Today, I want to tell you about an interesting podcast I listened to recently featuring Dr. Mark Hyman, a renowned physician and functional medicine doctor, and Dr. Aseem Malhotra, an NHS consultant cardiologist. In their opinion, a contributing factor towards the current mortality rate is our overall health as a nation (or lack thereof). In other words, if we were healthier we would be more resilient to COVID-19 virus, and fewer people would be dying. In this article I thought I'd discuss Dr. Aseem's thoughts on what he refers to as the 'larger pandemic' of 'metabolic syndrome'.
It is well publicised that this virus is more deadly for people with underlying health conditions. But few people seem to be asking why so many people have underlying health conditions in the first place!
69% of those people who died from the virus were metabolically unhealthy.
Rather than being threatened by coronaviruses that surface every few years and attack our immune systems taking away so many lives, Dr Aseem's assertion is that greater emphasis should be placed on reversing metabolic disease, something that poses a threat to overall wellness, increases the likelihood of developing chronic diseases, and increases our susceptibility to viral infections like COVID-19.
What is metabolic syndrome?
It is a complex disorder defined by the occurrence of several interconnected factors that increase your risk of developing obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. When one develops metabolic syndrome, their body becomes pre-inflamed putting them at high risk when trying to fight any virus, such as COVID-19. This is because their immune system becomes dysregulated, with the white blood cells unable to function optimally, causing an inflammatory cytokine storm in the body, eventually attacking vital organs.
Some interesting facts and stats:
What are the symptoms of metabolic syndrome?
You need to have 3 or more of these 5 symptoms, to be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome.
What causes metabolic syndrome?
The main driver of metabolic syndrome is visceral fat, often referred to as belly fat, that accumulates around the waistline. It is stored in the abdominal cavity near some vital organs such as the liver, stomach, intestines, and pancreas. This visceral fat produces inflammatory cytokines that produces all sorts of hormonal imbalances that create appetite signals and cravings, causing issues such as insulin resistance (featuring in our next week’s article), that eventually lead to many common chronic diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart diseases, including certain cancers.
Metabolic syndrome also occurs in people after the age of 50, when the body starts to lose body mass as part of the ageing process, and gains body fat instead, mainly due to poor dietary choices. This is referred to as sarcopenia obesity.
Challenging our broken food system!
FACT: More than 50% of UK families food purchases are ultra-processed foods, which predominantly come from sugary products, drinks and starches.
When it comes to our diet, we are responsible for the foods we choose and eat. However, Dr. Aseem points out that this choice is massively dictated by our food environment that influences our buying and eating behaviour. This is because certain foods are made more affordable than others. Access to these ultra-processed junk foods, makes it difficult for a lot of people to exercise personal responsibility when it comes to eating healthily. To add to the problem, these mass – packaged foods are high in sugar, starch, unhealthy oils, additives and preservatives and lack nutrients and fibre.
By educating ourselves about nutritious foods and the positive impact they have on our physiology and well-being, we can challenge our broken food system that encourages addiction and over consumption.
The good news!!!
Metabolic syndrome can be reversed by making positive changes to your diet and lifestyle within weeks / months of adopting positive changes.
5 ways to prevent metabolic syndrome: