Metabolic syndrome is a prevalent illness that is negatively impacting the health of individuals around the world. This prevalence is due to a rise in the rates of adult obesity, and is resulting in excess mortality due to an elevated risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and type 2 diabetes.1,3 It is defined as a cluster of conditions that occur together, which increases the individual’s risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.2 Metabolic risk factors responsible for this syndrome include having a large waistline, a high triglyceride level, a low HDL cholesterol level, high blood pressure, and high fasting blood sugar.1 Three of these risk factors must be present in order to be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, with the risk for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke increasing with each risk factor an individual may present.1
Although this increasing trend for obesity spans across populations, it is especially prominent among individuals with schizophrenia.3 Evidence to support this has been demonstrated throughout the literature. In a study conducted by Allison et al., 42% of individuals with schizophrenia were found to have a body mass index (BMI) greater than 27 kg/m2, compared to 27% of the general population.3,4 Also compared to the general population, schizophrenic patients have been shown to have 20% shorter lifespans, reflecting this population’s high prevalence of chronic conditions such as diabetes, coronary artery disease, and hypertension.5
There are many factors that contribute to this populations’ increased risk of developing metabolic syndrome. One of the most prominent factors is the use of atypical antipsychotic drugs. Despite their effectiveness in treating the positive and negative symptoms associated with schizophrenia, they are often paired with adverse side effects such as weight gain, development of diabetes, and abnormal changes in serum lipid levels.5 Other factors that contribute to their risk of developing metabolic syndrome is lack of exercise and a poor diet that generally consists of a surplus of fat and sugar.3 Ratliff et al. measured the dietary and physical activity habits of 130 individuals with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder, and compared them to BMI-, age-, sex-, and racially-matched controls.3 Individuals with schizophrenia were shown to have significantly higher levels of glycosylated hemoglobin and insulin, and had an increased waist circumference and diastolic blood pressure than did the comparison group.3 Although daily energy intake was not different between groups, individuals with schizophrenia consumed significantly greater amounts of sugar and fat, and reported less moderate physical activity than the comparison group.3
Approximately 70-75% of patients with schizophrenia can be classified as being physically inactive, and do not meet the minimal physical activity recommendations.6 Factors that contribute to this populations’ sedentary lifestyle include the negative...