also called syndrome X.

Recommended Action for Syndrome X

To combat syndrome X, your diet should contain between 15 to 20 per cent protein, five to 10 per cent saturated fats (butter and animal fats), 30 to 35 per cent mono- and polyunsaturated fats (olive and flax oils), and 35 to 50 per cent carbohydrates. More than half of these carbohydrates (20 to 30 per cent of the entire diet) should be fruits, vegetables and beans, while breads, pasta, rice, couscous, polenta, bulgur, other grains and potatoes should make up less than half of the allowable carbohydrates (15 to 20 per cent of the entire diet).

The glycemic index ranks mostly carbohydrate foods on how they affect blood sugar levels in the two or three hours after eating. Any food with a glycemic index above 55 should be eaten very sparingly in diet (see glycemicindex.com).

Adopt these dietary habits:

  1. Avoid refined carbohydrates: white flour, rice, sugar or other sweeteners.
  2. Eat non-starchy (usually green) vegetables as primary carbohydrates, including alfalfa sprouts, asparagus, beet greens, broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, garlic, green beans, lettuce, parsley, radishes, spinach, wax beans and turnips.
  3. Keep even nutritious carbohydrate foods, such as whole- grain breads and pasta, low on the menu.
  4. Eat food as natural and as fresh as possible.
  5. Avoid soft drinks, canned or reconstituted fruit juice and alcohol.
  6. Reduce vegetable oils such as corn, soy bean, safflower, sunflower and cotton seed oils, and use olive oil instead.
  7. Increase omega-3 oils: fish, fish oil, flax seeds or flax seed oil.
  8. Eliminate trans fatty acids: deep fried foods, margarine, hydrogenated oils.
  9. Eat protein at every meal and/or snack, including raw nuts and seeds.
  10. Eat foods in season when possible.

Excerpted with permission from the online encyclopedia of the Wild Rose College of Natural Healing at wrc.net.

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