Metabolic syndrome is a constellation of serious health disturbances, including hyperglycemia, dyslipidemia, hypertension, and abdominal obesity, that significantly increases one’s risk of cardiovascular disease and death. According to recent research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, a shocking 35 percent of all U.S. adults and 50 percent of adults 60 years of age and older have metabolic syndrome. (1) Alarmingly, the rising trend of metabolic syndrome shows no sign of slowing down. This condition, therefore, poses a serious threat to the health of millions of Americans.
To prevent the adverse cardiovascular health outcomes and increased risk of mortality associated with metabolic syndrome, prompt treatment is imperative. Unfortunately, the pharmaceutical-based approach to treating metabolic syndrome leaves much to be desired. Commonly-prescribed drugs for metabolic syndrome, such as cholesterol-lowering statins, blood pressure drugs, and Metformin, are associated with significant adverse health effects and do nothing to resolve the root causes of metabolic syndrome. Novel treatment options that address the underlying causes of metabolic syndrome are sorely needed. Fortunately, a growing body of research indicates that two natural compounds, curcumin and fish oil, address an important underlying cause of metabolic syndrome, without causing the adverse effects associated with pharmaceutical treatment options.
Chronic inflammation: A key underlying cause of metabolic syndrome
Research indicates that chronic inflammation is a significant underlying cause of metabolic syndrome. (2) Chronic inflammation occurs when the body’s natural healing process of inflammation continues long after the original immune response was first needed, ultimately harming the body rather than helping it. Factors that may incite chronic inflammation include pathogens, an unhealthy diet, and a lack of exercise.
Pro-inflammatory cytokines are immune system molecules that mediate the effects of chronic inflammation. When their levels are inappropriately elevated, these cytokines provoke a variety of physiological responses that promote metabolic syndrome, including hyperglycemia and increased cholesterol and triglyceride synthesis. Thus, in order to help those with metabolic syndrome, it is crucial that chronic inflammation be brought under control. Pharmaceutical drugs are not very effective at achieving this goal. Curcumin and fish oil, on the other hand, are excellent anti-inflammatories and antioxidants that can help correct the chronic inflammation that underlies metabolic syndrome.
Curcumin: A “gold-standard” herb for metabolic syndrome
While turmeric and curcumin, a bright-yellow polyphenol found in turmeric, have only recently become popular in the Western world, they have an extensive history of use in both Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine. In fact, these ancient healing disciplines used the turmeric plant, Curcuma longa, as a treatment for hyperglycemia and overweight, both of which are important characteristics of metabolic syndrome. Modern-day scientific research supports these ancient applications of turmeric as a supportive option for metabolic syndrome. Curcumin supplementation lowers levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which incite the chronic inflammation that causes hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia, and insulin resistance. (3) Curcumin also increases HDL cholesterol and reduces hyperlipidemia, an inflammation-driven process that raises LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, in patients with metabolic syndrome. (4)(3) Finally, curcumin increases adiponectin and decreases leptin in MS patients; these two hormones are tightly regulated by inflammatory mediators and affect glucose levels, fatty acid breakdown, and energy balance within the body. Alterations in the levels of these hormones, which can be precipitated by chronic inflammation, may lead to metabolic syndrome (5) Based on this evidence, bright-yellow curcumin clearly should be considered a “gold-standard” herb for those with metabolic syndrome!
Curcumin improves symptoms of metabolic syndrome by reducing inflammation
There are a handful of anti-inflammatory mechanisms by which curcumin stabilizes blood sugar, lowers cholesterol and triglycerides, and enhances insulin sensitivity, ultimately improving features of metabolic syndrome.
- Curcumin blocks the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in pancreatic beta cells. ROS are unstable molecules that cause damage to DNA, RNA, and proteins, and may cause cell death. The insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas are a target of ROS, and damage to these cells reduces insulin secretion and impairs blood sugar control. By inhibiting ROS activity, curcumin prevents hyperglycemia. (6) Curcumin also directly stimulates pancreatic beta cells. This increases insulin secretion and promotes glucose utilization by cells of the body. (7)
- Curcumin decreases levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokines interleukin-6, monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1), and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha). Elevated levels of these cytokines are associated with insulin resistance. (8)(9)
- Curcumin inhibits the nuclear factor-kappa B pathway, a proinflammatory biochemical pathway that alters the structure of insulin receptors and impairs insulin signaling. (10)
- Curcumin reduces levels of plasma free fatty acids, which promote inflammation and impair the activity of insulin. (11)
- Curcumin activates peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma (PPAR-gamma), a receptor on the nuclei of cells that is involved in inflammation and regulates glucose and fatty acid metabolism. Activation of this receptor reduces inflammation, lowers blood glucose levels, and inhibits the synthesis and release of triglycerides from the liver. (12)
This research indicates that curcumin is a powerful anti-inflammatory intervention with many potential health benefits for those with metabolic syndrome. By resolving chronic inflammation, curcumin tackles the root cause of metabolic syndrome, an effect that has yet to be replicated in any synthetic pharmaceutical drug!
Fish oil: Liquid gold for metabolic syndrome
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Fish oil has long been lauded for its many health benefits, including its effects on brain health and the immune system. Excitingly, emerging research indicates that fish oil provides valuable support for people with metabolic syndrome. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish oil, are powerful natural anti-inflammatories. In fact, these anti-inflammatory effects may be responsible for the array of beneficial effects fish oil supplementation has on markers of metabolic syndrome, including decreased waist circumference, reduced blood pressure, and triglycerides, and improved glucose tolerance. (13)(14)
Mechanisms of action of fish oil
Like curcumin, omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil improves markers of metabolic syndrome through a variety of anti-inflammatory mechanisms. Furthermore, omega-3 fatty acids also promote vasodilation and improve the integrity of cell membranes.
- Like curcumin, omega-3 fatty acids activate PPAR-gamma. This reduces inflammation, stimulates fatty acid oxidation, and inhibits the production and release of triglycerides from the liver. (15)
- Omega-3 fatty acids modulate inflammatory signalling pathways and reduce levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokines tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), interleukin (IL)-1β, and interleukin-6 (IL-6). When elevated, these cytokines raise blood glucose and promote insulin resistance, high cholesterol, and high triglycerides. (16)(17)
- Omega-3 fatty acids lower blood pressure by reducing levels of pro-inflammatory prostaglandins, lipid compounds that have hormonal effects and promote thrombosis (blood coagulation in blood vessels).
- Omega-3 fatty acid also lower blood pressure by inhibiting the binding of angiotensin, a peptide hormone with vasoconstricting effects, to its receptors. This results in vasodilation of blood vessels and a reduction in blood pressure. (18)
- A higher circulating level of omega-3 fatty acids improves the fluidity of cell membranes, enhancing the activity of glucose transporters on the surfaces of cells. This means that cells are more readily able to take up glucose from the bloodstream, thus lowering blood glucose and improving insulin sensitivity. (19)
The research is clear: Fish oil is a powerful natural intervention for improving blood sugar control, insulin sensitivity, vascular health, and blood lipid levels. The broad array of anti-inflammatory benefits offered by omega-3 fatty acids, and the lack of side effects typically associated with pharmaceutical drugs, make this supplement a “liquid gold” nutritional intervention for metabolic syndrome!
The synergy of curcumin and fish oil
Curcumin and fish oil can be helpful allies in your health journey, and fortunately, ProHealth has a supplement, Optimized Curcumin with Omega-3, that combines these two powerful ingredients into one synergistic product.
Optimized Curcumin with Omega-3 delivers a combination of Longvida curcumin and high-quality fish oil in a convenient softgel form. Compared to standard curcumin, Longvida increases the amount of curcumin absorbed 95-fold. Longvida curcumin has also demonstrated a superior ability to decrease inflammatory markers, many of which play important roles in metabolic syndrome. The omega-3 fatty acids in Optimized Curcumin with Omega-3 are also superior in quality compared to many other fish oils on the market; they are derived from sustainably-caught wild pollock and exceed the industry standard for markers of purity and freshness. Together, these two ingredients deliver the amazing therapeutic benefits of curcumin and fish oil in one high-quality product.
If you or a loved one is struggling with metabolic syndrome, it is crucial that you realize this condition is not a life sentence! By resolving the chronic inflammation that underlies metabolic syndrome using natural compounds such as curcumin and fish oil, it is entirely possible to achieve optimal health!
* Lindsay Christensen is a health writer and researcher with her B.S. in Biomedical Science and an Emphasis in Nutrition. She is currently pursuing her M.S. in Human Nutrition, with the intention of becoming a Clinical Nutritionist. Lindsay’s passion for natural health and wellness has been driven by her own experience in recovering from a serious chronic illness. She blogs about chronic illness recovery and her nature-inspired approach to nutrition and healthy living on her website, Ascent to Health.
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- Panahi Y, Hosseini MS, Khalili N, et al. Effects of curcumin on serum cytokine concentrations in subjects with metabolic syndrome: A post-hoc analysis of a randomized controlled trial. Biomed Pharmacother. 2016; 82: 578-582. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27470399. Accessed December 23, 2017.
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