People with metabolic syndrome could stand to benefit if their standard care is supplemented with treatment and counseling from a naturopathic doctor, according to a new randomized controlled study.

Published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the study of 207 people ages 25 to 65 shows the prevalence of metabolic syndrome is lowered by 17 percent over a year-long period when patients receive care from a naturopathic doctor in addition to standard care, compared with only standard care.

Metabolic syndrome is a known risk factor for heart disease and diabetes, that includes having a combination of conditions including high blood sugar, body fat, cholesterol and blood pressure levels.

The care provided by the naturopathic doctors in the study included diet and exercise counseling to help patients lose between five and nine pounds, as well as providing supplements of omega-3 fatty acids, coenzyme Q10 and soluble fiber.

In addition to reducing the prevalence of metabolic syndrome, researchers also found that the patients who received the naturopathic care had a 3 percent lower 10-year risk of heart disease, compared with those just receiving standard care.

“Our findings support the hypothesis that the addition of naturopathic care to enhanced usual care may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease among those at high risk,” the researchers — who were from institutions including the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, the University of Arizona, McMaster University and Bastyr University — wrote in the study.

In an accompanying editorial, CMAJ deputy editor Dr. Matthew Stanbrook notes that it’s likely the lifestyle interventions — the exercise and nutrition counseling to lose weight — that had the positive effect on reducing metabolic syndrome.

“We can learn nothing new from this trial about supplements or any other individual component of care, because the trial was not designed to allow evaluation [of] their evaluation,” he wrote in the editorial.