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Western Diet Ups Heart, Diabetes Risk

Burger, Fries, and a Diet Soda Are Culprits in Metabolic Syndrome

Diet and Metabolic Syndrome: More Results

The development of metabolic syndrome was linked overall with eating the Western diet, even after Steffen adjusted for such variables as smoking, calorie intake, and physical activity.

Overall, eating the prudent diet did not decrease the risk of getting metabolic syndrome, which surprised Steffen. But when she looked at individual foods in the prudent diet, they found that three servings of dairy products lowered the risk of metabolic syndrome by 13%.

The prudent diet may not have produced a lot of benefit, she tells WebMD, because on average the participants didn't meet the five or more recommended servings a day of fruits and vegetables.

Second Opinion

"The finding that a Western diet, with high intakes of processed red meat and fried foods, would lead to the development of metabolic syndrome is in accordance with our traditional thinking," says Peter Sheehan, MD, an endocrinologist and member of the board of directors for the American Diabetes Association, who reviewed the study for WebMD.

Exactly why isn't known, says Sheehan. In food processing, a "common denominator" substance produced might be to blame, he says. Or it "may be people who have a tendency to [be] overweight drink diet soda."

Industry Weighs In

The link found between diet and metabolic syndrome is an association, not cause and effect, cautions Roger A. Clemens, DrPH, professor of molecular toxicology at the University of Southern California School of Pharmacy, Los Angeles, who also reviewed the study for WebMD.

And that association was found between those who consumed the most servings, adds Clemens, a spokesman for the Institute of Food Technologists. "These results really emphasize the importance of dietary moderation and appropriate exercise," Clemens tells WebMD.

"I think diet sodas have a role in our lifestyle," he says. "They help reduce calories." The problem is, many people also eat a large order of fries with their diet sodas, he says.

Diet Advice

"Certainly fried foods are a huge culprit here," says Sheehan. "When cooking, try more gentle forms of cooking, like steaming. Limit consumption of processed foods and fast foods." Turn to water instead of other drinks, he adds.

Steffen advises a back-to-basics strategy. Instead of ordering the traditional burger, fries, and soda at your favorite fast-food place, "Order a baked potato, water, and [grilled] fish," suggests Steffen.

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