What is metabolic health?
Ever since I started The Food Coach, back in 2001, I’ve used the analogy of food as fuel to discuss how the quality of the macronutrients we eat (fats, proteins, and carbohydrates) effect the body’s performance. Today the brilliance of technology, medical and nutritional science, enables us to dive deeper and discover exactly which foods effect our performance and our metabolic health. But exactly what is metabolic health, and how can you tell if you are metabolically healthy?
For full disclosure, I’ve partnered with Vively and will, in January, use their technology with clients to discover exactly how the food they eat (and alcohol they drink) effects their blood sugar levels, glucose variability and metabolic health….. but more about that later.
Understanding Metabolic Health:
Metabolic health isn’t just about having a “fast” or “slow” metabolism. It dives deeper into the intricate system of our body that manages various factors including blood glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, fat storage, and more. Being metabolically healthy implies the optimal functioning of these systems without medication.
The benchmark for metabolic health often pivots on the absence of metabolic syndrome – a cluster of conditions like high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels. This syndrome boosts the risk of heart diseases, type 2 diabetes, and even certain neurological conditions.
Unfortunately, the statistics in Australia paint a concerning picture. Over two-thirds of adult Aussies are classified as overweight or obese. Roughly one-third are grappling with fatty liver diseases, and a staggering 35% of our population is affected by metabolic syndrome. The alarm bells should be ringing.
How can you tell if you are metabolically healthy?
Metabolic syndrome is a collection of disorders that occur together and increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease (stroke or heart disease). A person is diagnosed as having metabolic syndrome when they have any three or more of the following conditions.
- Central (abdominal) obesity – If your waist measures 94 cm or more (men) or 80 cm or more (women)
- Raised blood pressure (hypertension) – Hypertension occurs when a person has a blood pressure higher than 140/90mmHg
- High blood triglycerides – Drinking excess alcohol can contribute to an increase in triglycerides.
- Low levels of high density lipoproteins (HDL) – the ‘good’ cholesterol – LDL cholesterol can block arteries by building up on the walls of blood vessels
- Impaired fasting glucose (IFG) or diabetes – One third of people with impaired glucose tolerance or impaired fasting glucose will develop diabetes unless lifestyle changes are made.
A tape measure, blood pressure monitor and quick trip to the doctor will establish whether you have metabolic syndrome, but after the diagnosis, you’re left to your own devises to make the necessary lifestyle changes.
Measuring blood glucose
For years, one of the go-to methods for gauging blood glucose has been the HbA1c test. This gives an average of our blood glucose levels over the past three months. However, it does not capture the significant fluctuations in these levels day-to-day. These fluctuations are crucial as they can damage blood vessels and increase the risk of heart problems. Glucose variability day-to-day provides a far more comprehensive assessment of current metabolic health.
A Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) monitors glucose levels in real time and measures glucose variability in response to food, sleep, stress and exercise. Early data suggests there might be more underlying metabolic issues in the Australian population than we previously thought.
Who Really Is Metabolically Unhealthy?
In 2016, researchers from the University of North Carolina found that only 12.2% of adults in the US are metabolically healthy. These stats would not be too dissimilar in Australia.
Interestingly the researchers commented that being of a normal weight did not protect you from being metabolically unhealthy. In fact, less than one third of normal weight adults were in fact metabolically healthy!
Carrying excessive weight, was significantly associated with poor metabolic health, with 99.5% of obese people suffering metabolic dysfunction. Weight loss can be one way to improve metabolic health in this population.
Elevated glucose levels are a key marker of Metabolic Syndrome. Over 66% of Australians using Vively have elevated glucose levels without previously being aware of the fact, which highlights the potential prevalence of elevated blood sugar levels in the Australian population.
The Role of Nutrition:
What we consume plays a massive role in our metabolic health. Embracing a diet rich in high-fibre whole foods, lean proteins, vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats can make a substantial difference. Reducing the intake of high sugar and processed foods is also a crucial metabolic health solution.
Moreover, our eating patterns and timings can influence metabolic health. Starting the day with a protein-filled breakfast can help boost metabolism for the whole day. Consuming meals in a relaxed environment and being present during your meals can support better digestion and nutrient absorption.
Beyond Nutrition: Sleep, Exercise, and Mental Well-being:
Your lifestyle choices extend beyond what you eat. Quality sleep, for example, is pivotal for metabolic health. A night of disturbed sleep can adversely impact blood sugar levels the next day, increasing cravings for sugary foods. Regular exercise and physical activity, even if it’s just a brisk walk or gardening, can have a positive impact too.
Lastly, we cannot overlook the role of mental health. Chronic stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions have been linked to metabolic disruptions. Addressing these issues with a holistic approach and seeking professional advice is essential.
Overall well-being is intricately linked to metabolic health. Our daily choices can impact our metabolism. These choices include what we eat, how active we are, how much we sleep, and how we manage stress.
Vively’s CGM program combines powerful data and in-app insights to empower people towards long term metabolic health.
To find out more about Vively and Continuous Glucose Monitoring please visit the website
Join me in January 2024 to explore how your lifestyle effects your blood glucose levels. To register your interest or to find out more about how we can work together improve your metabolic health, please email me on email@example.com