The metabolic syndrome is a cluster of the most dangerous heart attack risk factors including diabetes and pre-diabetes, abdominal obesity, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Here are some alarming facts:
- One quarter of the world adult population has metabolic syndrome.
- People with metabolic syndrome are twice as likely to die from it, and three times as likely to have a heart attack or stroke compared with people without the syndrome.
- People with metabolic syndrome have a five times greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Up to 80% of the 200 million people with diabetes globally will die of cardiovascular disease.
- This puts the mortality rate of metabolic syndrome and diabetes miles ahead of HIV/AIDS and yet the problem is not as well recognized.
Early diagnosis by physicians is key to identifying those at risk and one of the primary treatments is weight loss. Researchers from the University of Ulm, Germany, have found that increased amounts of protein in the diet lead to greater improvement in metabolic syndrome risk factors when compared to consuming a standard level of protein.
The study, which was presented at the annual meeting of the Obesity Society in Phoenix, enrolled 110 overweight subjects with the metabolic syndrome who were randomly divided into two groups, and were followed for one year.
For the first three months, during the weight loss phase, those in the high protein group were instructed to follow a diet that supplied about twice the protein that would be obtained from a typical diet. They also replaced two meals a day with a high-protein meal replacement shake. The other group was instructed to eat a standard amount of protein from an all-food diet.
For the remaining nine months of the study – the weight maintenance phase – everyone used one meal replacement shake a day as part of their meal plan, and both groups maintained the level of protein intake in the diet they had consumed during the previous three months.
Everyone lost weight after a year, but the high protein group lost more weight (nearly 25 pounds, compared with about 14 pounds for the standard protein group). They also lost more body fat, and maintained lean body mass. More significant, however, was the finding that at the end of the study, 64 percent of those in the high protein group no longer met the criteria for the metabolic syndrome, compared with 41 percent who consumed the standard amount of protein.
Nearly 47 million Americans have the metabolic syndrome, and the numbers continue to grow along with the rise in obesity. Marion Flechtner-Mors, Ph.D., one of the researchers on the study and head of the Obesity Research Group at the University of Ulm, Germany, said “Effective interventions, such as the use of high protein meal replacements for weight loss, could improve the risk factors associated with the metabolic syndrome and affect the lives of millions of people”.