Well this is not the first and definitely not the last article that I will be writing about alcohol.
By now most of you know my stance where alcohol and optimal health are concerned and that is the fact that you cannot have one along with the other.
In the latest study from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, excess drinking has been linked to people developing metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome may seem like some rare disease or condition to some, but it is quickly becoming the next disease that is taking over the world in epidemic proportions.
Hence in this article I will first explain a little about what metabolic syndrome is and then the results of the study and finally share with you some tips on how you can prevent this condition.
What is Metabolic Syndrome?
Metabolic syndrome (MS) is a clustering of some cardiovascular risk factors, including hypertriglyceridemia (high cholesterol), obesity, insulin resistance, glucose intolerance and hypertension (high blood pressure). MS patients are at a risk of serious cardiovascular problems and earlier mortality.
The seriousness associated with this condition and why it leads many people to die much earlier than they need to, is the fact that obesity on its own cuts down one’s life span. The same can be said for high blood pressure, diabetes and the rest of the above named symptoms. Hence one can imagine the seriousness of this condition when you subject your body to more than one of these critical problems.
While it is still a new term to get used to for many people, metabolic syndrome is quickly becoming as widespread as the common cold, especially in the Western World. However, one can see that metabolic syndrome is nothing more than a name given to a new condition where the subject exhibits several of the above ailments which are very popular in various combinations today.
The condition itself was only identified some 20 years ago and has since been on a drastic rise throughout the developed countries. According to 2002 statistics from the American Heart Association, 47 million Americans have it. That’s a staggering one out of every six people. However, current statistics estimate that between 20 – 25% of the American population suffers from this syndrome which makes one out of every 4 or 5 people suffer from it.
These statistics are not hard to imagine as 1 out of every 4 of 5 people does suffer from various combinations of obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure for example, today.
According to a new study, which will be published in the October issue of The Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM), those who drink in excess of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines (i.e., men who usually drink more than two drinks per day or women who usually drink more than one drink per day) or those who binge drink are at increased risk for the metabolic syndrome.
Lead author of the study, Amy Fan, M.D., Ph.D., of the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in Atlanta, Ga., states:
These findings are significant because the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey shows 58 % of all current drinkers in the United States reported usual alcohol consumption that exceeded the Dietary Guidelines, and 52 % of all current drinkers reported at least one episode of binge drinking in the past year. Most people who consume alcohol in the United States drink in ways that may increase their risk of the metabolic syndrome and related conditions.
For this study, Dr. Fan and other researchers evaluated data from 1,529 participants of the 1999-2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They restricted their analysis to current drinkers (participants who consumed at least 12 alcoholic drinks in 12 months) aged 20 to 84 years. The survey included both an interview and a physical examination that included a blood test. Measures of alcohol consumption included usual quantity consumed, drinking frequency, and frequency of binge drinking.
Dr. Fan also stated,
Since more than half of current drinkers in our study drank in excess of the Dietary Guidelines limits and reported binge drinking, prevention efforts should focus on reducing alcohol consumption to safer levels. Unfortunately, few physicians screen their patients about alcohol use or are knowledgeable about guidelines that define low-risk or moderate drinking.
Dr. Fan went on to say that public health messages should emphasize the potential cardiometabolic risk associated with drinking in excess of national guidelines and binge drinking.
Tips for Reducing Risk of Metabolic Syndrome
I find this study and these results quite sad because here is another condition that our society had to “make-up” in order to keep up with our deteriorating health conditions.
I do not think that it is hard to see that this condition is 100% preventable and it is even more disheartening to learn that almost a quarter of the US population is suffering from it unnecessarily.
So here are a few tips to reduce your risk and help prevent metabolic syndrome:
1. Keep a healthy weight
Although the BMI is not a reliable method of healthy weight measurement for athlete’s and pregnant women, for most other people it is capable of giving a quick, general reference of whether the person is underweight, normal, overweight or obese. It can also be extremely helpful as many overweight people do not realize they are obese, which automatically puts them in a greater health risk category. For a quick BMI measuring tool click here.
2. Avoid drinking alcohol
Again for optimal health one has to understand that alcohol should be avoided completely. For average health the occasional drink is fine. However, heavy drinking (anything over 2 drinks per day for men and 1 for women) and binge drinking should be avoided at all costs if one wants to avoid serious health problems.
3. Avoid refined sugars
Any foods high in sugar, which today almost all processed products are, can lead to insulin resistance, glucose intolerance and type II diabetes. The biggest culprits in today’s diet are soda products, chocolate bars, cookies, cakes, ice-cream, refined cereals, etc.
4. Avoid high salt (sodium) foods
Almost all processed products today also have higher salt (sodium) levels than are acceptable for having and maintaining a healthy blood pressure. Hence, this ingredient is highly responsible for a lot of the population’s high blood pressure problems. High blood pressure in turn puts a great strain on one’s heart which usually develops into cardiovascular disease.
5. Avoid foods high in saturated and trans fat
Eating a diet high in saturated and/or trans fat not only leads to a risk of obesity but can also contribute to blocked arteries and high cholesterol. These problems on their own and especially together contribute to cardiovascular disease.
6. Exercise regularly
The benefits of exercise are undisputable when it comes to reducing risks of various diseases as well as to maintaining good health. Exercise is especially important to preventing metabolic syndrome as it helps to maintain a proper weight as well as increasing the good cholesterol, decreasing high blood pressure and keeping an overall healthy heart.
7. Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables help to promote overall good health. Vegetables especially help to regulate healthy blood sugar, are a great source of fiber and together with fruits contain numerous compounds that ensure proper cell division and biochemical regulation.
8. Eat whole, unprocessed grains
Whole, unprocessed grains help to regulate healthy blood sugar levels and directly help to decrease metabolic syndrome. Examples include freshly baked whole wheat breads, unprocessed brown rice, quinoa, steel cut oats and other ancient grains.
The effects of alcohol, although masked through society, are widely known medically and metabolic syndrome is just another negative consequence that alcohol can lead to where our health is concerned.
The study conducted from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey that will be published in JCEM, is just one more piece of proof that alcohol, especially in regular and/or high doses, is not conducive to our health and hence should be avoided.
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