Novel Botanical Inhibits This Modern Day Threat to Heart Health
By Chris D. Meletis, ND
Metabolic syndrome is something individuals often read about but aren’t sure how it is applicable to their own lives. However, metabolic syndrome is a very real threat to anyone who succumbs to the pressures of job stress, the temptation of refined carbs and sugar, and the reluctance to exercise when busy schedules demand too much time.
In essence, the metabolic syndrome can “sneak up on” people as they go about tending to the demands of modern life. Letting metabolic syndrome gain an upper hand can have disastrous consequences since people with the metabolic syndrome are at twice the risk of developing cardiovascular disease compared with those who don’t have the syndrome and experience a five-fold increased risk of type 2 diabetes.1
Metabolic syndrome is defined as a cluster of metabolic abnormalities found to be associated with a risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and cardiovascular mortality greater than the risk of its individual components.2
This clustering of metabolic abnormalities can vary slightly depending upon which report is used to describe the syndrome. The World Health Organization, the European Group for the Study of Insulin Resistance, and the American College of Endocrinology all have named similar but slightly different components.
However, taking a composite of each of these definitions, the main components of metabolic syndrome are generally classified as elevated triglycerides, reduced HDL cholesterol, hypertension, and high blood sugar. Many individuals who have metabolic syndrome have insulin resistance, which predisposes them to pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes. Obesity in general and physical inactivity are known to cause the syndrome, but it takes a second set of factors to trigger its accelerated onset the vast majority of the time. Top among this second set of factors is visceral fat.
As we reported in the last newsletter, abdominal fat is actually comprised of two metabolically distinct fat compartments. The fat that accumulates under the skin is called subcutaneous fat and is relatively benign. However, the dense visceral fat found deep in the abdomen, surrounding the intra-abdominal organs, is the type of fat linked most strongly with the metabolic syndrome as well as heightened cancer risk.
The prevalence of metabolic syndrome is alarmingly high to the point where one group of researchers called it a “pandemic.” Approximately one-third of the U.S. population suffers from each of the risk factors for metabolic syndrome.
Furthermore, the prevalence of metabolic syndrome in the U.S. increased from 50 million Americans in 1990 to 64 million in 2000. This increase is thought to be due in part to an increase in obesity. From 1988 to 1994, the prevalence of obesity was 22.5 percent, but by 1999 to 2000 it had increased to 30.5 percent.
Furthermore, the prevalence of the metabolic syndrome rises with the aging of the population due largely to age-related rises in blood pressure and glucose.1
Even more alarming is the increase in metabolic syndrome among children and adolescents. This is due to the increase in obesity in this age group with about 16 percent of female children and teenagers in the U.S. and 18 percent of young males classified as overweight.1
Setting the Stage for a Deadly Condition
The metabolic syndrome originates within the human body long before the various components manifest themselves. Lifestyle factors can set the stage for the metabolic dysfunction and accumulation of visceral fat that leads to the syndrome. Work stress has been significantly correlated with the metabolic syndrome and heart disease. When researchers studied 10,308 London-based male and female civil servants ages 35-55, chronic work stress was associated with coronary heart disease and with the development of metabolic syndrome and its components. There was also an association between work stress and factors related to the development of the metabolic syndrome including low physical activity and poor diet. Around 32 percent of the effect of work stress on coronary heart disease was attributable to its effect on health behaviors and the metabolic syndrome.3
Visceral Fat and Metabolic Abnormalities
The theories on what definitively causes metabolic syndrome have evolved over the years. In 1998, the WHO task force on diabetes named insulin resistance as the predominant cause, resulting in the syndrome being given the alternate name of insulin resistance syndrome. However, evidence has begun to accumulate that visceral fat plays a critical role in the development. The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) has now replaced insulin resistance with increased waist circumference (abdominal obesity) as the diagnostic criteria.
In fact, visceral obesity and obesity in general are considered contributory factors in the development of insulin resistance, creating a viscous cycle that begins with increased stress and cravings, leading to consumption of poor food choices and reduced physical activity, which leads to the accumulation of visceral fat and consequently the development of insulin resistance and the metabolic syndrome.
Fat tissue secretes several inflammatory and immune mediators known as adipokines. When abdominal fat accumulates and adipokine secretion is increased, it predisposes individuals to the dangerous consequences that occur in metabolic syndrome including insulin resistance, increased risk of diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.4
Research has demonstrated it is actually visceral fat that predisposes an individual to develop the metabolic syndrome. For example, in a study of obese children, total fat was a significant and independent determinant of insulin resistance, but it was not a determinant of metabolic syndrome. Only visceral fat and insulin resistance were significantly related to the syndrome.5
Other researchers have concluded that in women, visceral fat accumulation “may be the immediate underlying factor that links risk factors for myocardial infarctions [heart attacks] to form the metabolic syndrome. Insulin resistance, which has been generally accepted to be the underlying factor, may be a component of the syndrome rather than its underlying link.”6
While visceral fat accumulation leads to metabolic syndrome, visceral fat reduction results in improvements in the various components. The benefits of visceral fat loss are thought to be due in part to the reduction in adipocytokine retinol binding protein-4 (RBP4), a protein recently shown to link obesity and insulin resistance.
One group of researchers theorized, “The relationship between individual changes in RBP4 and abdominal visceral fat indicated that RBP4 may be involved in the beneficial effect of visceral fat reduction on the improvement of insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome.”7
Further cementing the role of visceral fat in the metabolic syndrome was a study in aging rodents that showed surgical removal of visceral fat resulted in restoration of insulin action to levels of young rats. In rats genetically predisposed to develop diabetes, removal of visceral fat prevented the decrease in insulin action and delayed the onset of diabetes.
According to the researchers, “Our data suggest that insulin resistance and the development of diabetes can be significantly reduced in aging rats by preventing the age-dependent accumulation of visceral fat. This study documents a cause-and-effect relationship between visceral fat and major components of the metabolic syndrome.”8
Abdominal fat is strongly linked to other components of the metabolic syndrome. For example, a low concentration of HDL (the “good”) cholesterol is a common feature of people with abdominal obesity. Low HDL levels are of particular concern because the increased risk of cardiovascular disease that occurs when HDL levels are low persists even when the levels of LDL (the “bad”) cholesterol are dramatically reduced. HDL is known to promote the exit of cholesterol from cells, minimizing the accumulation of foam cells in the artery wall. HDLs also act as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents.9
Eliminating Visceral Fat
A new supplement known as VFM-100™ has been shown to shrink visceral fat deposits, thereby minimizing an important cause of metabolic syndrome. This proprietary lipid-soluble extract of Glycyrrhiza glabra root, standardized for bioactive polyphenol flavonoid compounds and the unique licorice-derived flavonoid glabridin, has been tested in human and animal studies.
Researchers conducted an 8-week, placebo-controlled study to test 300 mg, 600 mg, and 900 mg per day doses of VFM-100 in overweight subjects. In the 900 mg group, significant decreases from baseline were observed in body weight and body mass index after 4 to 8 weeks. Furthermore, there was a significant reduction in visceral fat after 8 weeks with the 900 mg dose. In all three dosage groups, significant decreases from baseline occurred in fat mass after 8 weeks. These same effects did not occur in the placebo group.10
Another study included 103 healthy but moderately overweight subjects (63 men and 40 women) between 24 and 64 years of age. In the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, subjects were randomly divided into one of two groups. One group consumed one capsule of VFM-100 (300 mg) for 12 weeks, the other group consumed a placebo.
The results showed that the mean body weight in the placebo group gradually increased over time. In contrast, body weight in the VFM-100 group was significantly suppressed at weeks 4, 8 and 12.10
In obese mice, VFM-100 reduced the weight of abdominal fat tissue and body weight gain. Examination revealed that fat cells shrank and the fatty degenerative state of liver cells improved in the animals given VFM-100.11
In obese diabetic mice fed a high-fat diet, VFM-100 lowered both abdominal fat and blood sugar. This led the study authors to declare, “This result indicated that LFO [licorice flavonoid oil] was effective in preventing diabetes and obesity, particularly visceral fat accumulation. Licorice flavonoids may be useful for improving visceral fat obesity in preventing the metabolic syndrome including type 2 diabetes.”12
An excessive ingestion study where subjects consumed 1,800 mg per day showed VFM-100 to be safe with few reported side effects.
The prevalence of metabolic syndrome is increasing at a disturbing rate, especially given the association between this syndrome and cardiovascular disease. Accumulation of visceral fat is strongly linked to the development of metabolic syndrome. Therefore, reducing visceral fat accumulation is a critical step in stopping the development of the syndrome. VFM-100, which contains bioactive polyphenol flavonoid compounds and the unique licorice-derived flavonoid glabridin, has been shown to suppress abdominal fat.
Because fat is the reservoir for fat-soluble toxins, when mobilizing fat during weight loss, it is essential that a good liver support supplement such as HepatoGen™ be consumed along with an antioxidant supplement such as Extension Antioxidant.
1. Grundy SM. Metabolic Syndrome Pandemic. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2008 April; 28;629-36.
2. Cameron AJ, Shaw JE, Zimmet PZ. The metabolic syndrome: prevalence in worldwide populations. Endocrinol. Metab Clin N Amer. 2006;33(2):351-375.
3. Chandola T, Britton A, Brunner E, Hemingway H, Malik M, Kumari M, Badrick E, Kivimaki M, Marmot M. Work stress and coronary heart disease: what are the mechanisms? Eur Heart J. 2008 Mar;29(5):640-8, Eur Heart J. 2008 Mar;29(5):579-80.
4. Phillips LK, Prins JB. The link between abdominal obesity and the metabolic syndrome. Curr Hypertens Rep. 2008 Apr;10(2):156-64.
5. Druet C, Baltakse V, Chevenne D, Dorgeret S, Zaccaria I, Wang Y, Levy-Marchal C. Independent effect of visceral adipose tissue on metabolic syndrome in obese adolescents. Horm Res. 2008;70(1):22-8.
6. Phillips GB, Jing T, Heymsfield SB. Does insulin resistance, visceral adiposity, or a sex hormone alteration underlie the metabolic syndrome? Studies in women. Metabolism. 2008 Jun;57(6):838-44.
7. Lee JW, Lee HR, Shim JY, Im JA, Lee DC. Abdominal Visceral Fat Reduction Is Associated with Favorable Changes of Serum Retinol Binding Protein-4 in Nondiabetic Subjects. Endocr J. 2008 May 21. [Epub ahead of print].
8. Gabriely I, Ma XH, Yang XM, Atzmon G, Rajala MW, Berg AH, Scherer P, Rossetti L, Barzilai N. Removal of Visceral Fat Prevents Insulin Resistance and Glucose Intolerance of Aging. An Adipokine-Mediated Process? Diabetes. 2002;51:2951-2958.
9. Barter PJ. Metabolic Abnormalities in People with Abdominal Obesity: Low Levels of High-Density Lipoproteins. International Chair on Cardiometabolic Risk – News Item. May 16, 2008. Accessed online at www.cardiometabolic-risk.org.
10. Tominaga Y, Mae T, Kitano M, Sakamoto Y, Ikematsu H, Nakagawa K. Licorice flavonoid oil effects body weight loss by reduction of body fat mass in overweight subjects. J Health Sci. 2006;52(6):672-683.
11. Aoki, F, Honda, S, Kishida, H, Kitano,M, Arai, N, Tanaka, H, Yokota, S, Nakagawa, K, Asakura, T, Nakai, Y, and Mae, T. Suppression by licorice flavonoids of abdominal fat accumulation and body weight gain in high-fat diet-induced obese C57BL/6J mice. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2007;71(1):206-214.
12. Nakagawa, K, Kishida, H, Arai, N, Nishiyama, T, and Mae, T. Licorice flavonoids suppress abdominal fat accumulation and an increase in blood glucose level in obese KK-A mice. Biol Pharm Bull. 2004;27(11):1775-1778.
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