A special supplement of the journal Metabolism describes research aimed at strengthening the scientific evidence base for using botanicals to understand and combat metabolic syndrome. The research was conducted by the Pennington Biomedical Research Center of the Louisiana State University System, in collaboration with the Biotech Center at Rutgers University, as part of the NIH Botanical Research Centers Program cofunded by NCCAM and the Office of Dietary Supplements.
Metabolic syndrome—also known as insulin resistance syndrome or metabolic syndrome X—is a group of conditions that increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and related complications. This syndrome is a major public health concern in the United States, where it has become more prevalent in recent years and could reach epidemic proportions. Metabolic syndrome has not been formally defined; however, many health professionals agree that people with the syndrome have high blood pressure, abdominal obesity, high blood sugar and triglyceride levels, and low HDL (good cholesterol) levels. The syndrome is also associated with inflammatory processes and blood coagulation irregularities. Although the cause-effect relationship is uncertain, an abnormality called insulin resistance appears to be involved.
Botanicals may have the potential to shed light on the causes of metabolic syndrome and to intervene in its progression. Toward this end, the research described in Metabolism explores botanicals' cellular mechanisms of action as they relate to metabolic syndrome. Article topics include:
- A general history of botanical therapeutics.
- Strategies for using animal models.
- How botanicals may modify epigenetic processes. (Epigenetics refers to changes in gene expression—how genes behave—that do not involve changes in DNA sequence. These changes are thought to contribute to aging and to various diseases.)
- Laboratory studies of specific botanicals, including soy protein and isoflavones, resveratrol, quercetin, shilianhua, grape anthocyanins, and Artemisia dracunculus.