Botanicals and the metabolic syndrome1-4
Metabolic syndrome describes the human condition characterized by the presence of coexisting traditional risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as hypertension, dyslipidemia, glucose intolerance, and obesity, in addition to nontraditional cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as inflammatory processes and abnormalities of the blood coagulation system. Although the specific etiology for metabolic syndrome is not known, insulin resistance—a clinical state in which a normal or elevated insulin concentration reflects an impaired biological response—is present and is considered a key pathophysiologic abnormality. As such, metabolic syndrome can be considered to be a prediabetic state and contributes greatly to increased morbidity and mortality in humans. Given the public health significance of metabolic syndrome, successful strategies are direly needed to intervene in its development. As such, nutritional supplementation with botanicals that effectively address pathogenic mechanisms, combined with the acceptance and widespread use of botanical supplements by the general public, represents an attractive, novel, and potentially effective approach to the problem. Thus, the overall goal of our botanical research center is to comprehensively evaluate botanicals in addressing the pathophysiologic mechanisms that lead to the development of insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. Currently, each of the 3 research projects evaluates a specific botanical [Russian tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus L), shilianhua (Sinocrassula indica), and grape (Vitus vinifera) anthocyanins] and assesses the effect on pathogenic mechanisms leading to the development of insulin resistance. With the completion of our research, we anticipate a better understanding of the cellular mechanisms by which insulin resistance develops and the role of botanicals in modulating the progression to metabolic syndrome.