A bad apple?
Having a certain body type can affect your risk for heart disease. A “pear” shape, where fat tends to concentrate around the buttocks and thighs, is associated with a lower risk, whereas an “apple” shape, where much of the fat lies in the middle of the body, boosts heart disease risk.
Metabolic syndrome is defined as having three of more of the following:
- High blood pressure—Equal to or higher than 130/85 mm Hg.
- Abdominal obesity—For men, this means having a waist size of 40 inches or more; for women, it’s a waist size of 35 inches or more.
- Elevated blood sugar—Fasting blood sugar levels of 100 mg/dL or higher.
- Altered blood fats—Triglycerides greater than 150 mg/dL, and HDL (“good”) cholesterol less than 50 mg/dL in women and less than 40 mg/dL in men.
Metabolic syndrome is a forerunner to other chronic diseases, including stroke and type 2 diabetes.
More D means less metabolic syndrome
Researchers from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis evaluated information from 4,727 men and women who took part of the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study to look for a connection between vitamin D intake and the development of metabolic syndrome over a 20-year period.
The people gave detailed information about their diets, including how much vitamin D they consumed from food and supplements. The researchers recorded the number of people who developed metabolic syndrome, as well as any of the components of the condition, including high blood pressure, abdominal obesity, high blood sugar, high triglycerides, and low HDL cholesterol.
- Almost 19% of the people developed metabolic syndrome over the 20-year period.
- Compared with people with the lowest vitamin D intake, those with the highest intake were 18% less likely to develop metabolic syndrome.
- People with the highest vitamin D intake were significantly less likely to have high blood sugar, abdominal obesity, and low HDL cholesterol.
Most of the vitamin D in the participants’ diets came from milk, fish, and other seafood.
“Total vitamin D consumption, including the intake of supplements, may lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome as [people] transition to middle age,” the authors concluded. “Our study findings contribute to the body of literature that shows a beneficial relation of serum or dietary vitamin D with chronic disease and suggest that vitamin D intake may be a potential strategy to prevent the development of cardiovascular disease risk factors.”
What else can you do?
Beyond increasing your vitamin D intake, here are some key strategies to warding off metabolic syndrome and its consequences:
- Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight is one of the biggest risk factors for developing metabolic syndrome. Losing even a few pounds can help lower your risk.
- Get moving. Not only will exercise help you shed those extra pounds and lower blood pressure, it also helps improve insulin sensitivity, directly lowering your risk for metabolic syndrome.
- Eat right. Make every calorie count by focusing on vitamin- and fiber-rich foods like whole grains, legumes, and fresh vegetables. These foods can help lower blood pressure, assist in weight loss, and stabilize your blood sugar.
(Am J Clin Nutr 2012;96:24–9)