Maca and Metabolic Syndrome

By Monica van de Weerd

Metabolic syndrome consists of several risk factors for heart disease and diabetes. Notably, the characteristics of this syndrome include elevated waist circumference, elevated fatty lipids in the blood, high blood pressure, high fasting glucose indicating minor insulin resistance, and reduced levels of good cholesterol. Since metabolic syndrome symptoms preclude more severe conditions, addressing these factors may reduce the risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.

Across the world, the prevalence of metabolic syndrome is rising, possibly due to the parallel increase in obesity and diabetes1. In the United States, 40%  of men and 30% of women are overweight. Obesity rates are nearly as high, with 35% of men and 36% of women meeting the criteria for obesity2. Canada has a 10% lower prevalence of obese adults compared to the US1, demonstrating international differences in prevalence and criteria. Within countries, metabolic syndrome prevalence varies within population subgroups divided by race/ethnicity measured in the US1 and UK3. Metabolic syndrome doubles the risk of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease1,4.

Diagnosis and assessment with three of the five factors5

  • Elevated waist circumference
  • Elevated triglycerides
  • Reduced high-density lipoproteins (HDL-C)
  • Elevated blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Elevated fasting glucose

Associated medical conditions6

  • Cholesterol gallstones
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Fatty liver
  • Gout
  • Depression
  • Musculoskeletal disease
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome

Causal links6

  • Obesity
  • Physical inactivity
  • Adipose tissue disorders
  • Genetic and racial factors
  • Ageing
  • Endocrine disorders
maca for metabolic syndrome

Most patients with type 2 diabetes will have metabolic syndrome by the proposed criteria5. Waist circumference guidelines generally followed according to the international diabetes foundation, although there are different thresholds for population subgroups which can be divided into nationality and race/ethnicity1,5.

The fundamental component of metabolic syndrome treatment consists of eating a healthier diet, increased physical activity and weight loss. Maca is a traditional medicinal root grown in the Andes mountains at high altitude and has several properties to counter metabolic syndrome. It is traditionally used to improve energy and vitality and ensure longevity in life.

How maca can assist those with metabolic syndrome

To bolster a healthier diet, maca provides7,8,9:

  • Alkaloids
  • 5 important amino acids
  • A cocktail of phytosterols and flavonoids
  • 6 Minerals
  • 5 Vitamins
  • Macaenes (good fatty acids)
  • Macamides (good fatty acids)

In laboratory and clinical studies, maca combated elevated triglycerides and increased low levels of good cholesterol (HDL). In post-ovariectomised rats, maca prevented cholesterol and HDL levels from increasing and maintained them at an ongoing healthy level10. In a human clinical pilot study, maca treatment reduced increased HDL levels11.

In addition to changing blood lipid profile, maca addresses the typical feature of metabolic syndrome – elevated waist circumference. In a study comparing maca treatment periods, male rats exhibited weight loss after short-term administration of maca, whereas female rats taking maca showed an effect over long term treatment12. In a human clinical pilot study, maca treatment reduced body weight11. The mechanism behind these results may be, in part, due to the chemical composition of maca. Fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) activity positively correlates with body mass index (BMI)13. Maca contains high amounts of macamides, which directly inhibit FAAH in a concentration and time-dependent manner 14,15,16. The presence of N-alkylamides within maca root also contributes to FAAH inhibition17. These molecular components in maca have the potential to reduce BMI and weight.

For those with diabetes maca has been shown in animal studies to significantly improve glucose tolerance as well as liver function by increasing production and activity of glutathione and glutathione peroxidase18. Maca combats fatigue, a symptom of metabolic syndrome19,20,21,22, and likely a key player in reducing the motivation for physical activity. See our article on the anti-fatigue effects of maca in our previous blog article. Maca has some unique molecular properties to alter brain biochemistry as a potential target for anti-fatigue effects. By inhibiting FAAH, maca increases available anandamide (AEA) in neurons and the synapse. AEA  is the primary endocannabinoid agonist for cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1R)23. In correlation with the molecular evidence, maca positively affects mood in women post-menopause or experiencing sexual dysfunction24,25. Elevated mood may increase the likelihood of physical activity by decreasing stress.

Further evidence identifies maca as a potential treatment for the reduction in blood pressure, a hallmark for increased risk of cardiovascular disease. In post-menopausal women, maca treatment reduced blood pressure26. In a human clinical pilot study, maca treatment reduced blood pressure11. These studies provide evidence for maca to treat metabolic syndrome in humans and furthermore no known contraindications prohibit it’s use with medication related to metabolic syndrome.

How to support metabolic syndrome with maca

Take 1-1.5 tsp per day of our Activated Yellow Maca or 2-3 tsp per day of our Activated Chocolate Maca for a min 6-12 weeks.

Note: There is no upper limit with maca and everybody is different, so it is important to find your ideal dose that is right for your body, for some this may be less than the recommended for others it may be more. If you experience positive health benefits then we suggest you continue treatment at that ideal dosage. The material provided on this website is for information purposes only. It is not intended to replace medical advice or be a treatment for any medical condition. Users should consult a health professional if you have any concerns about your health, are starting any health or nutritional related treatment, or for any questions you may have regarding your own or any other party’s medical condition. Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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