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Inflammation, Insulin Resistance and Metabolic Syndrome


The medical profession is still debating and exploring the precise role of inflammation in reversible Metabolic Syndrome, also known as Syndrome X.

But the latest signs are that inflammation could be a crucial factor in the onset of this cluster of increased risk factors for cardiovascular disease, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Both sexes are vulnerable to Metabolic Syndrome.

Inflammation is part of the body's immune system, which triggers a defense response to harmful stimuli. The body reacts to injury by sending specialized blood cells to damaged areas where they attack "invaders" like the renegade molecules called "free radicals" and clean up dead and dying cells.

Glucose Monitor InsuliteIn the case of inflammation and Metabolic Syndrome, the "invader" is thought to be excess levels of insulin, which can be caused by the imbalance of blood glucose and insulin levels called Insulin Resistance. This latter condition impairs the vital conversion of glucose into energy via the cell walls by reducing insulin sensitvity.

Inflammation can take an external form like the reddened, tender skin which draws attention to a splinter in your finger. Or it can be an unseen, internal process in response to something harmful like high blood pressure (hypertension) or elevated levels of LDL "bad" cholesterol and blood fats called triglycerides.

To combat internal harm, inflammation produces C-reactive protein (CRP), which, unfortunately, can damage the arteries by helping to form plaque while attempting to tackle a long-term condition like high blood pressure.

Plaque is a substance that attaches itself to artery walls, damaging those walls and seriously impairing blood flow, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. A blood test measures CRP levels and the higher that level is, the more at risk you are from cardiovascular disease. There's contradictory evidence, however, about whether CRP levels and Insulin Resistance are closely linked.

Research about inflammation is often cutting edge material that still needs ample verification. But scientists are gathering data that inflammation precedes and predicts Metabolic Syndrome. Previous research had already linked inflammation to heart disease and obesity.

Metabolic Syndrome is also closely associated with Insulin Resistance. Normally, insulin guides glucose, the body's basic fuel, from the bloodstream into cells. But unbalanced insulin levels, caused by Insulin Resistance, lead to unhealthily high concentrations of unused sugar remaining in the bloodstream, which sends the sugar to the liver.

Once there, the sugar is converted into fat, which increases the risk of excess weight gain. Putting on too much weight, in turn, places strain on the heart and raises the risk of a variety of serious disorders, ranging from Metabolic Syndrome, certain cancers and Pre- and Type 2 Diabetes to Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) - a leading cause of menstrual irregularity, infertility, skin conditions, fatigue, mood swings and excess facial and body hair in females.

While the exact link between inflammation and Metabolic Syndrome is still uncertain, it's likely to become much clearer in the near future.

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Insulin Resistance Articles
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"Researchers agree that insulin resistance is central to the metabolic syndrome. When target cells are unresponsive to insulin, the pancreas responds by pouring even more insulin into the bloodstream, leading to high levels of the hormone in the blood, a condition called compensatory hyperinsulinemia. The high level of insulin in the blood forces glucose into cells but also starts the events leading to arterial damage and eventually a heart attack. Under these conditions, a person may not manifest either diabetes or heart disease but could well be on the way to either or both."
A. MAUREEN ROUHI, Chemical and Engineering News. November 22, 2004.Vol. 82, No.47  
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Diabetes Prevention Program study 2001, study funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, et al.
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"A non-pharmacologic treatment for these patients is needed, since drugs prescribed to lower blood pressure have been shown to actually worsen carbohydrate and lipid metabolism in Syndrome X patients, negating the beneficial effects of those drugs."
Duke University Study, results published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, September 2003.
Article by Dr. Sheri Colberg, Phd, FACSM
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PR
  Bakersfield, CA
"...approximately 90% of overweight Hispanic children with a family history for type 2 diabetes have at least one feature of the metabolic syndrome and 30% possess the metabolic syndrome.

Our results support the view that improving insulin resistance may be crucial in the prevention of both type 2 diabetes and premature cardiovascular disease in this at-risk subpopulation of Hispanic youth."
Cruz ML, Weigensberg MJ, Huang TT, Ball G, Shaibi GQ, Goran MI.,J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2004 Jan;89(1):108-13.
"To gain the most benefit from modifying multiple metabolic risk factors, the underlying insulin-resistant state must become a target of therapy."
Bogdanovic, Streten and Langlans, Beata, "Metabolic Syndrome: New Opportunities in Diagnostics and Therapeutics", DMD Publications, 2004.  
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