The Impact of Westernization on the Insulin/IGF-I Signaling Pathway and the Metabolic Syndrome: It Is Time for Change

Joseph A.M.J.L. Janssen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
40 Downloads (Pure)


The metabolic syndrome is a cluster of overlapping conditions resulting in an increased incidence of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. In the last few decades, prevalence of the metabolic syndrome in the Western world has reached epidemic proportions and this is likely due to alterations in diet and the environment as well as decreased physical activity. This review discusses how the Western diet and lifestyle (Westernization) has played an important etiological role in the pathogenesis of the metabolic syndrome and its consequences by exerting negative effects on activity of the insulin–insulin-like growth factor-I (insulin–IGF-I) system. It is further proposed that interventions that normalize/reduce activity of the insulin–IGF-I system may play a key role in the prevention and treatment of the metabolic syndrome. For successful prevention, limitation, and treatment of the metabolic syndrome, the focus should be primarily on changing our diets and lifestyle in accordance with our genetic make-up, formed in adaptation to Paleolithic diets and lifestyles during a period of several million years of human evolution. Translating this insight into clinical practice, however, requires not only individual changes in our food and lifestyle, starting in pediatric populations at a very young age, but also requires fundamental changes in our current health systems and food industry. Change is needed: primary prevention of the metabolic syndrome should be made a political priority. New strategies and policies should be developed to stimulate and implement behaviors encouraging the sustainable use of healthy diets and lifestyles to prevent the metabolic syndrome before it develops.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4551
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023

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