Metabolic Syndrome and the Vitamin D Link

Metabolic Syndrome is characterized as a variety of different health conditions, including obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood), and low HDL levels (also known as the “good” cholesterol.) Combined, these conditions put you at an increased risk of developing diabetes and can also significantly increase your risk of suffering a stroke or heart attack, which can be fatal.

As for what causes metabolic syndrome, the number one cause is living an unhealthy lifestyle. For example, if you consume too many calories or eat foods that are high in sugar, refined carbohydrates and sodium, if you’re not getting regular physical activity, and if you are overweight or obese. Diagnosing metabolic syndrome is fairly straightforward and can be done through a simply physical examination as well as basing it off the symptoms you’re experiencing, as well as some blood tests. You are also more likely to be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome if you have several of the risk factors. Along with lifestyle, there are other contributing factors that can also increase your risk of Metabolic Syndrome, including age, hormones, as well as your race and ethnicity. There has also been recent research to suggest that vitamin D may also play a role in metabolic syndrome, as one study of all-female participants with this condition were vitamin D deficient — and those same researchers believe that there may also be a link between vitamin D and its influence on serotonin levels and sensitivity — all of which can contribute to the development of several of the aforementioned medical conditions. Therefore, if you have (or think you might have) metabolic syndrome, it may be a good idea to have a discussion with your doctor about whether or not a vitamin D supplement would be beneficial to you.

Vitamin D is essential for the body as it is required in order for you to absorb calcium, and it also promotes bone growth, healthy teeth, and other important bodily functions such as supporting the immune and nervous systems, brain health, as well as lung function and cardiovascular health. It is important to note that unlike most vitamins, which we can get from the foods we eat, vitamin D is something that is synthesized by our bodies when sunlight hits our skin. That being said, just because you may be vitamin D deficient doesn’t mean you should go out sun tanning for hours on end, as that only puts you at risk of other health issues, such as sunburn (which can be extremely painful), and even a type of skin cancer known as melanoma. You can read more about the dangers of overexposure to sunlight by clicking here.

When it comes to treating metabolic syndrome, it is a combination of assessing your risk for things like cardiovascular disease and diabetes, as well as weight control and physical activity — both of which can reduce the risk factors for metabolic syndrome when done correctly. If it is suspected that you have metabolic syndrome or if you are recently diagnosed with it, it is important that you continue to live as healthy and as active of a life as possible and not let the illness take over, so to speak. This means that you need to have a healthier diet, which should consist of foods that are low in saturated and trans fats, low in cholesterol, and low in salt, while having a higher intake of things like fruits and vegetables, protein, beans, whole grains, and low-fat dairy. One example of a diet that can be healthy to follow is the DASH diet. While the DASH diet is one that is typically recommended to individuals with high blood pressure, it also emphasizes “healthy” fats, such as monounsaturated fats and olive oil.

If eating healthier and getting regular exercise isn’t enough to help you, then you may be required to take different medications, including those used to treat high blood pressure (such as ACE inhibitors), statins to treat high cholesterol, and medication to treat diabetes if you have it. Those at risk of heart attack or stroke, or those prone to blood clots, may also require low-dose aspirin — though you should always first check with your physician before starting this or any other over-the-counter medication.

Originally published at on April 3, 2019.



Dr. Ali Ghahary is a Family Physician in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store