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Natural Remedies for Metabolic Syndrome

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Updated January 29, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

When carefully carried out, metabolic syndrome treatment can go a long way in protecting your overall health. Metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions that occur together and raise your risk of heart disease and diabetes, including:

  • high blood pressure
  • high blood sugar levels
  • high levels of triglycerides (blood fats)
  • low levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol
  • excess fat around your waist

Individuals with metabolic syndrome are twice as likely to develop heart disease and five times as likely to develop diabetes as people without metabolic syndrome. The National Institutes of Health estimate that nearly 25% of Americans currently have metabolic syndrome.

Many of the conditions involved in metabolic syndrome produce no signs or symptoms. However, high blood sugar may cause symptoms like fatigue and blurred vision, while high blood pressure may cause dull headaches and dizzy spells.

Causes of Metabolic Syndrome

The following factors may contribute to the development of metabolic syndrome:

As you get older, your risk of metabolic syndrome increases. Genetics may also play a role in the onset of metabolic syndrome. People with polycystic ovarian syndrome, gallstones, and sleep apnea may also have an increased risk of metabolic syndrome.

Natural Remedies for Metabolic Syndrome

Given metabolic syndrome's potential to increase your risk for life-threatening health problems like heart disease, diabetes, and stroke, it's crucial to work closely with your doctor to develop a metabolic syndrome treatment plan that's appropriate for you. If you're curious about using natural substances in treatment of metabolic syndrome, consider consulting your physician about these remedies:

1) Antioxidants

In a 2009 study of 374 adults, researchers found that consumption of carotenoids (a type of antioxidant found in fruits and vegetables) may help improve certain risk factors involved in metabolic syndrome. For instance, higher carotenoid intake was linked to smaller waistlines, less belly fat, and lower levels of triglycerides.

Carotenoids are naturally abundant in a number of foods, including spinach, sweet potato, red peppers, tomatoes, kale, pumpkin, carrots, papaya, and collards.

2) Grape Seed Extract

In a small study published in 2009, four weeks of treatment with grape seed extract appeared to decrease blood pressure in people with metabolic syndrome. However, there were no significant changes in cholesterol levels.

3) Kudzu

The herb kudzu shows promise in metabolic syndrome treatment, according to preliminary research published in 2009. In tests on rats with metabolic syndrome, scientists discovered that kudzu-fed animals experienced less weight gain and had healthier levels of blood pressure, insulin, and cholesterol after two months (compared to animals that weren't fed kudzu).

Treatment

While certain medications (such as blood pressure drugs) are sometimes used to control risk factors, lifestyle changes are considered the most important approach to metabolic syndrome treatment.

Cornerstones of metabolic syndrome treatment include:

  • getting regular exercise
  • maintaining a healthy weight
  • quitting smoking
  • following a healthy diet

Diet for Metabolic Syndrome

A key part of metabolic syndrome treatment, the metabolic syndrome diet should incorporate these elements:

  • a variety of fruits and vegetables
  • whole grains (rather than refined grains, like white rice and white bread)
  • foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol
  • fat-free or low-fat dairy products (if you eat dairy)
  • a low intake of salty foods
  • a low intake of foods and beverages with added sugar

Prevention

In order to prevent metabolic syndrome, it's important to maintain a body mass index (BMI) lower than 25. (Learn how to calculate your BMI.) Women should maintain a waist measurement of less than 35 inches, while men should aim for a waist measurement of less than 40 inches.

You should also get plenty of exercise and follow a heart-healthy diet, in addition to visiting your doctor regularly to have your cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels tested.

Furthermore, emerging evidence indicates that individuals who sleep fewer than six hours per night may face an increased risk of metabolic syndrome. Healthy sleep may also be beneficial in metabolic syndrome treatment.

Sources

Hall MH, Muldoon MF, Jennings JR, Buysse DJ, Flory JD, Manuck SB. "Self-reported sleep duration is associated with the metabolic syndrome in midlife adults." Sleep. 2008 1;31(5):635-43.

Peng N, Prasain JK, Dai Y, Moore R, Arabshahi A, Barnes S, Carlson S, Wyss JM. "Chronic dietary kudzu isoflavones improve components of metabolic syndrome in stroke-prone spontaneously hypertensive rats." J Agric Food Chem. 2009 26;57(16):7268-73.

Sivaprakasapillai B, Edirisinghe I, Randolph J, Steinberg F, Kappagoda T. "Effect of grape seed extract on blood pressure in subjects with the metabolic syndrome." Metabolism. 2009 58(12):1743-6.

Sluijs I, Beulens JW, Grobbee DE, van der Schouw YT. "Dietary carotenoid intake is associated with lower prevalence of metabolic syndrome in middle-aged and elderly men." J Nutr. 2009 (5):987-92.

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