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firefighters, low glycemic, metabolic syndrome



  1. Carey, Mary G. PhD, RN
  2. Al-Zaiti, Salah S. MS, RN
  3. Liao, Limei M. MS, RN
  4. Martin, Heather N. BS, RN
  5. Butler, Rachael A. BS


Background: The risk for cardiovascular events is higher for those with metabolic syndrome (MetS), and it is known that firefighters have a 4-fold risk for cardiovascular events. The purpose of this study was to quantify MetS prevalence and evaluate the effect of a low-glycemic nutritional fitness program on the reduction of MetS risk factors among firefighters.


Methods: Professional firefighters were screened for MetS then enrolled in a low-glycemic nutritional fitness program for a 12-week period. Anthropometric and physiological measurements were obtained at the start and end of the program. Subjects with 3 or more of the following were positive for MetS: waist-40-inches or greater (men) or 35 inches or greater (women), blood pressure 135 mm Hg or greater (systole) or 85 mm Hg or greater (diastole), fasting blood sugar 100 mg/dL or greater, triglycerides 150 mg/dL or greater, and high-density lipoproteins less than 40 mg/dL (men) or less than 50 mg/dL (women). Weekly sessions provided low-glycemic nutrition instruction, fitness training, and evaluation of individual progress.


Results: Seventy-five firefighters (aged 42 [SD, 8] years, mostly white men) had a total MetS prevalence of 46.7% (P < .05 vs normal population). One platoon (10 men, aged 48 [SD, 5] years) was enrolled in the 12-week program. Most (7/10) had MetS at the baseline, but this prevalence decreased significantly after 12 weeks to 3 subjects (P = .02). On average, subjects had 3.2 (SD, 1.6) versus 1.9 (SD, 1.7) MetS risk factors (P < .01) at baseline and the 12-week interval, respectively.


Conclusions: The prevalence of MetS and MetS risk factors is higher among professional firefighters compared with the general population. A short-duration, low-glycemic fitness program can successfully improve anthropometric and physiological measures and reduce the prevalence of MetS.