Twice-monthly health columns are by a practicing cardiologist, clinical professor at Wayne State University School of Medicine and founder of the Kahn Center for Cardiac Longevity in Bingham Farms. He's an author and has appeared on national TV, including "Dr. Oz" and "The Doctors Show."
By Dr. Joel Kahn
Avoiding fast foods, soda pop and processed foods can help prevent a condition called metabolic syndrome, or MetS for short.
Diet changes often are far more powerful for preventing disease than the treatments we get when problems such as obesity, diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes are fully developed. The old saying is true: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
A syndrome means we diagnose a condition by a constellation of findings without a single definitive test. These are factors for MetS:
- Abdominal obesity
- Low HDL cholesterol
- High triglycerides
- Elevated fasting blood levels of glucose
- Elevated blood pressures
This syndrome is present in an estimated 30 percent of the U.S. population. and probably more than that among Detroiters.
Those with MetS have a fivefold increase in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM2) and twice the risk for heart disease over five to ten years. While there are obese individuals who don't show MetS, the diagnosis has become more common with a rise in the percentage of people worldwide who are overweight or obese.
How to avoid the syndrome
Eating more homemade meals emphasizing fruits, vegetables, beans, peas, lentils and whole grains is an important step. Drinking water instead of soda and energy drinks is a key change to start today.
Another consideration is to eat only within a 10-hour window (such as 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.) -- often called time-restricted eating (TRE).
In a 2019 study of participants with Metabolic Syndrome, a 10-hour eating program was introduced for 12 weeks. It was found that TRE improved health for MetS patients receiving standard medical care, as illustrated below. TRE is a potentially powerful lifestyle intervention that can be added to standard medical practice to treat metabolic syndrome.
The most searched-for diet question on Google in 2019 was "intermittent fasting." While a 10- hour eating window is technically TRE and not fasting (14 hours is not long enough to be considered fasting), it's consistent with the general concept that "less is more" when it comes to calories, avoiding disease and promoting health.
As the study authors wrote in the journal Cell Metabolism: "TRE led to weight loss, healthier body composition (including decreased waist circumference), lower blood pressure and levels of cardiovascular disease-promoting lipids (i.e., "bad cholesterol" levels) and more restful sleep. TRE could be an effective dietary intervention to help those with metabolic syndrome."
Try eating in a 10-hour window for the next three months and see if you enjoy improved health like the study participants.