vegetarian diets help prevent and treat metabolic syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a growing problem. It is now believed to affect an incredible 25% of all adults in the world. It is heavily affected by diet, so a dietary solution would be really desirable.


Metabolic syndrome is diagnosed if three of the five following conditions are present: abdominal obesity, elevated triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol, high blood pressure or elevated blood glucose.  A slightly different definition requires three of abdominal obesity, dyslipidemia, high blood pressure, insulin resistance and a proinflammatory state. All of these risk factors are known to benefit from a vegetarian diet, which has also been shown to help prevent metabolic syndrome.

A just published review of the research set out to see if adopting a vegetarian diet could be an important part of staving off the growing problem of metabolic syndrome. If it could, then that would be huge because metabolic syndrome is a strong contributor to heart disease and diabetes.

Looking at the individual risk factors for metabolic syndrome, the review found that vegan and vegetarian diets are more effective for weight loss that non-vegetarian diets. Vegetarian diets also improve blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity. They lower waist circumference, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol and blood pressure. Vegetarian diets are also powerfully anti-inflammatory.

So, can switching to a vegetarian diet prevent or treat metabolic syndrome? They can. Vegetarian diets are associated with significantly lower risk of having metabolic syndrome when compared to non-vegetarian diets. They have also specifically been shown to reduce incidence of metabolic syndrome in postmenopausal women.

The authors of the review say that vegetarian diets can decrease the prevalence of metabolic syndrome and suggest that people with metabolic syndrome consider switching to a vegetarian diet.

In previous blogs, we have discussed several other ways of naturally addressing metabolic syndrome, including drinking coffee and tea, getting lots of calcium and magnesium in your diet, eating avocado and nuts and supplementing Ginkgo biloba, pine bark extract, a red yeast rice/olive leaf extract combination, and flaxseed.

Porto Biomed J 2020 Nov-Dec; 5(6): e098

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