Monday, March 19, 2012

Metabolic Syndrome and Nutrients

Metabolic Syndrome is not a disease; it is a cluster of symptoms that are considered risk factors for diabetes and heart disease. These include blood pressure, waist circumference, fasting blood sugar level, triglyceride level, and HDL cholesterol level. If someone has abnormal test results for 3 of these 5 markers, that person may be considered to have metabolic syndrome. It is well established in the medical literature that people with diabetes have higher rates of heart disease and a higher death rate than the general public. Obviously, it is not desirable for any of these metabolic markers to be outside the normal range, and individually they are recognized as risk factors for heart disease and/or diabetes.

Glucose management can be helped by adequate and inhibited by inadequate nutrient intake. Chromium is recognized as essential to managing blood sugar; as is Biotin, which is a B-Complex nutrient that is not one of the essential eight B Vitamins. For herbs, the best evidence is for them helping to maintain insulin sensitivity, control sweet cravings, and perhaps to support healthy pancreatic function: Gymnema sylvestre and Stevia rebaudiana (full spectrum steviosides; not Reb A versions of stevia isolates) appear to help us to manage healthy glucose metabolism; while Banaba leaf extract is a source of corosolic acid, which appears to aid in maintaining healthy insulin sensitivity. Of course, fiber is reported to slow the increase in blood sugar after a meal.

It is far easier to suggest blood sugar supplements and even dietary changes before a drug regimen is started. Afterward, there can be serious interactions, even for fiber. Drastic dietary changes, such as changing to a whole food diet, can be risky if a set dose of medicine is taken because less of the drug may then be needed, opening the door to a real risk of a drug overdose. Patients should always disclose to their physician what supplements they are considering taking to avoid potential interactions. A moderate strength multiple vitamin formula that provides essential levels of chromium is normally allowed by the physician in such circumstances.

Dr. Thomas A. Barringer of Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, North Carolina reports that his studies show that multiple vitamins benefit our diabetic population. He states that “any population at risk of having marginally inadequate nutrition, such as the elderly in general, might also benefit." Dr Barringer adds: “all obese people might benefit." He pointed out that supplements are safe and relatively inexpensive, so taking a daily multivitamin is "a reasonable option" for people who are overweight, who have any type of diabetes, who may not receive adequate nutrition or whose immune system is weak. (March 4th 2003 Annals of Internal Medicine)

Dietary supplement manufacturers have one thing that they can tell customers who have diabetes: that they should consult their physician before taking any supplements. Beyond that, vitamin companies should stick to careful descriptions as to how certain products may support blood sugar already within the healthy range by various mechanisms. Going into detail about which supplements show benefit for diabetes, or any disease, is illegal under DSHEA, the Dietary Supplement Health & Education Act.
Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) is a potent antioxidant that helps to maintain healthy insulin sensitivity. Insulin resistance occurs from swings in blood sugar due to poor diets high in refined carbohydrates (white flour, white sugar, high fructose corn syrup) that eventually lead to the hormone Insulin becoming ineffective at moving carbohydrates out of the bloodstream into the cells. ALA has the additional benefit of protecting cells from oxidative damage, including liver cells.

Chromium is available in several forms. While some of the current evidence is on the form called chromium picolinate, other forms may be more active in controlling cholesterol, such as chromium nicotinate (polynicotinate) that’s bonded to niacin (Vitamin B3). This mineral helps us to properly manage blood sugar and is a component of Glucose Tolerance Factor. Chromium may also help maintain lean body mass (muscle) during calorie-restricted dieting.

Citrimax® is a fruit extract that helps to limit the liver's production of fat from carbohydrate. Its active compound, HCA (-Hydroxycitric acid), is an extract from the fruit rind of Garcinia cambogia that may help to downregulate the body’s ability to convert carbohydrates into stored fats.

Corosolic acid helps maintain proper insulin sensitivity, allowing sugar to be efficiently moved from the bloodstream into cells.

Gymnema sylvestre improves uptake of glucose into cells, may block ability to taste “sweet” flavors (reducing a sweet tooth), and may be useful for maintaining healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Stevia extract is a natural herbal product that is non-caloric; in its full-spectrum form providing several steviosides it may support pancreatic function and promote proper insulin sensitivity.