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The Natural Supplement for Metabolic Health

Metabolic syndrome has risen as the premiere catch-all phrase describing the declining health condition of our modern culture. Learn what causes this increasingly common condition and the benefits of taking a natural supplement to aid in the support and protection of your liver.

Covering everything from obesity, fatty liver disease, congestive heart failure, high cholesterol, elevated blood pressure to diabetes mellitus, metabolic syndrome is inching toward the top of the list of medically diagnosed conditions. New research gives even more reason for a person with metabolic syndrome to consider taking milk thistle.

The physical implications of our highly technical world are slowly emerging, as more and more people within developed countries sit in front of a computer screen all day and eat packaged, preserved food to save time and money. Metabolic syndrome is believed to result from several factors including physical inactivity, bad eating habits and genetics.

According to the American Heart Association, approximately 50 million Americans have metabolic syndrome, characterized by a group of risk factors present in one person including:

· Abdominal obesity (excessive fat tissue in and around the abdomen)
· Blood fat disorders – high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol and high LDL cholesterol – that foster plaque buildups in artery walls
· Elevated blood pressure
· Insulin resistance or glucose intolerance (the body can’t properly use insulin or blood sugar)
· Prothrombotic state (e.g. high fibrinogen or plasminogen activator inhibitor–1 in the blood)
· Proinflammatory state (e.g. elevated C-reactive protein in the blood)

Whether viewed in terms of heart disease, liver disease or insulin resistance, it is becoming increasingly clear that metabolic syndrome is a condition affecting all of the body’s physiological functions. Finding natural methods to aid the body in resisting this condition is difficult, considering any option must match the broad physiological decline caused by metabolic syndrome. Evidence within many different lines of medical treatment points to the ability of the milk thistle plant to support the various components of metabolic health.

Insulin Resistance
On a cellular level, insulin resistance seems to be one of the most distinguishing factors of metabolic syndrome. Released by the pancreas, insulin is dispersed into the bloodstream in response to elevated blood sugar (glucose) levels. By pushing glucose out of the bloodstream and into the body’s cells, insulin keeps blood glucose levels from becoming too elevated and allows cells to convert glucose into energy. Insulin-resistant cells do not allow for the proper conversion of glucose into energy, resulting in fatigue. This resistance to insulin does not permit glucose to enter the cells but, rather, causes it to accumulate in the blood. In an attempt to reduce the glucose levels in the blood, the body signals the pancreas to produce and release even more insulin. The cycle of insulin-resistant cells causes even more insulin to be released, resulting in high blood insulin levels.

Connected Conditions
The conditions composing metabolic syndrome possess many interconnections, such as:

· High blood insulin levels increase triglycerides, which deposit fatty acids in the liver, in adipose tissue and throughout the entire cardiovascular system.

· In extreme cases of insulin resistance, diabetes mellitus develops.

· Approximately 70 percent of diabetics have some form of fatty liver disease.

· Five to 20 percent of people with diabetes have cirrhosis due to advanced fatty liver disease.

· Diabetes is believed to be a risk factor for the development of cirrhosis.

· Insulin resistance influences blood pressure.

· Obesity promotes fat deposit to form in the liver. The organ struggles to oxidize the overabundance of free fatty acids entering the liver, leading to fatty liver disease.

· Metabolic syndrome places people at increased risk of coronary heart disease and other diseases related to plaque build-ups in artery walls (e.g., stroke and peripheral vascular disease) and type 2 diabetes.

Milk Thistle
In Europe, silymarin, the purified extract of milk thistle, and its main constituent, silybin, are used to maintain liver health. Known to prevent liver cell death and help liver cells regenerate, milk thistle has been used across the globe to support liver health for centuries. While many people with fatty liver disease recognize the importance of protecting and supporting their liver with milk thistle extract, this may not occur to everyone living with metabolic syndrome.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Milk thistle is believed to have protective effects on the liver and improve its function. It is typically used to treat liver cirrhosis, chronic hepatitis (liver inflammation), and gallbladder disorders. Treatment claims also include lowering cholesterol levels and reducing insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes who also have cirrhosis.”

In the October 30, 2006 online edition of Phytotherapy Research, Iranian researchers demonstrated that milk thistle seed extract helped control blood sugar for people with type 2 diabetes. In this double-blind study, diabetics taking milk thistle for four months showed better blood sugar control, cholesterol and triglyceride levels than the control group. This research supports claims of milk thistle’s ability to positively affect a person with metabolic syndrome.

Although advanced medical technology has yet to find a remedy for metabolic syndrome, many aspects of this increasingly common condition benefit from taking milk thistle. Whether you are interested in protecting your liver, improving cardiovascular health, maintaining healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels or helping your blood sugar and metabolism, the natural supplement milk thistle appears to cover all of the bases.


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www.americanheart.org, Metabolic Syndrome, American Heart Association, Inc., 2006.

www.hsph.harvard.edu, Cluster of Health Problems Called Metabolic Syndrome Focus of Annual Stare-Hested Lecture, Harvard Public Health NOW, March 2003.

www.liversupport.com, How to Prevent a Fatty Liver, Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., Natural Wellness, May 2006.

www.medicinenet.com, Research Offers Insights Into Liver's Role in Metabolic Syndrome, Robert Preidt, American Heart Association, ScoutNews, LLC, October 2006.

www.nccam.nih.gov, Milk Thistle, National Institutes of Health, 2006.

www.vivo.colostate.edu, Metabolic Functions of the Liver, Colorado State University, October 1995.

www.webmd.com, Milk Thistle May Help Treat Diabetes, Miranda Hitti, WebMD Inc., October 2006.

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About the Author

Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., MTCM, Dipl. Ac. (NCCAOM)®

Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., MTCM is a long time advocate of integrating perspectives on health. With a Bachelor's degree in Neuroscience from the University of Rochester and a Master's degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine from Five Branches Institute, Nicole has been a licensed acupuncturist since 2000. She has gathered acupuncture licenses in the states of California and New York, is a certified specialist with the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association, has earned diplomat status with the National Commission of Chinese and Oriental Medicine in Acupuncture and Chinese Herbology and is a member of the Society for Integrative Oncology. In addition to her acupuncture practice that focuses on stress and pain relief, digestion, immunity and oncology, Nicole contributes to the integration of healthcare by writing articles for professional massage therapists and people living with liver disease.

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