In the 1970s, metabolic syndrome came to the forefront as the blanket term to describe a cluster of health conditions that appeared to occur together and increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. These markers included high blood pressure, high blood sugar, elevated triglycerides, high LDL (bad) cholesterol, and low HDL (good) cholesterol, along with an increased waist circumference. Fortunately, these unhealthy markers can often be reversed naturally—if you know what to do. With only 12.2 percent of American adults considered metabolically healthy, “metabolic know-how” is needed! Here are five nutrients that can help improve your odds of maintaining metabolic health.
Wondering if you should incorporate this alkaloid nutrient into your supplement regime? Consider this: berberine, which is found in herbs like barberry, goldenseal, and Oregon grape, favorably impacts any condition that could be improved by losing weight, including metabolic syndrome. In one study of participants who had elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels, those taking berberine daily saw a 25 percent drop in LDL, a 35 percent drop in triglycerides, and a 29 percent drop in total cholesterol. Other studies show that berberine also reduces insulin resistance and fosters weight loss. For the most benefit, look for a supplement derived from Indian barberry bark and root extract. Although berberine is generally safe, do check with your doctor if you are taking a blood-thinning drug like warfarin, an antidepressant, or other prescription drugs, as this compound may interact with medication.
Curcumin is the powerful compound found in turmeric that’s responsible for its distinctive yellow hue. Over 8,000 studies confirm curcumin’s ability to work as both an anti-inflammatory and a super antioxidant. Regarding obesity, curcumin helps the body regulate blood sugar levels, burn fat more efficiently for energy, and stop new fat cells from forming or expanding. In one meta-analysis involving more than 1,600 patients with metabolic syndrome, those taking curcumin experienced a significant reduction in BMI, weight, waist circumfernece, and leptin levels. They also had a significant increase in adiponectin levels. This increase helps regulate blood sugar levels and insulin metabolism. But be aware that turmeric itself won’t provide meaningful amounts of curcumin. What’s more, standardized curcumin supplements are typically poorly absorbed and quickly metabolized. Instead, choose an enhanced absorption curcumin extract that’s blended with turmeric essential oil containing ar-turmerone complex, which studies show provides seven times better absorption than standardized extracts.
Polyphenols are a family of nutrients consisting of more than 8,000 beneficial compounds found in colorful fruits and vegetables, as well as herbs, bee products, dark chocolate, red wine, and one of the world’s favorite beverages, tea. Polyphenols act as antioxidants when consumed, meaning they can neutralize harmful free radicals that damage your cells and contribute to metabolic issues. They also boast powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Studies show that polyphenols help stimulate insulin secretion, increase insulin sensitivity, and lower blood sugar levels. In one study, people who ate the highest amounts of polyphenol-rich foods had a 57 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared with those eating the lowest amounts. The problem is, most Americans aren’t eating enough polyphenol-rich foods on a daily basis. Fortunately, a high-quality polyphenol supplement can provide a consistant dose of these critical nutrients. Look for a supplement with a synergistic blend of at least 250 mg of high-quality polyphenols, including curcumin, propolis, French grape seed extract, apple, and green tea.
When looking to improve cellular function, reduce inflammation, and promote metabolic health, making sure you are getting enough omega-3s is part of the equation. Omega-3s are vital for optimizing metabolic health, especially docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). These healthful fats offer protection against cardiovascular disease by improving glucose metabolism and insulin signaling. They also help prevent plaque buildup in the arteries. Because chronic low-grade inflammation is found in people with metabolic syndrome, omega-3s can be part of the arsenal to fight the battle. It’s ideal to eat wild-caught seafood sourced from clean water a few times a week. But that’s a difficult task for many people, making an omega-3 supplement the best solution. Just be aware that many fish and krill oils can be low in quality and prone to rancidity. Instead, seek out a supplement that delivers omega-3s sourced from Atlantic salmon and combined with phospholipids for better absorption, as well as peptides, which researchers have found reduces oxidative damage.
Often called the “sunshine vitamin,” researchers have linked low D levels with the development of metabolic syndrome. This is likely because vitamin D affects both insulin secretion and sensitivity, as well as blood sugar, cholesterol levels, and body weight. Studies show that people suffering from a vitamin D deficiency are more likely to be overweight and have elevated blood sugar, as well as high total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides—all markers of metabolic syndrome. And since an estimated 42 percent of Americans have low levels, this deficiency is proving to be an emerging health crisis. Why do so many people have such concerning levels? People are spending more time indoors, greatly limiting their sun exposure. When they do go outside, they often slather on the sunscreen, which further blocks exposure. Some drugs can also contribute to a deficiency. These include laxatives, steroids, some cholesterol-lowering drugs, and seizure medications. One often overlooked cause is age. Surveys show that 50 percent of individuals aged 18 to 60 years and 87 percent of those aged 65 and older are low in this critical nutrient. The good news? Numerous studies show that supplementing with vitamin D not only protects against metabolic disease but also improves the health of people with the condition. But to effectively raise blood levels, it’s important that you’re taking vitamin D3, which is the active form of the nutrient. To make sure you’re getting enough supplemental D, ask your doctor to test your levels. Levels of 50 nmol/L (20 ng/mL) or above are adequate for most people for bone and overall health.