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Healthy diet reverses metabolic syndrome

People with metabolic syndrome - a cluster of risk factors for heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes - have a better chance of reversing it if they stick to a healthy diet.

Healthy diet reverses metabolic syndrome

People with metabolic syndrome - a cluster of risk factors for heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes - have a better chance of reversing it if they stick to a healthy diet.

A person is considered to have metabolic syndrome if they have three or more of the following risk factors - excess abdominal fat, high triglyceride levels, low levels of "good" HDL cholesterol, high blood pressure, and either high blood sugar levels or type 2 diabetes. Having metabolic syndrome doubles a person's risk of developing heart disease and raises their risk five times of developing type 2 diabetes.

The Alternative Healthy Eating Index (AHEI) is a set of nutritional guidelines published by Harvard School of Public Health researchers in 2002. The guidelines emphasise eating whole grains rather than refined grains, white meat rather than red meat, and lots of fruits, vegetables, nuts and soy. Past studies have shown that following the AHEI guidelines helps cut the risk of chronic heart disease in both men and women. To find out whether sticking to AHEI could help reverse metabolic syndrome, researchers studied 339 British men and women with metabolic syndrome. Their average age was 56 years. Data regarding their waist size, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, blood sugar level, dietary intake and physical activity was collected and analysed.

After 5 years of follow up, it was found that people who adhered most closely to the AHEI were nearly twice as likely to have reversed their metabolic syndrome. Nearly half of the participants no longer had the metabolic syndrome. For people with obesity, defined by the researchers as waist circumference above 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women, those with the healthiest diets were nearly thrice more likely to have recovered from metabolic syndrome than those with the unhealthiest eating patterns. Healthy eating also had a somewhat stronger effect for people who started out with high levels of triglycerides.

The study shows that dietary guidelines for individuals with metabolic syndrome can help reverse the impact of high triglyceride levels and obesity.
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