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How many people have heard about syndrome X? Not many, but they certainly must according to Dr Gerald Reaves, a physician and professor at Stanford university, chose the term to describe a constellation of problems that have a common cause-Insulin Resistance. Let’s look at the common cause of syndrome X, the body’s developed resistance against insulin. So what is Insulin Resistance.

Indians are infatuated with a high carbohydrate, low fat diet but in reality, most Indians eat a high carbohydrate, high fat diet. Over the years our diet has taken its toll and many of us have become less and less sensitive to our own insulin as a result. Insulin is basically a storage hormone that drives sugar into the cell to be utilized or stored as fat. The body desires to control our blood sugars. Therefore, when the body becomes less sensitive to its own insulin, it compensates by making more insulin. In other words, our bodies respond to increasing blood sugar levels by forcing the beta cells of the pancreas to produce more insulin in order to control our blood sugars.

Individuals with insulin resistance need more and more insulin as the years go by to keep their blood sugars normal. Although these elevated insulin levels (hyper insulinemia) are effective in controlling our blood sugars, they also may lead to some serious health problems. Below is a list of harmful effects of elevated insulin levels. These are the problems that constitute what Dr. Gerald Reavens has labeled Syndrome X.

  • Significant inflammation of the arteries, which can cause heart attack & stroke
  • Elevated blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Elevated triglycerides – the other fat in the blood besides cholesterol
  • Lowered HDL (good) cholesterol
  • Increased LDL (bad) cholesterol
  • Increased tendency to form blood clots
  • Development of significant “uncontrolled” weight gain – usually around the middle (called central obesity)

When all of the syndrome X factors are combined, our risk of developing heart diseases actually jumps 20 folds. Considering the fact the heart disease in the number – one killer in the industrialized world today, we cannot afford to disregard a growing risk of developing it.

After patients have had syndrome – X for several years (may be even 10 to 20), the beta cells of the pancreas simply wear out and can no longer produce such high levels of insulin. At this point insulin level begins to drop and blood sugars begin to rise.

At first only mild elevations of blood sugar may develop, which is known as glucose intolerance (or preclinical diabetes).  More than 24 million people in India are at this stage glucose intolerance. Then, usually within a year or two, if no change in life style occurs, full blown diabetes mellitus will develop. The aging of the arteries then accelerates even faster as blood sugars begin to steadily rise.