Metabolic Syndrome now affects 1 in 3 people in the United States (1). That’s a staggering number.
Unfortunately, it increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and death. If you’re at risk of metabolic syndrome, it’s imperative to take action with your diet and lifestyle. Here’s how you can use the ketogenic diet for metabolic syndrome, and what the worst types of foods are for metabolic syndrome.
Metabolic syndrome (MetS) is a clustering of risk factors including high blood glucose, dyslipidemia, hypertension, and obesity that lead to the increased risk of Type 2 diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), which are among leading causes of death in the world.
Metabolic syndrome increases the risk of Type 2 diabetes mellitus and CVDs by approximately five and three folds, respectively (2).
A ketogenic diet is a great option for metabolic syndrome. It supports whole-body health and improves the underlying cause of it: obesity, impaired blood sugars, and impaired cardiovascular numbers. Here’s how:
The ketogenic diet has been shown to support a healthy weight. In fact, many people who use it lose weight within the first 2 weeks, and keep weight off over years similar to other diets.
Next, the ketogenic diet promotes healthy blood sugars. Since blood sugars are often elevated due to insulin resistance (often due to being overweight or obese) and carbohydrates in the diet, weight loss and low-carb eating can help. Many people who use the ketogenic diet are able to normalize blood sugars.
Lastly, the ketogenic diet is associated with healthy triglyceride levels.
One study conducted by researchers at Bethel University, Minnesota, compared the health of three groups of adults diagnosed with metabolic syndrome (3).
The first group used the ketogenic diet without exercise. The second group followed the standard American diet and did not exercise. The third used the standard American diet plus 30 or more minutes of exercise 3-5 days per week.
Whose risk factors improved the most?
This study found that the ketogenic diet without exercise was most effective at achieving weight loss, lowering body fat percentage, and decreasing HbA1c. HbA1c is a measurement of averaged blood sugars 3-month periods and used as a long-term measure of blood glucose control.
Improving and normalizing these factors in metabolic syndrome is a healthy step towards overall health and decreased mortality from the condition.
There were some drawbacks to the study. It only had 30 participants who were split between the 3 groups. It was also only conducted for 10 weeks.
Whether the outcomes would remain the same for more participants over a longer period isn’t yet certain. However, it is promising that the ketogenic diet can improve these markers.
From this study’s and other’s conclusions on the ketogenic diet and metabolic syndrome, we can surmise that healthy high-fat foods are some of the best foods to eat for metabolic syndrome.
In fact, many healthy fats actively improve insulin resistance and cellular health.
For example, avocados have been found to be lipid-lowering, antihypertensive, antidiabetic, anti-obesity, antithrombotic, antiatherosclerotic, and cardioprotective for decades. Studies are being conducted to support their specific effects on metabolic syndrome (4).
Fish and fish oil improve insulin sensitivity and support healthy blood sugars.
Extra virgin olive oil supports heart health while reducing inflammation and cholesterol oxidation in artery walls (4). It also promotes lower blood pressure and the reduction of high blood pressure. In some studies, hypertension medications have been reduced by up to 48% (5). What’s more, studies have found that those who consume olive oil have a significantly lower risk of stroke than those who don’t (6).
The best foods for metabolic syndrome include healthy fats that support heart health and normalized blood sugars. These include many ketogenic diet foods.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are foods that worsen outcomes for metabolic syndrome and increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and even death.
These foods are ultra-processed foods.
Ultra-processed foods commercially made foods that have many added ingredients such as sugar, salt, fat, and artificial colors or preservatives. They are primarily made from substances extracted from foods, such as fats, starches, added sugars, and hydrogenated fats. They often contain additives like artificial colors and flavors or stabilizers. Examples include soft drinks, many fast-food items, many microwave meals, hot dogs and cold cuts, fast food, packaged cookies, cakes, and salty snacks. Unfortunately, a study published in The BMJ found that ultra-processed foods are the main source of calories (nearly 58%) eaten in the US. They found that they contribute to almost 90% of the energy derived from added sugars (7).
In one study from Brazil, 210 adolescents were surveyed. Those having 3 or more metabolic syndrome conditions were classified as having metabolic syndrome. Over 6% of the teens had it. This study concluded that high consumption of ultra-processed foods was associated with the prevalence of MetS in this adolescents group (8).
Another meta-analysis found that many studies showed higher consumption of ultra-processed food was associated with overweight/obesity, higher fasting glucose, metabolic syndrome, increases in total and LDL cholesterol, and risk of hypertension (9).
Yet another large observational prospective study concluded that higher consumption of ultra-processed foods was associated with higher risks of cardiovascular, coronary heart, and cerebrovascular diseases (10).
And a new study published this month of more than 100,000 participants, researchers found that consumption of ultra-processed foods is significantly linked to an increase in the incidence of Type 2 Diabetes (11).
The takeaway here is that ultra-processed foods are associated with the development of metabolic syndrome, and then the increased risk of metabolic syndrome leading to diabetes and heart disease.
Avoiding ultra-processed foods is easy. First, make sure most of your foods are single-ingredient foods. This means it is it’s single, natural form. For example, kale only has kale as an ingredient. Meat, eggs, nuts, oils, vegetables, and more can be found as single ingredients.
Then, if you do need to buy commercially prepared food, check out its ingredients and make sure it’s made from healthy single-ingredient foods. For example, butter should only have cream and salt as ingredients. These are both single-ingredient ingredients. If it has a whole bunch of other preservatives and additives, find another brand.
Lastly, make as much food as you can from home. For help, you can start with the Keto Zone book, cookbook, and 21-day challenge:
There are steps you can take to improve your health and reduce your risk of metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and heart disease. Avoid ultra-processed foods like the plague. Instead, choose healthy keto-friendly low-sugar foods. You’ve got the power to improve your health!