By Deborah Castelino Registered Nutritionist MSc |PNDP | mBANT | mCNHC
21st September 2023 4-minute read
Metabolic syndrome (MS) is the medical name given to a cluster of conditions namely diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. MS may put you at risk of other serious medical conditions such as stroke and coronary heart disease.
Interestingly MS may also affect your sex life as discovered by a group of researchers investigating the frequency of sexual dysfunction amongst men with metabolic syndrome. The scientists stated that 96.5% of the research subjects reported erectile dysfunction, 39.6% had reduced sexual desire and 4.8% had delayed ejaculation.1
A similar study involving postmenopausal women reported participants with more body fat and larger hips and waist measurements had lower levels of sexual desire and less frequent sexual activity.2
Let’s take a closer look at these conditions that make up metabolic syndrome.
WHAT IS DIABETES?
Diabetes is a condition in which levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood are higher than normal. There are two main kinds of diabetes (type 1 and 2). Both types involve insulin, a hormone responsible for controlling the level of glucose in the blood. For the purposes of this article, we’re referring to type 2.
Type 2 diabetic patients, produce insulin, but the cells become insensitive to it and so it fails to do its job properly. Type 2 diabetes accounts for over 90% of all people with diabetes, and the condition usually develops later in life. This type of diabetes is far more strongly associated with diet and lifestyle factors.
It’s easy to dismiss the risk, but the shift into prediabetes can happen almost without you noticing it. You may experience niggling symptoms, like low energy or your weight creeping up on you, and your usual tricks to get it down no longer work as well as they once did.
What about blood pressure?
Blood pressure is the force or pressure, that blood exerts on the walls of the blood vessels. This pressure ensures a steady flow of blood into, and out of, all the organs of the body. Keeping blood pressure within normal limits (under 120/80mmHg) is vital.
High or low blood pressure does not always cause symptoms.
If you experience symptoms of low blood pressure (see below), and they occur frequently or very suddenly, you should get the cause clarified by your doctor.
What are the symptoms of low blood pressure?
- Difficulty breathing
- Ringing in the ears / Tinnitus
- Loss of appetite
- Sensitivity to the weather
It is important to take possible signs of high blood pressure seriously and see a doctor as soon as possible:
What are the symptoms of high blood pressure?
- Headaches (especially in the morning)
- Ringing in the ears / Tinnitus
- Nose bleeds
- Shortness of breath
- Redness in the face
What about obesity?
Obesity and overweight have been classified as an increase in the amount and size of fat cells in the body.3And affects approximately 1 in every 4 adults.
Although the obesity epidemic affects both sexes, men and women gain, carry, and lose weight very differently. In women, it mainly sits on the hips and bum, where it serves as a vital store, for example for pregnancy. In men, fat tends to accumulate around the belly. Abdominal fat is a lot more metabolically active and produces not only hormones – which, among other things, further affect weight, weight distribution and hunger – but also inflammatory compounds. This visceral belly fat is unhealthier as it promotes inflammation, increasing the risk for heart attack and stroke.
So, what does all this have to do with sexual function?
Metabolic syndrome (amongst other conditions) is recognised as a risk factor for sexual dysfunction. Studies have shown nutrition and lifestyle changes may lower inflammation and may be beneficial in sexual dysfunction. 4
Metabolic syndrome is a growing problem with 1 in 3 UK adults believed to be affected.5 A common underlying reason for blood pressure problems, obesity and diabetes is poor diet and lifestyle choices. Even small changes to your habits and what you eat can make a big difference in a relatively short period of time.
You should always talk to your doctor about symptoms you are particularly concerned about, but there is a lot you can do to fix that spare tyre around the middle, boost your sex drive and feel great in bed again.
The contents of this blog are for information only and are intended to assist readers in identifying symptoms they may be experiencing. It is not intended to be a substitute for taking proper medical advice and should not be relied upon in this way. Always consult a qualified doctor or health practitioner if you are concerned about any symptoms, you are experiencing.
1 Corona, G., Mannucci E., et al2006. Psychobiologic correlates of the metabolic syndrome and associated sexual dysfunction, Eur Urol 2006:50;595-604: discussion 604.
2 Adolfsson, B et al., 2004. Decreased sexual interest and its relationship to body build in postmenopausal women. Maturitas. Feb;23(1):63-71.doi: 10.1016/0378-5122(95)00954-x.
3 National heart, lung and blood Institute. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/overweight-and-obesity
4 Mariorino, M. I., Bellastella, G., and Esposito K. 2015. Lifestyle modifications and erectile dysfunction: what can be expected? Jan-Feb;17(1):5-10. doi: 10.4103/1008-682X.137687.
5 Metabolic Syndrome. NHS, 2023. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/metabolic-syndrome/)