"In the last five years there has been an increased appreciation that hyperinsulinemia is an independent risk factor for mortality, and that it can even be seen as a marker or mechanism underlying this increased risk," Watkins continued. "Our study highlights the importance of lifestyle modifications such as exercise and weight loss, which have no adverse effects on the cardiovascular system and do not interact with any drugs."
After a meal, the body normally breaks down carbohydrates into glucose, or blood sugar, which prompts the release of the hormone insulin, which in turn helps transport glucose into cells. There, the glucose is either metabolized for energy or stored. However, if one eats an unhealthy diet, insulin levels can remain chronically high and over time, the cells become more resistant to its effects. As a consequence, less glucose is metabolized and insulin levels remain high, which can not only lead to diabetes, but increase the risks for cardiovascular disease and stroke.
The Duke team wanted to see if behavior modification techniques such as aerobic exercise training and structured exercise could have a positive effect on the heart disease risk factors associated with Syndrome X.
In their study, the researchers randomized 53 overweight and middle-aged men and women with Syndrome X into three groups exercise, exercise plus weight loss, and usual lifestyle. The exercise participants exercised three to four times a week for 26 weeks, while the combination group added a weight loss component whose goal was to lose one to two pounds per week by gradually lowering calorie and fat intake.