Cholesterol/LipidsHeart DiseaseHigh Blood PressureMetabolic SyndromeObesity

Studying the effects of plant extracts on the metabolic syndrome

Even as researchers debate its importance, the NIH has awarded an $8 million, five-year grant to evaluate the effects of plant extracts on the metabolic syndrome. Researchers from Rutgers University and the Pennington Biomedical Research Center will grow the plants, determine their active components, and conduct clinical trials.

Here’s some background on the metabolic syndrome and the growing controversy about its relevance.

The presence of obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high blood sugar levels is associated with increased risk for both cardiovascular disease (CVD) and type 2 diabetes, especially when more than one of these abnormalities occur at the same time.

Sometimes its called “insulin resistance syndrome,” or “syndrome X.” But mostly, this clustering of risk factors is called the “metabolic syndrome.”

The existence of the metabolic syndrome is widely accepted. During the 2006 meeting of the American Diabetes Association, at least 275 presentations included mention of metabolic syndrome! Yet, at the same meeting, two experts debated its importance.

Wither the “metabolic syndrome?”

According to Dr. Richard Kahn, the chief scientific and medical officer at the American Diabetes Association, “The metabolic syndrome is a rather poor way to identify persons at risk for diabetes or CVD and ? there are no data to show that it can be used to improve outcomes.”

What’s in a name?

OK, but it probably doesn’t matter what it’s called. The symptoms and the diseases being studied by Rutgers and Pennington scientists are important health issues. And the process of first identifying and controlling for the active content of the botanicals before proceeding to clinical trials is essential.

Illustration: Bodybody Fitness and Health

8/9/06 11:07 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.