The high calorie, low fibre dietary pattern associated with the Western diet is associated with an increased risk of metabolic syndrome, says new research from the US.
The study, published in the journal Circulation, adds to previous studies on that point the finger at the highly processed foods and meats consumed in the Western diet in relation to a range of conditions, from obesity to colorectal cancer.
According to researchers from the University of Minnesota and the University of North Carolina, “the role of diet in the origin of metabolic syndrome (MetS) is not well understood; thus, we sought to evaluate the relationship between incident MetS and dietary intake.”
Metabolic syndrome (MetS) is a condition characterised by central obesity, hypertension, and disturbed glucose and insulin metabolism. The syndrome has been linked to increased risks of both type 2 diabetes and CVD.
Fifteen per cent of adult Europeans are estimated to be affected by MetS, while the US statistic is estimated to be a whopping 32 per cent. Obesity is established to be the main risk factor for MetS
Pamela Lutsey and co-workers analysed data from 9514 subjects aged between 45 and 64 participating in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study. The subjects completed a 66-item food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) to semi-quantify dietary intakes. According to the intake of 32 food groups, the participants’ diets were classified according to their adherence to a “Western” or “prudent” dietary pattern.
The researchers followed the subjects over nine years, during which 3,782 cases of MetS were identified. Lutsey and co-workers state: “Consumption of a Western dietary pattern was adversely associated with incident MetS.”
When the researchers adjusted the results to account for the intake of meat, dairy, fruits and vegetables, refined grains, and whole grains, they found that fried foods, diet soft drinks, and meat consumption were also linked to an increase in the risk of developing MetS.
On the other hand, an increase in the consumption of dairy products was found to be beneficial.
Moreover, contrary to other studies, no benefits were observed for fruits and vegetables, nuts, whole grains, refined grains, or coffee.
“These prospective findings suggest that consumption of a Western dietary pattern, meat, and fried foods promotes the incidence of MetS, whereas dairy consumption provides some protection,” wrote the researchers.
“The diet soda association was not hypothesized and deserves further study,” they added.
The Western dietary pattern has also been blamed by some for the obesity epidemic, particularly in children. Indeed, in August US paediatrician Robert Lustig, MD, from the University of California, San Francisco said that the “toxic environment” of Western diets causes hormonal imbalances that encourage overeating.