COVID and Metabolic Syndrome

COVID and Metabolic Syndrome

A recent Canadian poll (published Nov 24th) discovered that nearly one-third of respondents have increased in weight since March, while only 15% said they had lost weight, during the period between March and November (2020).

About the same percentage (one-third) revealed that they were exercising less, compared to about the same percentage (16%) who said they were exercising more, since the pandemic first hit us. Of course, logic dictates that both groups are the same people, as those exercising less are most likely the group putting weight on, while those exercising more must be the group losing weight.

Those responding to the survey who defined themselves as “very afraid” of COVID-19, were more likely to eat more, exercise less, and find themselves gaining weight. The author of the study “suggested that one reason may be a rush for comfort food to deal with pandemic-related anxieties”. (Source)

Overeating, not exercising, and gaining weight, all can potentially put one into the category of developing metabolic syndrome, a dangerous condition to have since it can lead to diabetes and/or heart disease. Given the danger of being diabetic, or even pre-diabetic, during this pandemic, I thought I would offer a brief examination of what metabolic syndrome entails.

Metabolic Syndrome

Diabetes, one of the most dangerous comorbidities to have with COVID, is accompanied by obesity, both of which are considered to be a result of metabolic syndromeIn the U.S. approximately 33% of adults have metabolic syndrome, and in Canada about 20%.

A study from Tulane University (New Orleans), published in August of 2020, found that “patients hospitalized with COVID-19 were over three times more likely to die if they had metabolic syndrome”. That study defined metabolic syndrome as a combination of high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes. (Source)

According to the Mayo Clinic, “metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that occur together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. These conditions include increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels”.

While one can have one or two of the metabolic syndrome conditions without fully developing the ailment, when too many of those boxes are ticked the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and heart disease, rises dramatically.

Unfortunately, metabolic syndrome does not always present obvious symptoms (with the exception of a large waist circumference), though it is closely linked to inactivity and obesity (and even just being overweight).

Therefore, one can be quietly developing it before it fully manifests as heart disease or diabetes. Diabetes is preceded by blood sugar imbalances, so one can look for pre-diabetic symptoms such as blurred vision, fatigue, and increased thirst and urination. If one has all three symptoms, it would be a good idea to get a blood glucose test to determine how severe the condition is.

Insulin Resistance

Consistent blood sugar imbalances can lead to insulin resistance, which is the benchmark of metabolic syndrome. Here is how that happens:

The digestive system breaks down many of the foods we eat into simple sugars. Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, carries sugar into the cells to be used as fuel by the body. When we abuse this process with too many simple sugars, and refined carbohydrates in the diet, for too long, the cells cease to respond normally to insulin.

In people with insulin resistance, cells don’t respond normally to insulin and glucose can’t enter the cells as easily. As a result, your blood sugar levels rise even as your body churns out more and more insulin to try to lower your blood sugar.” (Source)

What To Do

If you feel you are in the danger zone, it is time to do something about it. Aside from the added risk factor that metabolic syndrome adds to those who get COVID-19, according to the Metabolic Syndrome Canada website, 43% of Canadians die from disease states related to this condition.

The good news is that this organization reports on “a three-year study published in CMAJ Open, which has concluded that metabolic syndrome (MetS) may be reversed through participation in a team-based lifestyle intervention program including diet and exercise changes”. (For information on that study, and more advice on the subject, follow this link.)

Another source of lifestyle advice can be found at www.heart.orgwhere the advice can be summed up as: eat better, get active, and lose weight.


In an older blog, I explain how the herbal extract berberine has been proven to be as effective as the drug Metformin for regulating insulin levels.

To quote from that newsletter: “In one study, Chinese researchers compared berberine to metformin (among 48 diabetic patients), finding that berberine lowered blood sugar levels as well as metformin. After only one week, the patients also significantly decreased their fasting blood glucose, and their after-meal blood glucose. As well, their insulin resistance dropped 45%.” (Study)

Quite frankly, I would suggest that if you even suspect blood sugar issues, you consider taking berberine (500 mg, three times daily). Not only does it help protect us from developing metabolic syndrome, thus helping to also protect us from a severe response to COVID-19, but berberine has other benefits to health as well. Such benefits include reducing inflammation, protecting the liver, and improving learning and memory, as well as killing off mold, candida yeast, and bad bacteria. (For more on the benefits of berberine follow this link.)

COVID and Black Seed

Scientists in Pakistan searching to find natural treatments for COVID-19, decided to investigate a mixture of honey and black seed (Nigella sativa), given they both have “established antiviral properties”.

They conducted a placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial at 4 centers in Pakistan, using 313 adult patients, with confirmed COVID-19, who showed moderate or severe manifestation of the disease. “Patients presenting with multi-organ failure, ventilator support, and chronic diseases (except diabetes mellitus and hypertension) were excluded. Patients were randomly assigned in 1:1 ratio to receive either honey (1 gm/Kg/day) and Nigella sativa seeds (80 mg/Kg/day) or placebo up-to 13 days along with standard care.”

HNS (honey and Nigella sativa) “resulted in ~50% reduction in time taken to alleviate symptoms as compared to placebo…HNS also cleared the virus 4 days earlier than the placebo group in moderate (6 versus 10 days), and severe cases (8.5 versus 12 days)”.

HNS further led to a better clinical score on day 6 with normal activity resumption in 63.6% versus 10.9% among moderate cases, and hospital discharge in 50% versus 2.8% in severe cases. In severe cases, mortality rate was four-fold lower in the HNS group than placebo (4% versus. No HNS-related adverse effects were observed.”

Summary: “HNS significantly improved symptoms, viral clearance, and mortality in COVID-19 patients. Thus, HNS represents an affordable over the counter therapy and can either be used alone or in combination with other treatments to achieve potentiating effects against COVID-19.” (Study)

If I were to use this therapy, I would use Manuka honey as it is the most medicinal honey available, one with antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and possibly even antiviral effects. (Source)

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