Syndrome X afflicts Singaporean Chinese hooked on junk western diets: Study

By Ankush Chibber

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition

Syndrome X afflicts Singaporean Chinese
Western-style fast food increases the risk of developing type-2 diabetes (T2D) and dying of coronary heart disease (CHD) in eastern populations, a study has found.

“The poor nutritional profile of western-style fast food is the underlying hypothesized mechanism whereby risk of type 2 diabetes and CHD mortality may be increased​,” the report said of the combination of maladies also known as Syndrome X.

Decreasing dietary fibre intake might also contribute to cardio-metabolic risk, along with the high sodium content in most western-style fast foods.

“A more reductionist aspect to consider is that trans-fatty acids (TFA) are still a frequent western-style fast food intake that contributes to insulin resistance and weight gain are pathways central to both T2D and CHD,” ​the study said.

Previous related research has linked typical components of western-style fast food such as processed meats with increased risk of T2D and CHD, and red meat and high fat dairy as protein sources with greater risk of CHD.

TFA reduction could help

According to the researchers there is no historical documentation of TFA being regulated or mandatorily labelled in Singapore.

“The association of TFA with increased risk of CHD is considered established through a number of pathways, whereas the association with T2D is plausible, but the evidence is less clear,”​ they said.

An ongoing risk

The researchers pointed out western-style fast food intake in southeast Asia only started becoming prominent in the late 1980s and early 90s.

“This provided a chance to participate in American culture, a much different culture from the historical dietary culture of these populations. Indeed, rapid international expansion of western style fast food outlets is ongoing,”​ it said.

“This increase in availability may be desirable to some people from a cultural perspective, but this aspect of the nutrition transition may have downside due to acculturation and increased non-communicable disease risk,”​ the study said.

Study details

The Western-Style Fast Food Intake and Cardio-Metabolic Riskin an Eastern Country​study is based on joint research conducted by scientists at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health at National University of Singapore, and the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.

They analysed men and women aged 45-74 who enrolled in the Singapore Chinese Health Study from 1993-1998. This included 52,584 participants for CHD mortality and 43,176 participants for T2D.

“We identified 1,397 deaths due to CHD during 707,200 person-years of follow-up in the analysis of 52,584 participants, and 2,252 incident cases of type 2 diabetes during 246,898 person-years follow-up in the analysis of 43,176 participants,”​ the researchers revealed.


Circulation, Journal of The American Heart Association

DOI: 10.1161/​CIRCULATIONAHA.111.084004

'Western-Style Fast Food Intake and Cardio-Metabolic Risk in an Eastern Country'

Authors: Andrew O. Odegaard, Woon Puay Koh, Jian-Min Yuan, Myron D. Gross and Mark A. Pereira

Related topics Research

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