Obesity Effects Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that, when concurrent, greatly increase the risk of coronary heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Central or abdominal obesity is a possible sign of metabolic syndrome. According to the American Heart Association (2010), over 50 million Americans exhibit metabolic syndrome symptoms.

Definition of Metabolic Syndrome

In order for metabolic syndrome (also called Syndrome X and Obesity Syndrome) to occur, a person must have three or more of the following:

  • Abdominal obesity, also called central obesity or “belly fat” (an increased waist circumference resulting in an “apple” shape)
  • High levels of triglycerides (a type of blood fat)
  • Hypertension, or high blood pressure readings of more than 120/80 mm Hg
  • Insulin resistance (An impaired ability to use insulin, the hormone that transports blood sugar into cells for energy. Insulin resistance increases the risk of Type 2 diabetes.)
  • Low levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. (HDL, or “good” cholesterol, lowers the risk of heart disease.)

Each of these conditions alone raises the risk of heart disease or diabetes. The presence of three of more of these conditions, however, greatly increases the risk of serious health complications.

Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity - Effects of Obesity

Metabolic Syndrome Symptoms

Unfortunately, most of the conditions that make up Syndrome X are asymptomatic, meaning they produce no observable symptoms without medical tests. Among metabolic syndrome symptoms, central obesity is the only noticeable one.

If you have one of these conditions, consult with your doctor, since each condition increases risk of the others. Central obesity and insulin resistance seem to be especially important risk factors for metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic Syndrome Risk Factors

A person’s risk of metabolic syndrome increases with age. Up to 40 percent of people over the age of 60 have metabolic syndrome, as reported by the Mayo Clinic (2009). Ethnicity also plays a role: Asians and Hispanics have higher risk of metabolic syndrome than other ethnicities.

A family history or personal history of the following conditions may also increase your risk of Syndrome X:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome.

Central obesity is a risk for metabolic syndrome, which is highest in men with a waist circumference in excess of 40 inches, and women with waist circumferences of more than 35 inches.

Treating Syndrome X

Lifestyle changes are the primary treatment for metabolic syndrome. Recommended lifestyle changes include:

  • Adopting eating habits that emphasize lean meats, fruit, vegetables and whole grains, while limiting fat and cholesterol.
  • Getting at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days.
  • Losing weight to reduce BMI scores to less than 25 and reduce abdominal obesity.

Medication may be necessary to control high blood pressure or cholesterol levels. Lifestyle changes are, however, the best way to eliminate metabolic syndrome symptoms.


American Heart Association. (2010). Metabolic syndrome. Retrieved June 8, 2010, from http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4756.

Mayo Clinic. (2009). Metabolic syndrome. Retrieved June 8, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/metabolic syndrome/DS00522.

National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. (2010). Metabolic syndrome. Retrieved June 8, 2010, from http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/ms/ms_whatis.html.