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This is part 2 of a series on metabolic health. Since recent data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found that only 12% of American adults are metabolically healthy, it’s important to understand that metabolic dysfunction is a health epidemic that is 100% preventable and reversible.
What does it mean to be metabolically healthy? It means having ideal levels of blood glucose, triglycerides, high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, blood pressure, and a low waist circumference, without medications. These biomarkers directly predict your risk for heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and dementia.
In part 1 (published in February), we learned that chronic pain and tendon injuries, accelerated skin aging and acne, mental health conditions, and difficulty losing weight or maintaining weight loss are all signs and symptoms of metabolic dysfunction.
So what strategies are most effective at improving your metabolic health, reversing the symptoms of metabolic dysfunction, getting rid of dangerous visceral fat (deep belly fat), and achieving optimal levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose, blood pressure?
Getting the right amount of sleep during the right time is perhaps the most important factor determining your metabolic health. Research shows that just one night of poor sleep can drive blood glucose levels up into the prediabetic or diabetic range in non-diabetic individuals for an entire day.
Sleeping during daylight hours can wreak havoc on your metabolic health as well. Shift workers have higher postprandial glucose excursions (the spike in blood glucose levels after meals), impaired beta cell function, and a delayed post-meal insulin response during night shift, signaling an increased risk of diabetes.
Working just a few night shifts per month can also increase triglycerides and low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which are risk factors for heart disease. In addition, numerous studies have found elevated levels of alkaline phosphatase (ALP), a well-known biomarker of liver disease, in night shift workers.
There may be a few ways to mitigate the effects of night shift work, which we’ll cover in a future issue. For everyone else, though, it’s really important to sleep during regular night hours.
How do you know if you’re not getting enough sleep? If you need an alarm in order to wake up in the mornings, if you feel drowsy during the day, or if you could fall asleep in less than 5 minutes after lying down, these are signs that you’re sleep deprived.
To get a good night of sleep, going to bed at the same time each night is ideal. To determine your bedtime, count 8 - 9 hours before the time that you need to get up in the mornings. Most people need 7.5 hours of sleep each night, about 15 minutes to fall asleep, and another 15 minutes to gradually wake up in the mornings. Scheduling 9 hours in bed can be helpful if you’re exceptionally tired, recovering from an illness, or if you’re an athlete because these conditions may increase your sleep requirements.
Non-Exercise Physical Activity
The next most important factor determining your metabolic health is non-exercise physical activity. While exercise is certainly also important, what you do during the other 14 hours of the day may play an even larger role in your metabolic health.
Sitting for 8 hours of work, sitting during your commute to and from work, and then sitting again when you get home can raise your risk of metabolic dysfunction even if you’re getting regular exercise.
Although there are numerous studies linking increased sitting time to metabolic syndrome, a 2018 study published in the Medical Science Monitor found that the deleterious effects of low physical activity, including abdominal obesity, high blood glucose, and high blood pressure, are most pronounced in people who are overweight or obese.
The solution to this is to find ways to fit in chunks of physical activity into your day. If you work at a desk, consider using an under-desk elliptical or a treadmill desk, or simply just do 5 minutes of exercises every 55 minutes. Instead of watching TV while sitting on the couch or a chair when you get home, you can go for a walk, ride your bike, or do something active while you’re watching your favorite Netflix series or Facetiming friends and family.
Prolon Fasting Mimicking Diet
Fasting from all food and caloric beverages (also known as water fasting) for 72 hours or more is known to improve metabolic health, but it can also be extremely uncomfortable to do. Side effects can include weakness, fatigue, dizziness, electrolyte imbalance, and difficulty eating in moderation when the fast is over.
This is what led researchers to develop a 5-day dietary program called the Prolon Fasting Mimicking Diet. The benefits are similar to a water fast, but without the side effects because you still get to eat food on the program.
The Prolon Fasting Mimicking Diet is a breakthrough nutri-technology that has been researched for over 20 years at The Longevity Institute at the University of Southern California using $48 million dollars in research grants from the National Institutes of Health & European Union for aging, fasting, and FMD research and clinical trials.
In clinical trials, adults of all different shapes and sizes completed one 5-day cycle of Prolon each month for 3 consecutive months. They did not make any changes to their usual diet or lifestyle outside of the 5 days they were using Prolon.
By the end of the third cycle of Prolon, participants who started out with a normal body weight or were slightly overweight shed an average of 5.7 pounds and reduced their waist circumference by 1.6 inches. Those who were obese (BMI >30) lost an average of 9 pounds and reduced their BMI by 3.4% while preserving lean muscle mass.
Other biomarkers of metabolic health, including cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, and fasting blood glucose also improved significantly. Those who had the most metabolic dysfunction before using Prolon also improved the most.
People who complete a 5-day cycle of Prolon also report an increased feeling of well-being, more energy and mental focus, better sleep, and reduction or elimination of chronic aches and pains.
It stands to reason that if you already have optimal metabolic health, you may not experience major benefits from Prolon. However, if you have excess belly fat, elevated triglycerides, a fasting blood glucose over 85 mg/dL, elevated LDL cholesterol, or high blood pressure, completing three 5-day cycles of Prolon can help to normalize these biomarkers.
Children and people with certain health conditions should not use Prolon. If you’re interested in trying Prolon and experiencing the benefits for yourself, contact email@example.com to set up your free consultation to find out if Prolon is right for you. If it is, we’ll help you get started and answer any questions you may have.
1. Chronic back pain, osteoarthritis, and tendon-related injuries
Chronic pain and acute injuries that were once regarded as an inevitable result of aging or overuse of the body are now understood as symptoms of poor metabolic health. Considering that only 12% of Americans are considered to be metabolically healthy (refer to last month’s issue for a refresher on metabolic health), it’s no wonder why so many people suffer from chronic back pain, joint pain, and old injuries that never seem to heal completely.
High cholesterol in the body not only causes damage to arteries, but it can also accumulate in tendons (the tissue that attaches muscle to bone). This is one reason why people with high cholesterol are more likely to get injuries to the rotator cuff (the group of muscles and tendons that stabilize the shoulder joint) than people who do not have high cholesterol.
Elevated levels of glucose in the blood even in people who don’t have diabetes or prediabetes causes damage to collagen in the body because excess glucose in the blood causes the production of advanced glycation end products (AGEs). AGEs tend to reduce the elasticity of collagen, making it more weak and brittle. This can manifest as joint stiffness and our next topic, accelerated skin aging and acne.
2. Accelerated Skin Aging and Acne
You may have heard about advanced glycation end products (AGEs) being formed when certain foods are cooked at high temperatures. Grilled and smoked meats, roasts, cheese, toasted bread and pastries, and fried anything are the categories of food that tend to be the highest in AGEs. The acronym is appropriate because eating AGEs can age you from the inside out.
In addition to exogenous AGEs found in the above mentioned categories of food, your body can produce its own AGEs when excess levels of glucose in the blood bond with proteins and fats in the bloodstream.
Regardless of whether AGEs are obtained exogenously through your diet or are formed endogenously inside your body from excess glucose bound with fats and proteins, these AGEs can accumulate in the tissues of your body - including your skin.
When excess sugars bond with collagen in the skin, this results in reduced skin elasticity, fine wrinkle formation, a dull appearance to the skin, delayed wound healing, and premature greying of hair.
Elevated blood glucose can cause acne too, by ramping up levels of insulin and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1). These hormones increase the production of androgens (“male hormones”) and stimulate oil production in hair follicles, among other things.
3. Mental Health Conditions
Depression and anxiety are more common in people who have been diagnosed with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes than in the general population. But even in individuals who don’t have diabetes, wide fluctuations in blood glucose (characterized by high blood glucose after a meal, followed by a “crash” when glucose levels drop) can cause depressed mood, irritability, or anxiety.
Chronically high blood glucose, as well as frequent episodes of hyperglycemia (such as after eating foods high in processed carbohydrates), can lead to various changes in the brain that may cause mood disorders. These brain changes include insulin resistance in the emotional regulation centers of the brain, impaired neurogenesis (the process in which new brain cells are produced), a “rewiring” of signaling pathways in the reward and learning centers of the brain, a decrease in serotonin in the brain, and an increase in the production of stress hormones.
4. Difficulty Losing Weight or Maintaining Weight Loss
Anyone who has ever observed a lean person devour a colossal amount of food on a daily basis without ever gaining an ounce, while also observing an overweight person gain weight just by looking at a donut, knows that there’s something flawed about the “calories in, calories out” theory of weight loss.
While calories are an important component of weight loss, individual hormonal response to food and metabolic health have a much greater influence on one’s ability to obtain and maintain a lean body composition. Eating less and exercising more does not produce lasting weight loss if you aren’t metabolically healthy.
While many weight loss “experts” denied for years that eating late at night could cause weight gain, science now clearly shows that meal timing plays a critical role in whether that meal is used for energy or stored in your adipose tissue for a future famine that never comes.
Eating when your muscle and liver cells are relatively insulin resistant rather than insulin sensitive not only causes higher levels of blood glucose after meals, but also causes your pancreas to pump out higher amounts of insulin. Chronically elevated levels of insulin promote fat storage.
But that's not all. Insulin works antagonistically to melatonin, a hormone that increases at night to help you sleep. Rising melatonin levels at night suppress insulin, and rising insulin levels during the day suppress melatonin. When you eat at night, the subsequent rise in insulin suppresses melatonin during the hours in which your body needs it.
Having suppressed levels of melatonin at night interferes with your ability to get a restful night of sleep, and that causes a decreased metabolic rate (AKA you burn fewer calories) and an increase in appetite-stimulating hormones.
The conventional way of tackling these varied conditions is to look at the body as a collection of unrelated parts and try to fix each individual component, much like repairing an old car. Got a flat tire? Just patch it up. Car won’t start? You probably need a new battery.
Following medical convention, someone experiencing chronic pain is sent to a neurologist or an orthopedic surgeon. Those experiencing skin problems may visit the dermatologist or cosmetologist. Mental health conditions are deemed the territory of psychiatrists, psychologists, and counselors. People struggling with obesity may see an endocrinologist, bariatrician, or even a mental health specialist.
But if each one of these varied conditions is rooted in metabolic dysfunction, that too must be addressed in order to achieve lasting relief. Stay tuned for Part 2 (in next month’s issue), where we’ll dive deep into what you can do to heal your metabolism.
Ready for a personalized approach to overcoming chronic ailments with nutrition and lifestyle modifications? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s get you a plan to help you start feeling better!
1. Focusing on Improving Metabolic Health to Improve Immune System Health
Research on Covid-19 and how it affects the body has shed light on the link between metabolic health and the immune system. We now know that your immune system cannot function properly if you’re metabolically unhealthy – which is why people living with diabetes and cardiovascular disease are at increased risk of developing serious complications from Covid-19.
Only 12% of Americans are metabolically healthy, which is defined as:
Tending to your metabolic health is one of the most effective ways to protect yourself against infectious diseases such as Covid-19, influenza, pneumonia, bacteremia, wound infections, sepsis, and staph.
Seeking out metabolically healthy friends and adopting their lifestyle habits, as well as working with a metabolically healthy healthcare practitioner, are two surefire ways to improve your metabolic health. Being metabolically healthy is more of a result of lifestyle than genetics.
3. Using Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to Understand Health Data
Wearable health tracking devices like Fitbit, Apple Watch, Whoop, Oura Ring, and Garmin watches have become increasingly complex and accurate since the early days when they merely tracked step count and heart rate. Now continuous measurements for biomarkers such as blood oxygen, breathing rate, heart rate variability, perfusion, skin temperature, and sleep phase are becoming more standard on consumer wearable devices.
A number of startups have cropped up over the past few months that now offer continuous blood glucometers for the non-diabetic population unable to get a prescription CGM such as the Freestyle Libre or Dexcom more commonly worn by people living with type 1 diabetes.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning can analyze all this data to provide personalized lifestyle recommendations and insights into your body that can help you make better decisions every day.
For instance, small increases in your skin temperature, coupled with a decrease in blood oxygen levels and heart rate variability, can indicate you’ve been exposed to Covid-19 before you even start to feel sick.
In women, a decrease in breathing rate and blood perfusion combined with a slight increase in skin temperature and resting heart rate, is an indicator of a 6-day fertility window in which she can become pregnant.
There are also companies such as DayTwo that provide personalized food recommendations to normalize blood glucose based on microbiome data gathered from your stool sample and analyzed using machine learning.
4. Beautiful Home Gym Equipment with Streaming Classes
Home gym equipment used to be unsightly and relegated to the garage or a spare bedroom, but with more people choosing to exercise at home instead of the gym, fitness brands are going above and beyond to deliver awesome equipment that you’ll be proud to keep on display even when you’re not using it.
Plus, the ability to stream a wide variety of live and recorded classes from world class trainers keeps workouts fresh and increases a sense of community even if you aren’t physically in the same room with others taking the same classes with you in real time.
In 2021, you’ll also see a huge rise in brands offering decorative dumbbells, weight benches that double as furniture, beautiful fabric resistance bands, fashion statement ankle weights, and yoga mats made to perfectly match your outfit of the day.
5. Mind-Body Medicine
Psychedelic-assisted therapy, meditation, breathwork, and acupuncture will continue to rise in popularity as a growing body of research makes it clear that these modalities can work just as well as (or better than) pharmaceutical and surgical interventions - without an abundance of harmful side effects.
For instance, medically supervised psychedelic-assisted therapy and acupuncture are known to be effective at treating mental health conditions such as PTSD, depression, and addiction.
Acupuncture has also been found to help alleviate post-surgical pain, migraine headaches, and chronic low back pain, reduce the frequency of cardiac arrhythmias, increase the success rate of IVF procedures, and modulate immune system activity, among other things. The evidence is so strong for the usefulness of acupuncture for treating low back pain that Medicare now covers acupuncture for senior citizens with chronic low back pain that hasn’t responded to other treatments.
Meditation and breathwork improve metabolic health because of the strong link between the mind, breath rate, and the inner workings of the cardiovascular system. There are a variety of mobile apps now available that assist you in performing a variety of breathing techniques that can help you feel more alert, feel more relaxed, combat anxiety, or improve your mood.
Ultimately, mind-body modalities such as acupuncture, meditation, and breathwork help you to tap into your body’s own pharmacy instead of reaching for outside substances.
Practices such as intermittent fasting or time restricted eating (only eating meals or snacks during certain hours of the day, such as between 8 AM and 4 PM) have gone mainstream over the past few years as research continues to mount that consuming foods and caloric beverages at all hours (especially in the late evenings and nighttime hours) significantly increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cancer.
However, the benefits of time restricted eating are somewhat limited. It can reduce your risk of disease by improving metabolic health, but it’s not going to induce the kind of cellular cleanup that reverses aging and lengthens lifespan.
The ProLon Fasting Mimicking Diet, on the other hand, is a 5-day dietary program that holds the only patent for promoting longevity and healthspan in humans.
A randomized controlled trial found that healthy adults who used Prolon for 5 days for 3 consecutive months (with no other change to their diet or lifestyle) lost body fat while maintaining lean muscle mass, lowered blood pressure, and decreased IGF-1 hormone, which has been implicated in aging and disease. They also lowered blood glucose, triglycerides, cholesterol, and C-reactive protein (a marker for inflammation).
To find out if you may be a good candidate for using the ProLon Fasting Mimicking Diet, send an inquiry to email@example.com.