Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of disease risk factors which increase the risk of type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Metabolic syndrome is also known as insulin resistance syndrome.
There is evidence to suggest that diets high in added sugar promote the development of metabolic disease both directly and indirectly. Directly, the fructose component in sugar causes dysregulation of lipid and carbohydrate metabolism. Indirectly, sugar promotes positive energy balance, thus body weight and fat gain, which also cause dysregulation of lipid and carbohydrate metabolism. Due to the direct and indirect pathway, we have suggested that risk for metabolic disease is exacerbated when added sugar is consumed with diets that allow for body weight and fat gain.¹
The modern diet high in sugar
Soft drinks that contain mainly sugar, such as sodas and filtered fruit juices, don't have enough nutrients to keep the body healthy and free from disease. They provide calories without essential nutrients that you would find in the whole fruit. These "empty" calories then replace other foods such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables that are the main source of essential nutrients. But added sugar is not limited to soft drinks. Added fructose, as in high-fructose corn syrup or just plain sugar (sucrose, which is 50% glucose and 50% fructose), is found in a wide variety of processed foods such as breakfast cereal, juices, jellies and jams, candy, baked goods, sauces, desserts, and even ready-made dinners and processed meat. Fructose tastes sweet but does not satisfy hunger as well as more nutritious foods.
The high added fructose content of processed foods is addictive in a similar way to alcohol, especially for young children. This has caused an epidemic of obesity in both children and adults. Further, the metabolism of fructose in the liver is similar to alcohol because it tends to perturb glucose metabolism, generating fat and causing insulin resistance, which leads to inflammation and degeneration of the liver and many other problems ². Overall, this dietary pattern caused by overloading our bodies with fructose is a vicious cycle that leads to widespread deficiencies of nutrients such as vitamins and essential minerals, along with damage and inflammation throughout the body. This vicious cycle of sugar addiction, consistent with the "metabolic syndrome," is in large part responsible for the high death rate from the modern diet.
If the modern diet could be adjusted to satisfy hunger without excess calories and to contain a larger proportion of essential nutrients, the epidemic of disease from added sugar might be averted. When ingested in the form of fruit, fructose is less harmful because it is absorbed slowly by the gut and importantly is accompanied by essential nutrients. Supplements of essential nutrients can help, but only if knowledge about the adequate doses and their benefits is made widely available. Examples are supplements of vitamin A, B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin E, magnesium, omega -3 and -6 essential fats, which in the proper forms and doses can help prevent dietary deficiencies that cause heart disease, cancer, and diabetes ³. Other lifestyle choices can help, for example, reducing total calories, increasing ingested fiber, and more exercise.
We can all become more healthy by forgoing added sugar and other processed foods that lack essential nutrients. And when this is impossible, we can supplement with these essential nutrients to prevent the epidemic of obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer.