Dietary Fiber and Nutrient Density are Inversely Associated with Metabolic Syndrome in Adolescents


Metabolic Syndrome is a label that has been given to a class of risk factors linked with cardiovascular disease and disorders related to metabolism.  Some risks associated with metabolic syndrome include, increased blood pressure, waist circumference (weight in abdomen area), blood sugar, LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) levels and decreased HDL (good cholesterol) levels.  Due to the rise in childhood obesity, the occurrence of metabolic syndrome is becoming more common in children and adolescents; leading to Type 2 Diabetes, CVD, cancer and death for this population in the future.  To prevent the onset of metabolic syndrome, increased physical activity and improved nutrition/eating practices have been shown to be beneficial.  Although both factors have been assessed, most of the studies conducted in the past have focused on prevention using physical activity rather than the improvement of eating habits, which is addressed in the following study.


To find out the connections between metabolic syndrome and three aspects of the diet: fiber, saturated fat, and cholesterol intake.


2,128 male and female adolescents, ranging from ages 12 to 19 years of age, found through the NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) search process.  These subjects were a wide range of weights, including lean, normal weight and obese.


Using the 24-hr diet recall and diet interviews from NHANES, the researchers measured the amount of fiber, saturated fat, and cholesterol the participants were getting for every 1,000 calories they ate.  The study focused on the levels of fiber, saturated fat, and cholesterol because they are included in the cardiovascular health recommendations for children.  Blood and urine samples were collected and physical/dental checkups were completed.  Measurements were then compared with the appearance of symptoms of metabolic syndrome (increased blood pressure, waist circumference, triglyceride levels, blood sugar, decreased HDL levels) in the participants.


It was found that as fiber intake increased in adolescents’ diets, metabolic syndrome risk factors decreased.  There was no direct relationship found between the amount of saturated fat or cholesterol in the diet and the occurrence of metabolic syndrome risk factors in adolescents.


Because a 24-hr diet recall was used, it was possible that the children/adolescents may have incorrectly recorded what they had eaten.  Also, because it was a large population study, a direct cause-effect (increased fiber causing decreased metabolic syndrome risk factors) relationship could not be established.


Increasing the amount of fiber in the diet is associated with decreased metabolic syndrome in adolescents.


The full text, titled Dietary Fiber and Nutrient Density are Inversely Associated with Metabolic Syndrome. It is in US Adolescents is in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Volume 111(Issue 111), 1688-1695. The authors are Carlson, J. Joseph. Eisenmann, C. Joey. Norman, J. Gregory. Ortiz, A. Karen.    (2011)


Written by Caitlin Suter and Maria Petrosky,
Dept. Nutritional Sciences, Rutgers University-NewBrunswick
Edited by Faculty of the NJ Obesity Group