The metabolic syndrome is a condition consisting of multiple symptoms including elevated blood glucose, triglycerides, cholesterol, LDL (the bad cholesterol) and decreased HDL (the good cholesterol). A part of the metabolic syndrome is insulin resistance which occurs when the insulin is not able to transfer the blood sugar into the cells as efficiently as it used to. This will first result in elevated insulin levels as the pancreas compensates trying to transfer the glucose into the cells so it can be used for energy. Later the blood glucose may also increase as the pancreas is not able to compensate and the insulin resistance get worse. Symptoms are usually weight gain especially around the waist, less energy and increased low grade inflammation.
Risk factors associated both insulin resistance and the metabolic syndrome are not enough physical activity, stress and high glycemic index foods. Skipping meals can also be added to the list of risk factors, this was documented in a Swedish study recently (Sierra-Johnson J, et al, 2008). This makes sense since going a long time without eating results in glucose production in the liver to avoid low blood sugar. With time, the liver may produce more glucose than needed which will result in increased blood sugar.
Triggering this response is the hormone glucagone which stimulates the body to break down its own protein. The protein (amino acids) are then converted to glucose in the liver. This is a quicker way to produce energy than using fat which the body also will do.
The results is usually weight gain especially around the waist, the break down of muscle tissue because that is a big source of protein, and lack of energy.
The best way to ensure that you have high energy and stay lean is to eat high nutrient, low glycemic index foods regularly and not skip meals. Many smaller meals are better than 1 or 2 big meals. Exercise should of course also be a part of your routine.
Sierra-Johnson J, et al, 2008. Eating meals irregularly: a novel environmental risk factor for the metabolic syndrome. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2008 Jun;16(6): 1302-7.