Evidence-based natural ways to prevent metabolic disease

By Naveed Saleh, MD, MS
Published November 30, 2020

Key Takeaways

In an age of polypharmacy, it’s comforting to know that nutraceuticals—dietary components derived from nutrients, supplements, and herbal products—can effectively fight disease. In addition to being nutritious, nutraceuticals may prevent chronic illness, boost health, delay aging, and lengthen life. They are gaining traction as alternative medicine and emerging as a focus of medical education. Moreover, the public is developing a taste for them.

In particular, researchers have found that certain nutraceuticals may be beneficial in preventing metabolic syndrome (MetS)—a group of metabolic conditions that includes excess body fat around the waist, elevated blood pressure, high blood sugar, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels. Research has shown that MetS can increase risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and other diseases related to atherosclerosis. According to the CDC, MetS affects more than one-third of all adults in the United States.

In a 2018 review published in Archives of Medical Science (AMS), researchers noted, “There are numerous molecular and cellular dynamics that may be beneficially impacted by many of the components in nutraceuticals.” 

The following are five nutraceuticals that can potentially rein in metabolic disease:

Green tea

For fans of tea time, this cup’s for you. Green tea is loaded with plenty of beneficial catechin antioxidants, with flavonoids suppressing the expression of inducible NO synthase that leads to inflammation, oxidative stress, and platelet aggregation, according to the aforementioned AMS review.  

Consuming green tea drops body fat and body weight. According to the results of a study published in the Journal of Research in Medical Science, patients with type 2 diabetes who drank four cups of green tea per day experienced significant decreases in average body weight (73.2 kg to 71.9 kg); BMI (27.4 to 26.9); systolic blood pressure (126.2 to 118.6); and waist circumference (95.8 cm to 91.5 cm). 

Fatty fish

It’s somewhat ironic that fatty fish can help curb obesity levels, but long-chain fatty acids found in these marine dwellers can decrease adipose tissue mass. This effect is compounded by exercise, according to the AMS review. 

In a separate review published in Progress in Lipid Research, authors noted, “Epidemiological, human, animal, and cell culture studies show that n-3 fatty acids, especially α-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), reduce the risk factors of cardiovascular diseases. EPA and DHA, rather than ALA, have been the focus of research on the n-3 fatty acids, probably due to the relatively inefficient conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA in rodents and humans.”


Fans of ethnic food rejoice, because curcumin-containing turmeric is not only zesty but also may help you lose weight. Of note, curcumin is the principal bioactive ingredient found in the roots of the turmeric plant. 

Researchers examined the metabolic effects of 30 days of bioavailable curcumin supplementation in overweight participants with metabolic syndrome, in a study published in the European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences. Before curcumin exposure, the participants had already been dieting for 30 days, resulting in weight loss of less than 2%.

The investigators found that curcumin administration boosted weight loss from 1.88% to 4.91%. Additionally, the participants experienced significant improvements in measures of waistline, hip circumference, and BMI.  


Although a pain to peel, pomegranates pack a powerful health punch, noted the authors of the AMS review.

“Pomegranate has been widely used as a folk medicine in many cultures. The content of soluble polyphenols in pomegranate juice (PJ) varies within the limits of 0.2–1.0%, and they include tannins, ellagic tannins, anthocyanins, catechins, as well as gallic and ellagic acids. The consumption of PJ reduces blood pressure, and in hypertensive patients affects the activity of angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE),” they wrote. 


In addition to fighting metabolic disease, ginseng may literally put a smile on your face. In results of a classic study from Diabetes Care, investigators found that non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) patients treated for 8 weeks with ginseng exhibited greater physiologic and psychologic benefit compared with those in the control group.

“Ginseng therapy elevated mood, improved psychophysical performance, and reduced fasting blood glucose (FBG) and body weight,” they wrote. “Ginseng may be a useful therapeutic adjunct in the management of NIDDM.” 

Bottom line

Research shows that certain nutraceuticals play a role in preventing metabolic disease, however, more study is needed. 

“It is possible that food supplements may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in patients with MetS, though many prospective randomized trials will have to be performed in order to more reliably establish this,” wrote the authors in the AMS review. “The study of the beneficial effects of nutraceuticals in patients with MetS, including product standardization, duration of supplementation and definition of optimal dosing, could help better define appropriate treatment.”

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