Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors that are strongly linked to diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke. It’s not a term you hear too much about in the media or even at your doctor’s office, which is amazing considering the condition affects an estimated 50 million Americans.
The cornerstone of metabolic syndrome is insulin resistance, a condition where the body does not use insulin properly. Insulin is the hormone released by your pancreas that helps move blood sugar (glucose) into the cells where it’s used for energy. In response to the improper use of insulin, your pancreas secretes even more insulin, which sets the stage for the diseases mentioned earlier — type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke.
According to the National Institutes of Health, you have metabolic syndrome if you have three or more of the following:
- A large waist (more than 35 inches around)
- High triglyceride levels
- Low HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels
- High blood pressure or use of blood pressure medication
- High fasting blood glucose level or use of diabetes medication
Obviously, preventing metabolic syndrome can go a long way in reducing the incidence of three of today’s most serious and potentially deadly diseases. And oftentimes it’s simple lifestyle changes that can prevent this condition.
Numerous studies have examined one such lifestyle change — increasing fiber intake — to see what, if any, effect it had on treating or reducing the risk of metabolic syndrome. 
Most scientific findings show that dietary fiber does, in fact, help prevent and treat metabolic syndrome, and decrease the risk of diabetes and a host of other diseases. Most notably, the increased intake of dietary fiber in patients with metabolic syndrome can ward off obesity, improve glucose levels, and lead to better control of blood lipids and healthier blood pressure.
For the Love of Fiber
There are two types of fiber — insoluble and soluble. Both are important and have different tasks in the body.
Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in the body and passes quickly through the digestive system relatively intact. This is the type of fiber you should take if you have constipation, and it’s found mainly in whole grains and most vegetables.
Soluble fiber, on the other hand, dissolves in the body. It attracts water and forms a gel-like substance, slowing down digestion. This delays the emptying of the stomach and makes you feel fuller longer, which helps with weight control. The slower emptying of the stomach also has a beneficial effect on insulin sensitivity and helps lower bad LDL cholesterol.
Some of the best food sources of soluble fiber include oats, flaxseed, nuts, beans, and various fruits and vegetables like apples, pears, blueberries, cucumbers, carrots and strawberries.
For the prevention and treatment of metabolic syndrome, increasing your intake of soluble fiber is your best bet. Women should aim to get about 25 grams per day, while men should consume up to 35 grams per day. You can learn how many grams of soluble fiber different foods contain here.
While getting your fiber from whole foods is ideal, you can also take a fiber supplement, especially if you feel that you aren’t getting enough fiber through your diet alone. Fiber supplements are readily available at any pharmacy or grocery store.
 Aleixadnre A and Miguel M. Dietary fiber in the prevention and treatment of metabolic syndrome: a review. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2008 Nov;48(10):905–12.
 Giacosa A and Rondanelli M. The right fiber for the right disease: an update on the psyllium seed husk and the metabolic syndrome. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2010 Sep;44 Suppl 1:S58–60.
 Aleixadnre A.