Highlights from Canadian Nutrition Society meeting on metabolic syndrome

Rupinder Dhaliwal (right), MetSC Director of Operations, talks with a delegate at the Canadian Nutrition Society meeting in

January 2016.

(Photo courtesy of CNS-SCN)

By Rupinder Dhaliwal, Director of Operations

Metabolic syndrome is a hot topic among nutrition researchers and dietitians. With an alarming prevalance among adults in Canada (21%) and the U.S. (33%), and MetS has become a major global public health concern.

So the recent Canadian Nutrition Society thematic meeting in Toronto was a great chance to hear about some of the latest research into this complex condition, and learn how different approaches to nutrition can address it.

The day-long meeting also proved to be a perfect opportunity to introduce Metabolic Syndrome Canada (MetsC) and its CHANGE Program to this community of primary care dietitians, university researchers, industry representatives and students.

Dr. Kursheed Jeejeebhoy presents at the Canadian Nutrition Society thematic meeting on metabolic syndrome in January 2016

Our own Dr. Khursheed Jeejeebhoy, a Gastroenterologist and Emeritus Professor of Medicine at the University of Toronto as well as the visionary behind MetSC’s CHANGE Program, presented preliminary findings of how the diet-exercise lifestyle intervention has successfully treated and reversed metabolic syndrome in patients in a primary care setting.

> Read more about the CHANGE program, or contact us to get more information.

Of course, all of the sessions were highly relevant to our broader interest in metabolic syndrome. Here are a few highlights from the other sessions.

Diet and inflammation in metabolic syndrome

Dr. Penny Kris-Etherton, a professor of Nutrition at Pennsylvania State University, presented on how diet and inflammation impact metabolic syndrome. She discussed how increased visceral fat (intra-abdominal fat) that is seen in metabolic syndrome results in a pro-inflammatory state, and how inflammation results in increased risk of heart disease. In fact, she noted the International Chair on Cardiometabolic Risk’s finding that increased intra-abdominal fat is an independent predictor of all causes mortality in men.

Dr. Kris-Etherton affirmed that interventions aimed at long-term weight loss are effective at reducing visceral and subcutaneous fat and inflammation, and she highlighted several dietary approaches for reducing inflammation and treating or preventing MetS (all of which are used in the CHANGE Program):

  • Higher diet quality, higher alternate health eating index, higher Med diet score
  • Higher fruit and vegetable intake
  • Mediterranean diet pattern i.e. Olive oil, nuts
  • Current Dietary guidelines

Calcium, appetite control and obesity management

Dr. Angelo Tremblay, a professor in the Division of Kinesiology at Université Laval University (and an advisor to MetSC), presented on how calcium intake can impact body weight management. Some of his key points:

  • Hypertensives tend to have higher calcium intakes than normotensives and higher calcium intakes are associated with lower Body Mass Indices
  • Poor calcium and Vitamin D intakes could explain the non responders to weight loss
  • Calcium/dairy intakes may also play a role in the regulation of energy/fat balance and body weight management in low calcium consumers
  • Yogurt/fermented dairy products, in particular, may be beneficial in this regulation due to the positive effects of bacteria on the gut microbiota

Metabolic syndrome in aging populations: compromised bone health and potential dietary interventions

Dr. Wendy Ward, a Professor of Kinesiology at Brock University, focused on elderly MetS patients and bone density. Here are a few takeways:

  • In MetS, bone mineral density is normal or higher compared to osteoporosis
  • Knowledge gaps exist in the bone structure, risk of fractures, risk of falls in metabolic syndrome
  • Bone health can be improved by weight loss alone or with physical activity
  • Diet-induced weight loss can result in loss of bone in obese patients but improvements in health outweigh the risks to bone health
  • Bone health is also affected by age, calcium, Vitamin D intakes, the site of fractures, males/females, and menopausal status  

Probiotics, microbiome and metabolic syndrome

Dr. Elena Comelli, an Assistant Professor in U of T’s Department of Nutritional Sciences, offered a preliminary look at the role microbiota plays in MetS:

  • Metabolic Syndrome is associated with altered microbiota in the gut
  • Dietary components i.e. probiotics may play a role in impacting the host microbiota and metabolism favourably
  • More research is needed before recommendations can be made for clinical practice

Saturated Fat and Cardiometabolic Risk

Dr. Benoit Lamarche, a research professor in the School of Nutrion at Université Laval, presented about how recent convincing evidence demonstrates that not all saturated fats increase LDL-cholesterol, and in fact saturated fats from dairy products may have neutral effects on cardiovascular disease, hypertension and type 2 DM. The source of saturated fat is important, as saturated fats from meats, fried foods, processed foods are not the same as that from diary products. (The Heart & Stroke Foundation recently issued a statement on saturated fats and health eating.)

Communicating complex messages around metabolic syndrome and saturated fat

Finally, Jennifer Sygo, a Registered Dietitian and Sports Nutritionist with Cleveland Clinic Canada, discussed how to cut through the confusion many patients (and some health professionals) have about saturated fat and treating MetS through nutrition. In addition to providing practical tips for how to communicate controversial diet messages to clients, she emphasized some important ideas:

  • Conflicting information exists about saturated fat and cardiometabolic disease
  • Dietitians need to understand the latest evidence to earn their client’s trust
  • Evidence suggests that replacing saturated fats and refined carbohydrates with polyunsaturated fats is better for reducing risk of CVD

It was a delight to meet so many nutrition experts focused on effectively treating metabolic syndrome.

To find out more about Metabolic Syndrome Canada and its CHANGE Program, contact us here.