The word “metabolic” refers to the processes in plants and animals by which food is changed into energy or used to make cells and tissues. A “syndrome” is a group of signs or symptoms that together indicate a particular disease or condition.
So, “metabolic syndrome” is a group of risk areas that increase the likelihood of developing diabetes, heart disease or stroke. These include high blood sugar levels, increased blood pressure, excess stomach fat and high cholesterol.
Fish and omega-3 foods for metabolic syndrome
Omega 3 fatty acids are a type of fat that we must get from our diet as the body can’t produce them on its own. This classifies them as “essential” fatty acids. These include wild-caught fatty fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel and oysters, as well as fish oils, walnuts, flaxseeds, grass-fed beef and leafy greens. Omega 3 fats assist in reducing blood pressure, supporting a healthy heart and strengthening the eyes and brain.
The Journal of Physiology published a study on omega 3 fatty acids. They reviewed the evidence on the effectiveness of eating omega 3 fish and fish oil supplements for the prevention and treatment of metabolic syndrome. They found that supplementing with Omega 3 sources improved obesity, insulin levels, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. They commented that the anti-inflammatory aspects of these fatty acids also offer good protection for the heart.
Flaxseeds for metabolic syndrome
Phytotherapy is a word that comes from the Greek word “phyton” meaning “plant”, and therapeuein” meaning “to take care of, to heal.” This is the term used to describe medical herbalism.
A study in the magazine “Phytotherapy Research” discovered that flaxseeds are a good remedy for metabolic syndrome by helping to reverse high blood sugar and obesity. In the study, the participant’s body weight, waist circumference, and body mass index all had significantly greater reductions in the flaxseed group. The researchers concluded that co-administration of flaxseed with lifestyle modifications is more effective than lifestyle modification alone in management of metabolic syndrome.
Vegetables and fruits for metabolic syndrome
In a study of Chinese adults, it was discovered that those with adequate vegetable and fruit intake had the lowest risk of metabolic syndrome. Eating a good amount of these foods was significantly associated with reduced risk among adult residents of China.
Healthy vegetables to eat include dark leafy greens such as lettuce, kale and spinach, as well as avocado, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, olives, sweet potatoes, cabbage and others that are enjoyable. Avocados in particular have been found to be related to improved overall diet quality, a healthy nutrient intake, and reduced risk of metabolic syndrome
Good fruits to eat include berries, applies, grapes, apples, pears and others. Due to the natural sugars in fruit, It’s good to keep fruit in moderation and eat at least two or three times as many vegetables as fruit.
Magnesium for metabolic syndrome
A study from the journal “Diabetic Medicine” reports on the role of magnesium deficiency in metabolic syndrome. They found that magnesium acts through many mechanisms in the body to help prevent this group of health disorders. Magnesium has a positive effect on glucose metabolism and insulin, as well as beneficial effects on fat metabolism.
The authors of the study explain that magnesium actively promotes muscle relaxation and offsets calcium-related muscle contractions. This mechanism may explain the hypertension (high blood pressure) in metabolic syndrome that’s found in populations with magnesium deficiency. (In supplements, calcium and magnesium should be taken together as they balance each other).
Dietary magnesium prevents chronic inflammation, a state that sets the stage for metabolic syndrome and its consequences. Magnesium does this by preventing the activation of inflammatory changes. The researchers concluded that the amount of magnesium a person consumes is directly related to the presence of metabolic syndrome or its absence. Good food sources of magnesium include almonds, beans, peas, seeds, banana, avocado, leafy greens and whole grains.
This natural health news is provided by Nutrition Breakthroughs, a publisher of nutrition articles and a supplier of natural remedies since 2002. Nutrition Breakthroughs makes Sleep Minerals II, the effective natural sleep aid with calcium, magnesium, zinc and vitamin D.
The ingredients in Sleep Minerals II can be helpful for a variety of health conditions. I.C. of Ontario, Canada says: “I have diabetes, a thyroid condition, arthritis and other issues. The Sleep Minerals helps me sleep and gives me the minerals I need. I also have arthritis throughout my whole body and the minerals help this a lot. In fact, Sleep Minerals lessens all of my symptoms greatly and has helped me to go into remission.”
There’s a helpful chart below that shows the healthiest fats for glowing skin and hair, as well as for good nutrition of the organs and hormones. All hormones are formed with healthy fats, so eating more of these foods can nourish you in many ways.
Eating healthy fats with our meals can play a vital role in helping us sleep better and achieve overall greater health as these provide the basic building blocks for cholesterol production — a surprisingly healthy substance in our bodies. The best fats to eat are nutrient rich foods like eggs, natural butter, salmon, sardines, fish oils, avocados, nuts, seeds and coconut oil.
For example, a healthy heart and long life are associated with eating walnuts. They have been shown to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease and also extend life spans in general. Walnuts contain the amino acid l-arginine, which offers protective benefits for the heart.
Walnuts can be a good sleep inducing food. Eating a handful of walnuts before bedtime may be a good way to calm down sleeplessness and insomnia. Russel Reiter, Ph.D., a professor of cellular biology at the University of Texas says, “Relatively few foods have been examined for their melatonin content. Our studies demonstrate that walnuts contain melatonin and that it is absorbed when it is eaten.”
Avocados are a healthy, creamy, tasty food, whether they sit on top of a sandwich, an omelet or a salad, or become transformed into guacamole. The healthy fats in avocados balance hormones and this food features over twenty vitamins and minerals.
In summary, eating good healthy fats can enhance one’s health in many ways. This information is brought to you by Nutrition Breakthroughs, maker of the effective natural insomnia remedy Sleep Minerals II.
You may be surprised to learn that vitamin D is completely different from most other vitamins.
It is actually a hormone, a steroid hormone that is produced out of cholesterol when your skin is exposed to the sun. (Steroid hormones include estrogen, testosterone and the adrenal gland hormones).
For this reason, vitamin D is often referred to as the “sunshine” vitamin.
However, sun exposure is often inadequate these days, making it necessary for people to get more of it from the diet (or supplements).
This is important, because vitamin D is absolutely essential for optimal health (1).
Unfortunately, only a handful of foods contain significant amounts of this vitamin, and deficiency is extremely common (2).
In fact, according to data from 2005-2006, a whopping 41.6% of the US population is deficient in this critical vitamin/hormone (4).
This article explains everything you need to know about vitamin D.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is one of the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K), meaning that it dissolves in fat/oil and can be stored in the body for a long time.
There are actually two main forms found in the diet:
Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol): Found in some animal foods, like fatty fish and egg yolks.
Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol): Found in some mushrooms.
Of the two, D3 (cholecalciferol) is the one we’re interested in, because it is almost twice as effective at increasing blood levels of vitamin D as the D2 form (6).
Bottom Line: Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that can be stored in the body for long periods of time. There are two main forms, D2 and D3, of which D3 is much more effective.
What Does Vitamin D Do in The Body?
Vitamin D is actually pretty useless at first.
It needs to go through two conversion steps to become “active” (8).
First, it is converted to calcidiol, or 25(OH)D, in the liver. This is the storage form of the vitamin in the body.
Second, it is converted to calcitriol, or 1,25(OH)2D, mostly in the kidneys. This is the active, steroid hormone form of vitamin D.
Calcitriol travels around the body, going into the nuclei of cells. There it interacts with a receptor called the vitamin D receptor, which is found in almost every single cell of the body (10).
When the active form of vitamin D binds to this receptor, it turns genes on or off, leading to changes in the cells (12). This is similar to how most other steroid hormones work.
It is well known that vitamin D affects various cells related to bone health, for example telling the cells in the gut to absorb calcium and phosphorus (14).
But scientists have now found it to be involved in all sorts of other processes, including immune function and protection against cancer (15).
So people who are deficient in vitamin D will be deficient in calcitriol (the steroid hormone form), so in effect they are deficient in one of the body’s critical hormones.
Bottom Line: Vitamin D is turned into calcidiol, the storage form of the vitamin, which is then converted into calcitriol, the active steroid form. Calcitriol binds to the vitamin D receptor inside cells, turning genes on or off.
Sunshine is The Best Way to Get Vitamin D
Vitamin D can be produced out of cholesterol in the skin, when it is exposed to the sun. The ultraviolet B (UVB) rays from the sun provide the energy needed for the reaction to occur (16).
If you live where there is abundant sun year round, then you can probably get all the vitamin D you need by just going outside and sunbathing a few times per week.
Keep in mind that you need to expose a large part of your body. If you’re only exposing your face and hands then you will produce much less vitamin D.
Also, if you stay behind glass or use sunscreen, then you will produce less vitamin D, or none at all.
This makes the advice to use sunscreen to protect against skin cancer highly questionable. It raises your risk of vitamin D deficiency, which may lead to other diseases instead (17).
If you decide to get your vitamin D from the sun, just make sure to never, ever burn.
Sunshine is healthy, but sunburns can cause premature aging of the skin and raise your risk of skin cancer (18).
If you’re staying in the sun for a long time, consider going without sunscreen for the first 10-30 minutes or so (depending on your sensitivity to sun), then apply it before you start burning.
Vitamin D gets stored in the body for a long time, weeks or months, so you may only need occasional sun to keep your blood levels adequate.
All that being said, not everyone (including myself) lives where there is sun year round. In these cases, getting vitamin D from foods or supplements becomes absolutely essential, especially during the winter months.
Bottom Line: Sunshine is the best way to get vitamin D, but sunscreen blocks its production. Many people don’t have access to sunshine for most of the year.
Very Few Foods Contain This Vitamin in Significant Amounts
Here is the vitamin D3 content of a few select foods:
Although fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, swordfish, trout, tuna and sardines are decent sources, you would have to eat them almost every single day to get enough.
The only really good dietary source of vitamin D is fish liver oils, such as cod fish liver oil, containing up two to times the daily value in a single tablespoon.
Keep in mind that dairy products and cereals are often fortified with vitamin D (21).
Some rare mushrooms also contain vitamin D, and egg yolks contain small amounts.
Bottom Line: Cod fish liver oil is the single best source of vitamin D3. Fatty fish is also a good source, but you have to eat it very often to get enough.
Vitamin D Deficiency is Serious Business
Vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies.
Some people are at greater risk than others. Although the average is around 41.6%, this percentage goes up to 82.1% in black people and 69.2% in Hispanics (4).
Elderly people are also at a much greater risk of being deficient (22).
People who have certain diseases are also very likely to be deficient. One study showed that 96% of heart attack patients were low on vitamin D (23)
Unfortunately, vitamin D deficiency is a silent epidemic. The symptoms are usually subtle, and may take years or decades to surface.
The most well known symptom of vitamin D deficiency is a disease of the bones called rickets, which is common in children in developing countries.
However, due to public health measures back in the day, they started fortifying some foods with vitamin D, which mostly eliminated rickets from Western societies (24).
Deficiency has also been linked to osteoporosis, reduced mineral density and increased risk of falls and fractures in the elderly (25).
Studies have also shown that people with low vitamin D levels have a much greater risk of heart disease, diabetes (both type 1 and type 2), cancer, dementia and autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis, to name a few (26).
Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to a significantly increased risk of death from all causes (27).
Whether being vitamin D deficient actually contributes to these diseases, or whether people who have low vitamin D levels are just more likely to get them, is not as clear.
Bottom Line: Vitamin D deficiency is a well known cause of a bone disease called rickets in children. However, deficiency has also been linked to many other health problems, as well as reduced life expectancy.
Health Benefits of Getting Plenty of Vitamin D
Vitamin D has received considerable mainstream attention in recent years and decades.
Research on it has gotten lots of funding, and hundreds of studies have been done.
Here are some potential benefits of getting plenty of vitamin D:
Osteoporosis, falls and fractures: Higher doses of vitamin D can help prevent osteoporosis, falls and fractures in the elderly (30).
Strength: Vitamin D supplementation can increase physical strength, in both upper and lower limbs (31).
Cancer: Vitamin D may help prevent cancer. One study showed that 1100 IU per day, along with calcium, reduced cancer risk by 60% (32).
Depression: Studies have shown vitamin D supplementation to cause mild reduction in symptoms in people with clinical depression (34).
Type 1 diabetes: One study in infants found that 2000 IU of vitamin D per day reduced the risk of type 1 diabetes by 78% (35).
Mortality: Some studies have shown that vitamin D supplementation reduces people’s risk of dying during the study periods, indicating that it may help you live longer (36).
Insomnia: (A note from Nutrition Breakthroughs): Vitamin D is a proven insomnia remedy. The results of a clinical trial of vitamin D supplementation was published in a recent issue of the journal “Medical Hypothesis”. The researchers followed 1500 patients over a 2 year period and a consistent level of vitamin D3 was maintained in their blood over many months. This produced normal sleep in most of the participants, regardless of the type of sleep disorder they were experiencing. (end of the note from Nutrition Breakthroughs).
This is actually just the tip of the iceberg.
Low vitamin D levels have been linked to all sorts of diseases, and supplementation has been shown to have numerous other benefits.
However, keep in mind that much of this is not definitely proven. According to a recent 2014 review, more evidence is needed to confirm many of these benefits (38).
Bottom Line: Taking vitamin D supplements has been shown to have numerous benefits related to cancer, bone health, mental health and autoimmune diseases, to name a few.
How Much Should You Take?
The only way to know if you are deficient, and whether you need to take a supplement, is by having your blood levels measured.
Your doctor will measure the storage form, calcidiol or 25(OH)D. Anything under 12 ng/mL is considered deficient, and anything above 20 ng/mL is considered adequate. (Note: Some medical tests report results in nanograms (ng) per millilitre (mL). A nanogram is one-billionth of a gram. A gram is about 1/30 of an ounce. A millilitre measures fluid volume equal to 1/1000 litre).
The RDA for vitamin D in the US is as follows (39):
400 IU (10 mcg): Infants, 0-12 months.
600 IU (15 mcg): Children and adults, 1-70 years of age.
800 IU (20 mcg): Elderly and pregnant or lactating women.
Although the official cutoff point for vitamin D deficiency is 12 ng/mL, many health experts believe that people should aim for blood levels higher than 30 ng/mL for optimal health and disease prevention (40).
Additionally, many believe that the recommended intake is way too low, and that people need much more to reach optimal blood levels of the vitamin (41).
According to the Institute of Medicine, the safe upper limit is 4.000 IU (42).
For people who are at risk of deficiency, this may be a good amount to aim for. Sometimes doctors recommend taking much more than that.
Just make sure to take vitamin D3, not D2. Vitamin D3 capsules are available in most supermarkets and health food stores.
Vitamins A, K2 and Magnesium Are Important as Well
It’s important to keep in mind that nutrients usually don’t work in isolation.
Many of them depend on one another, and increased intake of one nutrient may increase your need for another.
Some researchers claim that fat-soluble vitamins work together, and that it is crucial to optimize vitamin A and vitamin K2 intake at the same time as supplementing with vitamin D3 (43).
This is especially important for vitamin K2, another fat-soluble vitamin that most people don’t get enough of (45).
Magnesium intake may also be important for the function of vitamin D. Magnesium is an important mineral that is often lacking in the modern diet (46)
What Happens if You Take Too Much?
It is actually a myth that it is easy to overdose on vitamin D.
Vitamin D toxicity is very rare, and only happens if you take insane doses for long periods of time (48).
I (Kris Gunnars) personally live where there is very little sun year-round, so I take 4000-5000 IU per day of a vitamin D3 supplement.
I’ve been doing this for many years now, and consider it to be an essential component of my personal health strategy.
This health news is shared by Nutrition Breakthroughs, a publisher of nutrition articles and supplier of effective natural remedies since 2002. Nutrition Breakthroughs makes the original mineral-based sleep remedy Sleep Minerals II, containing calcium, magnesium, vitamin D and zinc. It has been shown to be effective for sleeplessness and insomnia, as well as for heart health, restless leg syndrome, bone strength, menopause insomnia and teenage insomnia.
Doctor P. of Houston, Texas says: “I had developed sleeping problems and took two different sleep medications over the course of several weeks. When I discontinued them, the insomnia came back even worse. I literally got about 20 hours of sleep in 6 weeks time. Sleep Minerals II was just what I needed. I*ve been taking it for a couple weeks and getting many hours of sleep a night. As a doctor I would definitely avoid prescribing sleeping drugs. I would recommend Sleep Minerals II.”
Essential fatty acids are natural, healthy fats the body cannot make on its own: hence the term “essential”. These are called Omega 3 fats and Omega 6 fats. Omega 3 fats are things like fish, fish oil, olive oil, avocado, seeds and green vegetables. Recent research studies are finding these fats benefit the eyes, joints, heart, lungs, immunity and more.
Omega 6 fats include vegetable oils like safflower oil and corn oil, as well as mayonnaise, fried foods, dairy and beef. Many people eat more Omega 6 fats than Omega 3’s and when the balance between the fats becomes imbalanced, many health problems can occur – particularly high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
One study of people with dry eyes was recently published in the journal “Cornea”. They were given a daily dose of fish oil and flax oil. At the end of the 90-day study, 70% of the participants with dry eye had no symptoms and also had an increase in tear production and volume.
In the journal “Proceedings of the Nutrition Society,” researchers analyzed several controlled trials of fish oil use for arthritis. The trials showed a reduction in tender joint counts and a decreased use of anti-inflammatory drugs with fish oil supplementation. An important research note was that anti-inflammatory drugs can adversely affect the heart. Fish oil is known to have a direct, positive effect on the heart.
Here’s some more information on how to achieve good heart health from Dr. Joseph Mercola — a physician trained in both traditional and natural medicine. He says to: “Replace harmful vegetable oils and synthetic hydrogenated fats such as margarine with healthy fats, including olive oil, butter, avocado, pastured eggs and coconut oil (remember olive oil should be used cold only, and one should use coconut oil for cooking and baking).”
This natural health news is provided to you by Nutrition Breakthroughs, a provider of nutrition articles and effective natural remedies since 2001. Nutrition Breakthroughs makes the original calcium and magnesium based sleep aid Sleep Minerals II, as well as Joints and More, the natural solution for joint relief, aches and pains, stronger hair and nails and more energy.