In episode 111 of his video series, Dr. Larson discusses:

Metabolic syndrome is a set of certain clinical signs that you have a risk factor for developing cardiovascular diseases like heart disease and stroke. The signs of metabolic syndrome are high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high triglyceride levels, low HDL levels, and a high waist circumference leading to increased belly fat. All you have to have is three out of the five signs of metabolic syndrome to significantly increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, which is the number one killer in the US. So it is very important to know if you fall into this category. And if you do, you are in a significant subset of the population. Currently, there is a one in three chance that you have metabolic syndrome, right now, not in the future. And it is also likely that either you, or one of your family members, has the symptoms of it.

Although the medical community has identified the risk factors for metabolic syndrome, it hasn’t been understood how to manage it just yet. There is still the question as to what is the driving factor? What has been assumed is that obesity is the driving factor. When a person is obese, they have a higher chance of having the five clinical signs. But is it just obesity and body weight that pose a significant risk of cardiovascular disease? As a clinician, I provide a treatment protocol to target body weight and insulin resistance. But researchers like to drill down to the individual factors to find the key driving factor.

There is an interesting study that sought to unpack the entire process of metabolic syndrome. The study was published a week ago in the Journal of Clinical Investigations, out of the Ohio State University. Researchers took adults who were obese and had metabolic syndrome, and evaluated their metrics, the components of metabolic syndrome, and body fat components using MRI and scans both before and after the study period.

Specifically, they wanted to look at three different diets, a high carb, low-fat diet, a medium carb, and a high carb diet. They wanted to manipulate the carbohydrate consumption of the subjects to see how it changes the risk factors of metabolic syndrome. All the subjects went through all three of the diets. And in between, they had a “wash out” period. Then the participants were reevaluated and their metrics were measured to determine the changes from one diet to another.

What the researchers were looking at is if weight loss was a contributing factor or not. They wanted to construct a diet, so there was no weight loss in any of the subjects. They made sure that the subjects maintained weight throughout the entire study. Throughout the various diets, researchers carefully increased macronutrients to ensure that the body weight of the subjects did not vary regardless of what diet they were studying. So even in a low carbohydrate diet, they increased the calories so that no one lost any weight.


The study was designed to look at the concept of what is driving metabolic syndrome. Three groups: high, medium, and low carb diets were used to test the researchers’ hypothesis that as processed carbohydrate consumption goes up, insulin goes up, and body fat goes up. And at the same time, while the insulin goes up, it blocks lipolysis or fat burning, and it blocks fatty acid oxidation, which is the utilization of fat as fuel. Insulin is the gatekeeper in fuel partitioning. Therefore, the researchers wanted to target just carbohydrate consumption and metabolic syndrome. What they found was that the subjects had the greatest degree of metabolic change in the low carb, high-fat diet.



The subjects were consuming two and a half times more saturated fat, but their triglycerides went down, and their degree of fat in the plasma went down too. They had less saturated fat floating around in their system. So the low carb, high-fat diet had the greatest amount of effect on metabolic syndrome and the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. The researchers in this study proved that insulin is triggered mostly by carbs. So if you drop carbs, insulin goes down, and the fat burning hormones get turned on. When they do turn on, the body becomes more efficient at using fat for fuel, even though they consumed significantly more fat. They stuck to their researcher parameters by making sure that no one lost weight because they wanted to see how the metabolic factors would be affected and to see if it was weight loss that caused metabolic change or something different. What they found was that insulin is the key to fat burning and metabolic change. And ultimately, that carbs are a risk factor for metabolic disease.

The take home is that eating a low carb high-fat diet decreases your risk factor of metabolic syndrome and therefore, lowers your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.


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