Syndrome X

Two books about diets to control Syndrome X have been published by well respected nutritional writers. They are Can’t Lose Weight? You could have Syndrome X by Dr Sandra Cabot, author of “The Liver Cleansing Diet” and the X Factor diet by Leslie Kenton.

Syndrome X is the name given to a cluster of disorders that have become very prevalent, due to our high intake of refined carbohydrates. These include blood sugar problems, high blood pressure, cholesterol & triglyceride problems, obesity – particularly round the abdomen, difficulty in losing weight and fatigue.

What do these books have in common?

Both plans use a diet low in carbohydrate, and moderate in protein & fat, to reverse the effects of a high carbohydrate diet. They eliminate refined carbohydrates and trans fats, and strictly limit the intake of other carbohydrates. So far they are similar to Atkins, but where they are different is that neither book recommends too high an intake of saturated fat.

Both books stress the importance of an adequate intake of protein with every meal, and of making sure you get enough of the essential fats. They have lists showing carb levels of common foods, and include tasty sounding recipes.

Dr Cabot’s book

Dr Cabot’s approach is from a medical perspective, but explained in an easy to understand way. The blood tests needed to determine whether you have Syndrome X are given, which is very useful. A lot of information about body chemistry is included, explaining the body’s processes and how they go wrong. She also incorporates many of the other nutritional aspects that she works with, including the need to cleanse the liver if that is also compromised, different body shapes and their additional supplementation needs, and how hormonal imbalances may also be involved.

Her eating plan is much more “middle of the road” than say, Atkins. It has many principles in common with her Liver Cleansing diet, but has a higher protein content. There are three stages to the plan. Firstly, approximately six weeks of very low carbohydrate intake with no refined carbs, no grains, and only small amounts of fruit and legumes. Another six weeks where one serving of grains is allowed, and an extra serve of fruit per day. The final stage is the maintenance stage, where carbohydrate intake increases to around 40-45% of the daily calories, but still excludes refined carbs.

Like the Liver Cleansing diet, this is a very sensible eating plan. I feel that the extra protein is an improvement. This would be a huge improvement on the diet most people are currently eating, and would not be too difficult to follow. Dr Cabot has had great success with many patients with this diet, and it obviously works very well for many people.

Points to consider :

  • This plan may not limit carbohydrate quite enough for some people. Hunter Gatherer types, or those metabolically resistant to losing weight may need to go down as far as the 20gms a day recommended by Atkins & Kenton to get started
  • Grains are reintroduced in the 2nd stage of the plan. Many people are not suited to eating grains at all, and would be better off not eating them at all. This not only applies to people with gluten intolerances, but also to people who just feel better off grains.
  • Soy is highly recommended. I have grave doubts about the suitability of soy for anybody, and especially men and children. A small amount, if fermented, may be OK in some cases, but not unfermented soy.
  • Coffee is still allowed. Elsewhere I have read that caffeine is a factor in blood sugar problems, along with several other conditions, and for many people should be eliminated.
  • Looking back over the book, I can’t find much mention of food allergies or intolerances at all, though as this doesn’t apply to everybody, it is not always a major issue.
  • And one last minor niggle. Although there is a very good contents section, there is no index, so it is sometimes hard to check up on details.

Leslie Kenton’s book

Leslie’s book has two plans. One is called Ketogenics and is for women with more than 35% body fat, and men with more than 22%, or for anyone who wants to kick start their weight loss. It is designed to get you into ketosis and limits carbohydrates to 3 cups of raw vegetables, or two cups of cooked per day. These should be chosen from low GI, non starchy vegetables, and at least half should be eaten raw. These will comprise approx 20% of your daily calories. 50% should come from high quality proteins, and 30% from good fats.

High quality proteins include organic meats, fish, eggs, micro filtered whey protein, some soy products and the occasional serving of a low carb cheese. Good fats include extra virgin olive oil, flaxseed oil, coconut oil, homemade mayo and small amounts of butter. Excluded are any processed or commercial foods (especially those including refined carbs or trans fats), starchy carbs including grains, soft drinks, fruit juices, alcohol and coffee.

Other recommended factors : Drinking at least 2 litres of water a day. Taking a daily multi-vitamin with plant factor antioxidants. Starting an exercise routine which includes weight training and daily walking.

The other plan is called Insulin Balance. As it says, it is designed to balance your insulin levels, without you needing to go into ketosis. This is an eating plan for life, which will assist in gradual weight loss, and also keep your energy levels high. With this plan, you fine tune your own requirements.

Most of the principles are similar to Ketogenics, the main exception being the ratios of the macronutrients. Carbs should comprise 35% of calories, protein 35% and fats 30%. (Notice that this is very similar to the Zone ratios, but with slightly more protein and less carbs.) Small quantities of med GI carbs are allowed, along with the occasional serving of certain whole grains.

Once again soy is recommended. Maybe the occasional serving of a good quality soy isolate powder is OK but personally, I would always avoid soy. But this is really the only niggle I have with this plan. Overall, I think the dietary principles outlined are sound and that anybody would benefit from adopting this way of eating.

In my opinion, this is a more advanced book. This may be because Ms Kenton comes from a nutritional, anthropological and political point of view. She is looking at the best diet you could eat, whereas Dr Cabot’s view is possibly more practical. Like Peter d’Adamo, Dr Cabot may be going for a bit of a compromise, the best diet her patients will actually stick to. My personal preference is for Leslie Kenton’s plan, but either book would be an good choice.

Summary :

Both of these books are well worth checking out if you suffer from any of these disorders, have a family history of diabetes or heart disease, are overweight, or just generally feel like you’re not as well as you could be.

Dr Cabot’s book will probably appeal more to people with an Agriculturist metabolism, those who are cooking for a family, and those who are new to making dietary changes.

Ms Kenton’s book would be more suitable for those with a Hunter-Gather or Mixed metabolism, or those who have already made improvements in their diet and want to crank it up a notch.