Metabolic syndrome, the combination of risk factors that 1 in 5 Americans share, may be implicated in the development of cancer in the digestive system.
Known by several different names, such as syndrome X, insulin resistance syndrome, Reaven’s syndrome, and even CHAOS in Australia, metabolic syndrome (MetS) is usually diagnosed if the patient has three or more of the following: obesity (measured by BMI greater than 29 or a waist to hip ratio), triglyceride levels above 150 mg/dL, HDL cholesterol below 40 mg/dL, high blood pressure (diastolic greater than 130), and fasting blood sugar over 100. Other factors, such as insulin resistance, may be used to determine the diagnosis.
The Cooper Clinic in Dallas, TX provided 33,230 men for the study on digestive system cancers. The men were followed for over 14 years. Adjustments were made for cardiorespiratory fitness to remove a common difference between the physically fit and those with MetS. The study concluded that having MetS did correlate strongly with cancer of the digestive system. In particular, two of the common MetS factors, obesity and high blood sugar, were associated with cancer:
Our results support the hypothesis that metabolic syndrome is positively associated with mortality from cancers of the digestive system. Interventions that reduce abnormalities associated with the syndrome could reduce risk of premature death from these cancers.
Treatment for MetS is varied; many doctors try a reduced calorie, low fat diet to reduce one or more of the risk factors (usually, weight and blood pressure). A high failure rate is seen, usually attributed to “lack of compliance” by the participants. Drugs for blood pressure control, cholesterol, and triglycerides are often used. In my case, those attempts failed to achieve a good result. But a low carbohydrate diet combined with niacin (to help reduce triglyceride levels which did not respond to diet alone) removed all of the risk factors.
Low carbohydrate diets seem to work better for most people. Many, myself included, are not inclined to cheat on the diet because they never feel hunger. One study in the journal Nutrition & Metabolism noted:
Carbohydrate (CHO) restriction is one of several strategies for reducing body mass but even in the absence of weight loss or in comparison with low fat alternatives, CHO restriction is effective at ameliorating high fasting glucose and insulin, high plasma triglycerides (TAG), low HDL and high blood pressure.