A study in Pediatrics shows that among adolescents with metabolic syndrome, a cluster of risk factors that boost the odds of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes, the severity of the condition slowly declined in the U.S. during the past 15 years.
The drop coincided with a trend toward healthier diets among teens during the same timeframe, according to the study, “Trends in Metabolic Syndrome Severity and Lifestyle Factors among Adolescents”. Researchers looked at 5,117 participants between the ages of 12 and 19 in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 1999 to 2012.
They found that while the percentage of those with metabolic syndrome–having at least three risk factors that included excessive belly fat, high blood pressure, elevated fasting blood-sugar or triglyceride levels and low levels of “good” cholesterol or high-density lipoprotein (HDL)–held constant, the syndrome’s severity decreased during this time frame. The decline took place despite a significant rise in participants’ body mass index, an indicator of obesity, which the study’s authors suggest was offset by noted decreases in triglyceride levels and increases in HDL. The adolescents’ physical activity levels remained the same during the time period, but their overall calorie intake decreased.
Possibly mirroring the Mediterranean diet’s rising influence on adult eating habits, the authors said, the adolescents consumed a decreasing proportion calories from carbohydrates and an increasing amount from unsaturated fat and protein.