Rescue Yourself From the X Syndrom

Source: Joel Fuhrman, M.D.

The Solution To This Growing, Nationwide Condition Is Not High-Protein, Low-Carbohydrate Diets!

By Jeff Novick, M.S., R.D.

Metabolic syndrome, syndrome X, insulin resistance, and carbohydrate sensitivity (and/or carbohydrate addiction) are terms that are being used today to describe a condition that is characterized by high triglycerides, high blood sugar, high insulin levels, obesity, and sometimes high blood pressure.

America seems to be plagued with an epidemic of this syndrome, and some professionals estimate that anywhere from 25-65% of the current population may suffer from it.

Many of the recent best-selling books attribute its cause to an excess intake of carbohydrates and a lack of protein and fat in the diet. This has been one of the driving forces behind all the high-protein, high-fat diets and the current “phobia” of carbohydrates. Every week, I meet many people who tell me they suffer from this syndrome and cannot eat carbohydrates. However, with a little education and exercise, and a few diet and lifestyle changes, they find that they actually can reverse this prevalent condition.

It is important to understand this “condition” (as well as its “solution”) since it can increase your risk for several diseases.

According to Dr. Barbara V. Howard, president of MedStar Research Institute, a part of the Washington Hospital Center, people with insulin resistance syndrome have double or triple the risk of heart disease. Additionally, virtually everyone who developed adult-onset diabetes started with insulin resistance.

Dr. Robert Sherwin, a professor at Yale School of Medicine and president- elect of the American Diabetes Association, said,“My guess is 10 -25 percent of the population is insulin-resistant, but there are no statistics on exactly how many people have the condition. It is almost always associated with the central obesity body pattern.”

One of the common denominators of this syndrome is a growing inability of the body to use insulin, commonly known as insulin “resistance.” Insulin helps muscle cells to allow nutrients through the cell membrane and into the cells. As one gains weight, fat surrounds the cells, inhibiting insulin uptake. In order to overcome this “resistance,” the pancreas produces more insulin. People with significant body fat can force the pancreas to produce five times the insulin as normal weight individuals. If this “resistance” continues, the pancreas “poops out,” and diabetes can result. Insulin resistance is linked to clogged arteries and heart disease.

Exercise combined with diet is the best way to beat insulin resistance. Regular calorie-burning, aerobic exercise improves the factors that insulin resistance syndrome worsens. The cells get better in their ability to take up insulin, and both cholesterol levels and blood pressure lower.

Engaging in vigorous aerobic exercise, at least every other day, at sweat-producing levels found in an aerobic studio or a treadmill run is the most effective way to defeat insulin resistance.

Dr. Burton Berkson of Las Cruces, N.M., has written a book on this subject titled Syndrome X. Berkson estimates that 65 percent of Americans have some symptom of syndrome X, but he says this is an indirect calculation based on diseases associated with syndrome X. Berkson calls for fewer refined carbohydrates, such as sugary pastries, and more non-starchy vegetables. Where have we heard that before?

Sherwin and Howard both back eating fewer calories but don’t think much of diets that recommend more protein and fewer carbohydrates, or more carbohydrates and less protein.“Varying the distribution of calories has absolutely no effect at all,’’ Howard said.

So, there is no big mystery to the condition of metabolic syndrome, or insulin resistance, or carbohydrate sensitivity. There is no magical dietary formula of protein, carbohydrate, or fat that is the answer. Losing weight and eating a healthful diet that avoids caloric excesses—coupled with lots of exercise—is the solution. Don’t be fooled by best-selling books that recommend the avoidance of carbohydrates. That is not the answer.

However, in relation to carbohydrates, remember one important key—unrefined, unprocessed foods that contain carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains) that are consumed in their whole natural form are excellent foods.They are loaded with not only healthful carbohydrates (our primary source of energy), but also plenty of fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and essential fats. They are very filling, with a high satiety and low-calorie density (200-500 calories per pound).

Refined, processed carbohydrates (breads, bagels, cookies, crackers, and pasta) are very calorie-dense (1200-1800 calories per pound),and offer less satiety. It is very easy to overeat on these foods, all of which lack many nutrients, are low in fiber, and usually contain large amounts of flour and/or sugar.

Medical studies show that a plant-centered diet, rich in fiber and phytochemicals, and low in animal products, effectively reduces fasting insulin as it protects the heart from disease. In these studies, all patients switched from a diet high in refined carbohydrates and low in fiber, to a diet high in unrefined carbohydrates and high in fiber. Carbohydrates made up about 80 percent of the diet in all studies.

The Healthful Solution

Metabolic syndrome, syndrome X, insulin resistance, and carbohydrate sensitivity are terms used today to describe a condition that is characterized by high triglycerides, high blood sugar, high insulin levels, obesity, and sometimes high blood pressure. Here’s how you can avoid this problem:

1. Exercise—every day.

2. Lose weight.

3. Don’t overeat, and especially avoid refined carbohydrates.

4. Concentrate on unrefined, unprocessed, high-fiber carbohydrates.

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