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Plant-Based Diets for Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome, also known as syndrome X, is a medical disorder characterized by the so-called “deadly quartet”: abdominal obesity, high fasting blood sugars, high triglycerides, and high blood pressure. Metabolic syndrome can set people up for liver disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. It’s been estimated to afflict about a quarter of the American population. How do we stop it and how can we prevent it?

Well, if it has to do with obesity, the level of fat in the blood, and high blood pressure then that would seem like a job for plant-based nutrition. But we didn’t know for sure until recently.

The results can be seen in my 2-min. video Metabolic Syndrome and Plant-Based Diets. Even after controlling for lifestyle factors such as smoking and exercise, risk was highest in those eating non-vegetarian, intermediate for those eating semi-vegetarian, and lowest in those eating vegetarian, cutting the odds of having metabolic syndrome by more than half.

We see that same step-wise progression towards lower disease risk the more plant-based one’s diet gets with high blood pressurecataracts, diabetes, and obesity.

To maximize benefits it appears we have to move towards maximizing the proportion of plants in our diet, but it’s not all or nothing. Just adding more healthy plant foods to crowd out some of the animal and junk foods in the diet may offer significant protection. For example, consumption of three portions of whole grains a day appears as powerful as high blood pressure medications in alleviating hypertension. An analysis of a bunch of randomized drug trials suggests that taking blood pressure lowering drugs may reduce the risk of getting a heart attack by 15% and the risk of getting a stroke by about 25%, the same benefits attributed to three daily servings of whole grains. Some grains appear to be more protective than others, though. Watch the video pick above to find out which may be better.

In my live 2012 year-in-review presentation Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death I address the role diet plays in preventing, treating, and even reversing our top 15 killers, including high blood pressure. More on refined versus whole grains can be found in Great Grain Robbery and Is White Bread Good For You? Whole grains may in fact extend our lifespan (What Women Should Eat to Live Longer), but what about the phytates in whole grains? See New Mineral Absorption Enhancers Found. And see Antioxidants in a Pinch for how to make your morning oatmeal even healthier.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

Image credit: / Flickr

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Dr. Michael Greger

A founding member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues. Currently Dr. Greger serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at The Humane Society of the United States. Hundreds of his nutrition videos are freely available at


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9:09PM PST on Jan 31, 2013

For more information about the *many* benefits of vegetarianism, and the many problems with eating meat, please visit Eco-Eating at

2:53PM PST on Jan 31, 2013

Thank you Dr. Michael Greger, for Sharing this!

2:33AM PST on Jan 25, 2013

At first I thought, duh... Metabolic Syndrome is not an actual condition but a name for a set of symptoms. Symptoms are signs that something is wrong. For instance, fat does not cause diabetes, but it is another symptom that diabetes is more likely. Treating the causes of fat (poor diet) does help with diabetes which is also mostly a set of symptoms of poor diet.

It's nice to see a doctor today getting to the core of why there are problems. Most so-called "doctors" today only treat the symptoms of problems. They are just Big Degree Prescription Writers of the modern day Snake Oils that happen to be government backed by huge corporations whose vast wealth lends them credibility. But those are not cures. Only money-makers.

Funny how we are told to consult with our doctor before starting any diet plan, when doctors have so little, if any nutritional training in the medical schools which are now funded by corporate interests (including those who make processed, shelf-stable so-called "Food"). :(

1:56PM PST on Jan 22, 2013

I appreciate the advice.

12:32PM PST on Jan 21, 2013

Thank you Dr. Greger.

12:12PM PST on Jan 21, 2013

excellent information as always. I am passing this on to someone I know who has HBP--- won't believe me, but he can see for himself. Thank you!

3:07AM PST on Jan 21, 2013

Thank you.

6:39PM PST on Jan 20, 2013

Forwarded this to a friend of mine - might explain part of his weight issue. The other part is him, I know, but might give him cause to improve his health!

1:19PM PST on Jan 20, 2013


11:40AM PST on Jan 20, 2013


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