Nearly 35 percent of all adults in the US, and 50 percent of adults aged 60 and older are estimated to have metabolic syndrome. This condition is not a disease in itself, but refers to a group of risk factors that together increase the risk of degenerative diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and stroke.

Metabolic syndrome occurs when a person has 3 or more of the following risk factors:

Consuming simple carbohydrates — such as bread, pasta, white rice, and sugar — can increase the risk of metabolic syndrome, as can being physically inactive. Some people are also genetically predisposed to get metabolic syndrome if they consume too many calories, whether they are on a high-fat or a high-carb diet.

Studies show that people who have a close relative with metabolic syndrome have a greater risk of developing the condition, and that identical twins are also more likely to develop metabolic syndrome.

Several genetic variants can also increase the risk of metabolic syndrome. Many of these are associated with an impaired ability to transport fatty substances in the blood to tissue to be used for energy production and storage. Other genetic variants result in a reduced ability to burn fat for energy, or excess conversion of carbohydrates to fat in the liver. A genetic predisposition to obesity also increases the risk of metabolic syndrome.

Reducing your risk of metabolic syndrome

Even if you have a genetic predisposition to metabolic syndrome, you can reduce your risk through healthy diet and lifestyle habits. Studies show that diet and lifestyle changes are more effective than medication at preventing and reversing metabolic syndrome.

General recommendations for preventing and reversing metabolic syndrome include:

  • Reduce total calorie consumption in order to lose 5-10 percent of total body weight
  • Get regular exercise
  • Avoid high amounts of simple carbohydrates
  • Avoid high-fat diets
  • Eat a balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  • Limit added sugars, saturated fats, and trans fats

Genetic risk factors for metabolic syndrome

Individuals who have genetic risk factors for metabolic syndrome can take additional steps to reduce their risk.

  • Carriers of LPL risk variants have an impaired ability to transport triglycerides into the liver and muscles so that it can be used as energy. Lipids from dietary fats as well as those created from excessive carbohydrate intake can accumulate in the blood and lead to high triglyceride levels. These risk carriers should be especially careful about weight, as even being slightly overweight can increase triglyceride levels. Limit total calorie intake and avoid excessive carbohydrates, especially simple carbohydrates. Reduce total fat intake, especially saturated fat. Increase intake of polyunsaturated fats and take a fish oil supplement.
  • Carriers of FADS1 risk variants have a reduced ability to convert plant-based oils to long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids. This may interfere with your body’s ability to use stored fat for energy, which can result in elevated triglycerides as well as insulin resistance. These carriers may benefit from eating more deep-sea fish, including more whole-milk dairy products and eggs in their diet, or taking fish oil supplements.
  • Carriers of GCKR risk variants may have poor regulation of glucose uptake by the liver, resulting in greater glucose uptake. This excess glucose uptake leads to increased production of triglycerides, increasing the risk of elevated triglycerides as well as insulin resistance and fatty liver disease. Avoid large meals and reduce carbohydrate intake, especially simple carbohydrates.
  • ADIPOQ risk variants lead to an increased risk of obesity and insulin resistance due to lower levels of a hormone called adiponectin. Carriers of ADIPOQ risk variants may benefit from consuming fewer total calories and closely monitoring weight. Regular exercise can help burn fat and promote fuel uptake by the muscles, which can help prevent or improve insulin resistance.

Your personalized genetic report from Vivaliti DNA can tell you if you have any of the above risk factors for metabolic syndrome, as well as other risk factors for obesity and weight-related disease. Request a no-cost consultation today to learn more about Vivaliti DNA and how your personalized genetic report can help you prevent disease and live a longer, healthier life.