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Exploring the Potential Benefits of Superfoods in Medicine: Metabolic Syndrome

As defined by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the NIH, Metabolic Syndrome is defined as a collection of conditions that together increase an individual’s risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and other serious health problems. There are a few other terms used when referring to Metabolic Syndrome, they include insulin resistance syndrome, as well as Syndrome X.

Typically people are investigated further for Metabolic Syndrome if they have any 3 of the following:

  • Abdominal obesity, also sometimes associated with having an apple type shape,

  • High blood pressure, which occurs when your blood pressure rises and stays this way for a long period of time,

  • High blood sugar levels,

  • High blood triglycerides, this may cause a rise in the levels of LDL cholesterol, also called the bad cholesterol, or

  • Low HDL cholesterol, also called good cholesterol.

Metabolic Syndrome puts those afflicted at higher risk of cardiovascular disease – which is the leading cause of death in the US along with many other western countries; with 1 in 3 adults suspected of being afflicted with Metabolic Syndrome, the morbidity and therefore strain on the healthcare system is significant. Metabolic Syndrome has many salient symptoms including obesity, hypertension, insulin resistance, as well as dyslipidemia, all of which contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease.

Although the causes of Metabolic Syndrome are not fully understood there are reports of an association with an imbalance among dietary intake, regulation of cardiac function, glucose metabolism, and a sedentary lifestyle. Combined, the imbalances noted above result in the augmentation of the inflammatory response, and oxidative stress response in the body of people with Metabolic Syndrome.

Ideal preventative therapies of Metabolic Syndrome would be to reduce inflammation, reactive oxygen species, along with oxidative stress, all of which negatively effect the patient’s body in a wide variety of ways. There are a wide variety of pharmacological therapies available, many have adverse side effects; thus, many scientific researchers, including Dr. Joseph Francis at LSU, are exploring the possibility of using non-pharmacological approaches to delay the progression of Metabolic Syndrome.

There is a growing body of research to support this approach, showing that many fruits, including blueberries, are an excellent source of antioxidants – such as anthocyanins and phenolics – that serve to counterbalance the effects of oxidants and oxidative stress, which are well known to cause cellular damage within the body resulting in negative health outcomes.

In a study published in Food & Function, in 2017, Dr. Francis and his team at LSU looked at the effects of a blueberry-enriched diet on both normal individuals with no underlying health concerns, and those who met the World Health Organization’s definition of Metabolic Syndrome. Anyone who smoked, or were known to have any other underlying disease, were excluded from the study; and all participants stopped using any nonprescription drugs, vitamins, or dietary/herbal supplements for two weeks prior to the start of the study, and throughout the study.

In this double-blinded, placebo-controlled, study the participants consumed a smoothy which for those in the therapy group contained blueberry powder. The placebo group’s smoothy was identical in all aspects, including micronutrients, fiber content, appearance, and consistency, it simply lacked the blueberry powder.

Whole blood samples were taken from the participants at the start of the study, and after 6 weeks of consuming the blueberry enriched diet. The scientists showed, through various means of investigation, that there was an attenuation of the inflammatory response in those that consumed the blueberry smoothies, as well as a reduction in the levels of free radicals in the blood samples collected. The investigations looked more closely at the mechanism by which the blueberry enriched diet could have caused these effects and concluded that due to the involvement of specific cells, including monocytes and dendritic cells, in the observed attenuation in the inflammatory response and the reduction in free radicals within the blood, that the mechanism of action was driven by antioxidant-mediated protection. Note from the earlier introduction, that inflammation and free radical oxidative stress plays a key role in the development of cardiovascular disease in patients with Metabolic Syndrome. Further investigations were acknowledged in the paper that will help to further elucidate the mechanism of action of the potentially protective effects of a blueberry enriched diet.

This along with other studies completed by Dr. Francis, and many other scientists who are investigating the potential therapeutic effect of natural compounds, has led to an increased interest in not only blueberries, but other so-called Superfoods. Dr. Francis is also the founder of Pranam Superfoods, his life’s work of looking at the potential benefits of an antioxidant rich diet in his academic career has gone into the development of The Antioxidant Bars. His goal was to create a nutrition bar which contains a high level of antioxidants, while also tasting good to those who wish to enjoy the potential health benefits of consuming it.

Try one of the four tasty flavors today and enjoy the potential health benefits of the all-natural ingredients. For those that desire, or require it, The Antioxidant Bars are also 100% plant-based, organic, and gluten free.

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