Monday, July 30, 2007
Metabolic syndrome topic of OU research
By Rebecca Wyatt Thomas, OU Web Writer
For the last few years, metabolic syndrome has received a lot of media coverage as researchers work to better understand it. Metabolic syndrome can lead to health risks, but a group of OU researchers has determined that metabolic syndrome can be reversed with proper diet and exercise. The researchers have identified the area of focus for those trying to avoid or reverse the condition.
“The overall prevalence of metabolic syndrome in adults is 24 percent and increases with age,” said Ron Gellish, academic research associate in the School of Health Sciences. “At the age of 60, nearly half of the people in society have metabolic syndrome.”
There are five biological conditions that compose metabolic syndrome, including obesity, elevated glucose, hypertension, low HDL and high triglycerides levels.
“Research has shown if you have any three of those five biological conditions, you have metabolic syndrome,” said Gellish. “There is a very high statistical correlation between metabolic syndrome and developing heart disease, having heart attacks, strokes and diabetes.”
Gellish emphasized that studying metabolic syndrome and looking for ways to prevent or reverse it are important in heading off those risky medical conditions.
OU researchers included Gellish; Ken Hightower, dean of the School of Health Sciences; Ron Olson, former interim vice provost of research; Gary Russi, OU president; Brian Goslin, exercise science program director and associate professor; Virinder Moudgil, vice president for academic affairs and provost.
The researchers had 26 years of data available to them from the now-closed Meadow Brook Health Enhancement Institute (MBHEI). The stress tests, lab work and other information collected from MBHEI’s former members is now digitized, making it easy for the researchers to use for large studies.
Using the MBHEI data, the researchers tracked those people with metabolic syndrome for two years from the time they were first diagnosed. The idea was to see how the fitness routines and diet changes the patients were instructed to follow affected their metabolic syndrome disease status. Individuals who didn’t have metabolic syndrome when they first arrived at the MBHEI but developed it over a two-year time frame were also examined in this retrospective study.
The data included 878 people with annual or biannual exams at the MBHEI. Nearly 15 percent, or 133 of the patients, presented with metabolic syndrome during their first visit. Within two years, 42 percent of those resolved their metabolic syndrome.
The research showed that elevated triglycerides level was the measure that characterized those who did not improve their metabolic syndrome status, since that risk marker was not prevalent in the reversal group, but was common to 9 out of 10 members in the nonreversal group as well as in those who developed the condition between the two exams. For those participants who resolved their metabolic syndrome status, there was a 33 percent improvement in triglycerides level.
“We didn’t have any preconception of which of the five metabolic syndrome characteristics was the most important,” Gellish said. “Now we know that the treatment needs to focus on the triglycerides level.”
The OU researchers’ metabolic syndrome findings were published in the online journal “Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders” in spring 2007. Interested readers can view and print a copy of the article by visiting the article Web site.