Diet is one of the major factors that determines a person’s health and contributes to various health conditions, known as metabolic syndrome. A recent study investigated whether macronutrients are beneficial to reduce the risk and outcomes of serious diseases or medical conditions.
Diet is a factor that can change one’s lifestyle and can be beneficial to those with various health conditions, which usually lead to other detrimental diseases. For instance, metabolic syndrome, which is a cluster of conditions including high blood sugar, increased blood pressure, obesity, dyslipidemia, hypertension, abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels and impaired glucose metabolism, occur together and increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Moreover, the presence of being affected by metabolic syndrome has increased the risk of cardiovascular and diabetes-related mortality. Ahola et al. suggest that diet modification is a way to reduce this risk. More specifically, having a diet consisting of macronutrients was found to have a positive correlation with metabolic syndrome.
To further explore this, Ahola et al. published a study in the British Journal of Nutrition which focused on investigating the relationship between proportions of macronutrients and the components of metabolic syndrome in a population of individuals with type 1 diabetes. This study consisted of 791 participants without nephropathy (referring to kidney disease or damage to the kidney) in Finland and that had some status of metabolic syndrome. The participants in this cross-sectional study were from the Finnish Diabetic Nephropathy study in 2007. Dietary intake was evaluated through two different methods – first, the participants were given a self-administered diet questionnaire including habitual diet and common foods used in Finland. The second method included participants being sent a detailed 3-day exercise and diet routine where they were supposed to record food and drinks consumed based on specific, consecutive days. This was then analyzed through specialized software to find out the total energy derived from the macronutrients. Other measurements tested included leisure-time physical activities (LTPA), blood glucose levels, insulin administration, height, weight, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, serum lipid and lipoprotein concentrations, and blood pressure measured based on different types of physical activity. Lastly, to understand the associations between the macronutrient intakes and the outcome variables, multivariable nutrient density substitution models were used.
The results displayed that those who were older, were diagnosed with diabetes for a longer time and had a higher glycemic level, were the ones with metabolic syndrome. Additionally, the likelihood of having metabolic syndrome was higher in women that were current smokers at the time and less physically active. An interesting discovery was that those with metabolic syndrome had a lower energy intake, however, the distribution of macronutrients was not different between those with and without the illness. Additionally, the intake of carbohydrates over fat was linked to a lower waist circumference and substituting fats or carbohydrates with protein in men reduced the odds of high blood pressure in those with metabolic syndrome. In contrast, in women, there were no associations in macronutrient substitutions and metabolic syndrome observed. It was also found that reducing alcohol in men, while increasing fat intake, was associated with higher diastolic blood pressure. However for women, replacing carbohydrates for fat, was associated with lower HDL-cholesterol concentration.
While this study is a beneficial contribution to science and academia, as there have not been studies constructed in relation to macronutrient distribution, because it was a cross-sectional study, it limits conclusions about the relationships between the macronutrient intake and the health variables. For example, the results portrayed do not necessarily mean that eating carbohydrates would be more slimming than eating fats. Additionally, waist circumference and weight depend on each individual’s body, their level of metabolic syndrome, and genetics.
In conclusion, macronutrient distribution was not associated with the presence of the metabolic syndrome in type 1 diabetes. But, it was found that in men, a diet with a higher intake of carbohydrates over fats was associated with a smaller waist circumference, while substituting carbohydrates or fats for proteins was associated with lower odds of fulfilling the high blood pressure component of the metabolic syndrome.
Written By: Seema N. Goolie, BSc