I first read about Metabolic Syndrome in Wired magazine (issue 14.10: The Thin Pill). When I first read about it, I was torn, thinking both Wow, that could be me! and Hmmm… sounds like a hoax. For those who don’t know:
metabolic syndrome is just a new way to think about a cluster of well-known and increasingly prevalent conditions. Metabolic syndrome is characterized by five risk factors: high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high triglycerides (fatty acids in the bloodstream), low HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and obesity. Of the five, obesity – which is itself often referred to as an epidemic – is the most important, because the rise of the morbidly overweight is directly driving the rise in the syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is, in fact, almost indistinguishable from obesity – at least 85 percent of those who have the syndrome are obese or overweight.
I’m torn for a lot of the reasons that are listed in the article linked above. Is wrapping all of the complications that come from being obese under a new name a good idea? Is it beneficial at all? Or is it another way to deny the problem, to hide it by not facing it? Does it help to call this Metabolic Syndrome, or just to say, “hey, you are obese and you need to change that?
Obviously, I don’t have an answer to that question. But I do have an answer to whether this is a hoax or not: My insurance company (I won’t name their name, but it sorta sounds like sigma) is doing surveys and calls right now for people who may have metabolic syndrome. If the payer is going to acknowledge this as a syndrome, then it’s definitely beyond the hoax stage.