Metabolic syndrome is that increasingly common collection of low HDL cholesterol, high triglycerides, high blood sugar, and high pressure that now afflicts nearly 1 in 4 adults, rapidly gaining ground to 1 in 3. Beyond these surface factors, metabolic syndrome also creates small LDL particles, VLDL, intermediate-density lipoproteins (IDL), increased imperceptible inflammation measured as higher c-reactive protein, and greater blood clotting tendencies. Metabolic syndrome is usually, though not always, associated with a big tummy ("beer belly," though I call it "wheat belly").
In short, metabolic syndrome creates a metabolic mess that leads to dramatic increases in heart disease, vascular disease and stroke, and cancer. The medical community has been paying increasingly greater attention to this condition because of its booming prevalence and because of the big bucks invested in "education" by the manufacturers of the diabetes and pre-diabetes drugs, particularly makers of Actos and Avandia.
But here's a curious observation:
Replacement of vitamin D to healthy levels (we aim for 50-60 ng/ml, or 125-150 nmol/l) yields:
--Lower blood sugar
--Reduced c-reactive protein
--Reduced blood pressure
--Reduced small LDL
--Enhanced sensitivity to insulin
(Whether blood clotting and effects on IDL should be added to this list is uncertain.)
It's obvious: Vitamin D is proving to be a very important and powerful corrective influence on many of the facets of the metabolic syndrome. In fact, I would go as far as saying that, side by side, vitamin D yields nearly the same effect as prescription drugs Actos and Avandia--without the extravagant cost (nearly $200 per month), leg swelling, congestive heart failure and heightened heart attack risk (with Avandia), and average 8 lb weight gain. Of course, vitamin D also provides benefits beyond metabolic syndrome like facilitation of coronary plaque regression, increased bone density, reduced arthritis, and reduced risk of several cancers.
You'd think that agencies like the American Diabetes Association (ADA) would be all over vitamin D like white on rice. Yet they remain curiously quiet about the entire issue. (That should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the behavior and politics of this organization, the same outfit that has widely propagated the ADA diet, a program that accelerates diabetes and its complications. In my view, the ADA is an embarassment.)
For a really great story and video on vitamin D that includes a terrific interview with vitamin D guru and Track Your Plaque friend, California psychiatrist Dr. John Cannell, go to What's the Real Story on Vitamin D?. While the video will yield little new to readers of The Heart Scan Blog or Track Your Plaque members, it just feels really good to see a well-made, high-class video production echoing many of the things we've been talking about these past two years.