metabolic syndrome

  1. One small vitamin slashes your risk of the "big three" killers

    It's probably the smallest pill in your kitchen cabinet. But it's also one of the most important. In fact, for the first time ever, scientists have conducted a "meta-analysis" of this vitamin. This means that scientists gathered data from dozens of different studies. Then, they combined the results to give us "the big picture."

    And the results were spectacular. They revealed that in fact, this one tiny vitamin might be the best protection you've got against the "big three" killers: Stroke, Heart Attack, and Diabetes.

    Gold mine found hidden among 28 different studies

    Scientists analyzed the blood work from 28 different studies involving 100,000 men and women and they found that one vitamin made all the difference. As it turns out men and women with plenty of vitamin D in their blood remained much healthier than their counterparts did.

    In fact, this group of men and women reduced their risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) by 33 percent. And don't forget that CVD is an umbrella term. So this actually means that they cut their risk of arthrosclerosis, heart attack, and stroke by 33 percent.

    And that's not all...

    These men and women also reduced their risk of developing type-2 diabetes by a whopping 55 percent!

    But results didn't stop there!

    Scientists further discovered that this same group never developed a collection of symptoms known as "metabolic syndrome" - also known as syndrome X.

    How does all of this fit together?

    Metabolic syndrome often precedes the "big three" killers. It refers to a group of symptoms that increase your risk of stroke, heart attack, and type-2 diabetes. According to the American Heart Association, you have metabolic syndrome if you have three or more of the following symptoms:

    • High blood pressure
    • High blood sugar levels (when fasting)
    • Large waist circumference
    • Low HDL cholesterol
    • High triglycerides

    Almost 75 million men and women in the U.S. have these symptoms. And, therefore, they're at serious risk of stroke, heart attack, and diabetes.

    But I'll tell you who doesn't have metabolic syndrome: the men and women from the study with an abundance of vitamin D in their blood. They reduced their risk of developing metabolic syndrome by 51 percent.

    What's your number?

    Clearly, vitamin D is essential to preventing disease. And hopefully, you've had your vitamin D levels recently checked. If not, ask your doc for the blood test. Ideally, you want your levels between 50-70 ng/mL.

    If your levels are lower than that, you should consider taking a vitamin D supplement. Anyone living in the northern part of the U.S. should also consider taking one, due to the lack of sunshine. I usually recommend taking up to 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 (the form of D most easily absorbed in the body) daily, especially in the winter months.

    You can also get vitamin D into your diet by eating more eggs (naturally found in yolks), liver, and fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and sardines. For example, just one serving of wild sockeye salmon contains almost 1,000 IU of vitamin D.

    Don't be a guinea pig

    In closing, I'd like to give you a warning. There's a major government-sponsored study on vitamin D in the works. It's called the Vital Study. Scientists are currently recruiting 20,000 men and women to take part.

    According to a recent New York Times article, scientists in this study seek to discover "whether high doses of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids from fish-oil supplements will lower risk for heart disease and cancer."

    Sounds great at first blush. But here's the problem: Half of the participants will take either a D3 supplement or a fish oil supplement for five years. Not both. Or, you can be one of the really unlucky folks assigned to the placebo group. If that's the case, you'll be taking a sugar pill for the next five years! The problem is, to maintain optimum health; you need both of these essential nutrients.

    Now, don't get me wrong. I'm all for scientific research, especially on vitamins. And it will be very interesting to see the outcomes of the Vital Study. But I just wouldn't recommend you sacrifice your own good health to prove a point. Let someone else be the guinea pig.

  2. Rethinking the grapefruit diet

    Nearly everyone's heard of the grapefruit diet. It's a short-term approach to weight loss (low carb, healthy proteins) with one unique feature. For 12 days you're supposed to eat a serving of grapefruit with every meal. It appears that by adding grapefruit to a protein-based meal, your metabolism gets kicked into overdrive.

    This diet's a quick fix and it's really for those folks looking to drop a few pounds quickly. But I've always had a hunch that there's something worthwhile about this diet just waiting to be discovered. Sure -- grapefruit is healthy. It's packed with vitamins. But why does adding it to your diet seem to spur on weight loss?

    Well -- a new study published in the medical journal Diabetes zeroed in on one secret ingredient in grapefruit responsible for that sudden boost in metabolism.

    More than just an antioxidant
    Grapefruits contain a type of flavonoid called naringenin. It's basically an antioxidant that seeks and destroys free radicals (those nasty agents that promote cancer). But as followers of the grapefruit diet can tell you, naringenin also boosts your metabolism.

    In fact, the new Canadian study examined exactly how naringenin works and why it promotes weight loss. Scientists divided healthy mice with normal body weight into four groups. They fed one group a normal, healthy diet. The second group received a high-fat, high-calorie diet. The third and fourth groups received a high-fat, high-calorie diet along with a naringenin supplement.

    After just four weeks, the mice on the high-fat, high-calorie diet became obese. In addition, they became insulin and glucose intolerant.

    On the other hand, the two groups who received the naringenin supplement fared much better. Despite the same high-fat, high-calorie diet, these mice didn't gain weight like their counterparts. In addition, the naringenin mice didn't develop key health factors linked to Metabolic Syndrome.

    What's Metabolic Syndrome?
    Sometimes called "Syndrome X," it's when you have significant fat around your belly as well as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and insulin resistance. According to some published reports, as many as 40 percent of adults over age 60 have Metabolic Syndrome. And many experts believe that once you've got it, you also significantly increase your risk of suffering diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

    But the mice taking naringenin didn't get metabolic syndrome. In fact, they lowered their triglyceride and cholesterol levels. They also continued to metabolize glucose normally and they never developed a resistance to insulin.

    So how did naringenin work such magic? Did it block the absorption of the fat? Did it suppress the appetite?

    Well, in fact, none of the above. The naringenin mice never absorbed the fat because their livers got kicked into high gear and flushed out what they didn't need for energy.

    Words of caution
    Now -- before you go off and start eating grapefruit with every meal, there are a few things you need to know:

    1. First off, this study involved mice. As a general rule, I don't put a whole lot of stock into a study's findings if it's only proven to work on mice. Scientists still have a long way to go to prove that naringenin works the same magic in humans. But given what we already know about grapefruit, I've got a pretty good hunch that scientists will eventually find that this powerful antioxidant does have a positive affect on human metabolism.

    2. Secondly, the mice didn't drink grapefruit juice every day. They took naringenin extracts. So it's tricky to determine how much you or I would need to get the same benefits of naringenin. According to the study authors, you'd have to drink roughly six to eight glasses of grapefruit juice a day to get the equivalent to what the mice took. And that's a lot of grapefruit juice. It's probably a better option to take a grapefruit juice capsule, like the mice did. But they're hard to find.

    3. Thirdly, grapefruit juice is pretty powerful stuff. In fact, it blocks the absorption of certain types of drugs, like statin drugs and calcium channel blockers. (Unfortunately, men and women taking these drugs are the ones most likely to benefit from naringenin.) So make sure to consult with your doctor before adding naringenin to your diet, especially if you take any type of prescription drug.

    4. Lastly, be sure to add a good probiotic capsule before meals if you begin a naringenin regimen or start eating grapefruit regularly. As I said before, grapefruit juice is pretty powerful stuff and can be hard to digest. But the probiotic will help regulate your digestion and soothe your stomach.

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