Metabolic syndrome

Understanding Metabolic Syndrome

A variety of different health conditions can combine to increase the risk of developing diseases such as stroke, heart disease and type 2 diabetes

Combatting these underlying causes can have a huge impact on someone’s health and lower the risk of ending up with a more serious medical condition. 

Here we take a look at metabolic syndrome, what conditions combine to make it an issue and how a functional medicine approach can make a difference.

What Is Metabolic Syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome is defined as a series of factors that combine and which raise the ultimate risk of developing a serious condition such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. According to the American Heart Foundation, as many as 1 out of 6 people may have metabolic syndrome in the US alone.

For example, if you are carrying a lot of visceral fat, have high blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels, you will almost certainly be at risk. If you have just one of these conditions, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have metabolic syndrome – but your chance of having a serious health condition in the future is greatly increased.

Causes and Risk Factors of Metabolic Syndrome

The biggest link to metabolic syndrome is being overweight and having insulin resistance. These health issues lead to a rise in blood sugar levels which the body can’t easily respond to. 

The risk of developing metabolic syndrome increases with age. We become less efficient at burning fuel and that can create issues such as putting on weight and even obesity. Just a small amount of visceral fat around the mid-section can influence vital organs like the liver and make them less effective. 

Problems such as a non-alcoholic fatty liver, sleep apnea and if there is a history of type 2 diabetes in the family can all make a difference. Metabolic syndrome also tends to more prevalent among ethnic groups such as Asians, African-Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans.

Metabolic syndrome symptoms

Metabolic Syndrome Symptoms

The main visible sign of metabolic syndrome is a large waistline but many people don’t exhibit physical symptoms at all. If someone has diabetes, they may well have high blood sugar levels. That can eventually lead to symptoms such as urinating more, fatigue and blurred vision.

Diagnosing Metabolic Syndrome

Because it’s a collection of factors, metabolic syndrome is often difficult to diagnose formally compared to a health condition such as heart disease or diabetes. It is generally diagnosed through a physical examination and blood tests. 

The key factors in diagnosis are:

  • Fat around the waistline: More than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men. 
  • Triglyceride levels that are more than 150 mg/DL. 
  • Low HDL cholesterol: less than 50 mg/DL in women and 60 mg/DL in men. 
  • High blood sugar levels when fasting. 
  • High blood pressure.

Metabolic Syndrome Treatments

A functional medicine approach to metabolic syndrome and the health conditions it causes looks at the underlying causes. Everyone is different and offering a personalized treatment path is essential. 

The essential parameters in many cases are losing visceral fat around the waist, maintaining a healthy diet and undertaking plenty of exercise on a regular basis. In addition, various supplements and ensuring the individual gets the right nutrients can make a significant difference. 

Vitamin D

There is gathering evidence that low levels of vitamin D have an impact on health conditions such as stroke and diabetes. 

There’s also evidence to support that vitamin D supplementation can delay or prevent progression from prediabetes to diabetes over 5 years.


Co-enzyme Q10 occurs naturally in the body and plays an important role in metabolism. 

  • Research has shown that supplementation may help boost metabolism and provide a way to combat obesity. 
  • Other research has suggested that a supplement can benefit patients with diabetes by improving antioxidant enzyme activity levels and maintaining cholesterol levels. 


Curcumin is a plant extract that helps in controlling inflammation and has been shown to play a beneficial role in diabetes

Milk Thistle

A herbal medicine that is used widely in holistic medicine, there may be a case that milk thistle also has a role in reducing insulin resistance in high-risk patients with type 2 diabetes.


  • Resveratrol is a natural plant phenol and has been shown to produce beneficial effects in respect of cardio-metabolic health in patients with type 2 diabetes. 
  • Other research suggests that is useful in reducing insulin sensitivity and reducing oxidative stress.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C has also been shown to help reduce inflammation and improve health for individuals who are either diabetic or hypertensive or both.