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Your Metabolic Health Matters

For many people, the word “metabolism” inspires thoughts of digestion or turning the food we eat into energy – and whether or not you are able to gain or lose weight. But metabolism also includes all the chemical processes that occur your body to repair damage and keep your body functioning continuously 24/7. In other words, metabolism impacts everything.

How are you doing?

When things are going well, we’re not likely to notice our metabolic health. But it only takes a day or two of upset tummy, constipation, or stubborn weight gain before you’re paying more attention to what’s going on with your body. Or maybe you’ve been diagnosed with high cholesterol or high blood pressure. Any one of these suggest metabolic misalignment.

Weighty concerns

With 30% of the population either overweight or obese, metabolic syndrome is becoming increasingly common. Metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions that happen together, including high blood sugar, increased blood pressure and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride (fat) levels in blood and excess abdominal fat.

Part of the reason for a rise in metabolic syndrome might be that obesity activates inflammatory messengers that lead immune cells into fat tissue and trigger low-grade inflammation.[1] Inflammation then makes you more prone to metabolic syndrome, which makes weight gain easier and weight loss more challenging.

It’s a vicious fat-building cycle.

Yet, research shows that even young, normal weight adults need to keep an eye on cardiometabolic health.[2] Ignore metabolic issues for too long, and you might be staring down cardiovascular disease or type-2 diabetes.

How does metabolic dysfunction start?

There are a variety of life-style factors that influence metabolic health. For example, research has shown that dietary habits influence multiple risk factors for cardiometabolic health: from “too little” to “too much.” Depriving yourself of adequate nutrients including lean protein, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats as well as vitamins, minerals and plant nutrients can impair your body’s ability to function optimally.

On the flipside, running a calorie surplus, eating processed food, too many simple carbohydrates, or high levels of omega 6 fats and trans fats can also negatively impact metabolism.[3]

But it’s not just food quality and quantity that impact metabolism: Meal timing also plays a role in metabolic health. If you’re in the habit of forgetting to eat until you’re ravenous and then gorging on whatever is handy – often a high-carb bowl of chips or a row of cookies – you may be setting yourself up for trouble in the form of insulin resistance.[4]

Insulin is the hormone that ushers glucose into your cells after a meal. When you go too long without eating, blood sugar becomes low. You may notice concentration problems or get “hangry.” A quick high-carb snack floods your bloodstream with glucose. Your body can handle the occasional joy ride, but if there is a constant roller coaster of high and low sugar levels in your blood, your cells stop responding to insulin.

Because excess glucose in the bloodstream will eventually damage cells, your pancreas keeps pumping out insulin – even though cells are resistant to it. Over time, your pancreas will get exhausted. Insulin resistance has been linked to cardiometabolic health concerns including belly fat, high blood triglycerides (fats) and atherosclerosis.[5] It’s important to note that high sugar intake or eating the wrong type of fats can also trigger insulin resistance.

Move your metabolism

Leaving food for a moment, it’s also clear that physical activity is critical for metabolic health – and we’re generally not getting enough of it. Part of the reason may be that the world has shifted to desk work for many people. Perhaps not a surprise, there’s evidence that prolonged sitting is detrimental to metabolic health.[6] Research also shows that short-changing your sleep not only leaves you tired and possibly cranky, but it also increases risk of metabolic dysfunction.[7]

So what can you do?

  • Use a standing work-station
  • Break-up prolonged sitting with regular breaks
  • Sleep at least 6 hours nightly
  • Exercise 30 minutes daily, including muscle-building activity
  • Enjoy a variety of plant foods daily
  • Eat lean protein and complex carbs every few hours to balance blood sugar

Cordyceps for cardiometabolic health

Since diet plays such a significant role in metabolic health, it’s good to know that functional foods can easily be added to your daily health routine. Therapeutic mushroom cordyceps provides the bio-metabolite cordycepin that has been shown in research to reduce the build up of low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad” cholesterol), total cholesterol and triglycerides in blood.[8] A review of cordyceps benefits also found that this mushroom improves metabolic control, reduces free radical stress, decreases fibrosis (involved in arterial plaque build-up), and helps to calm inflammation associated with metabolic dysfunction.[9]

Traditionally used to promote energy during exercise, human research also shows that cordyceps might be helpful as you aim to log 30 minutes of daily exercise.[10]

You have the power

Your metabolism is influenced by your age, sex, muscle-to-fat ratio, physical activity and hormone function. Although you can’t change some of these variables, you do have the power to make choices and changes to optimize your metabolic health. It matters.

REFERENCES

[1] Shang, A., Gan, R.-Y.,  Xu, X.-Y., Mao, Q.-Q., Zhang, P.-Z., & Li, H.-B. (2021). Effects and mechanisms of edible and medicinal plants on obesity: an updated review. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 61(12), 2061–2077. https://doi.org/10.1080/10408398.2020.1769548

[2] Madeira, Francilene B et al. (2013). “Normal Weight Obesity Is Associated with Metabolic Syndrome and Insulin Resistance in Young Adults from a Middle-Income Country.” PloS one 8.3: e60673–e60673. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0060673

[3] Keane D, Kelly S, Healy NP, McArdle MA, Holohan K, Roche HM. Diet and metabolic syndrome: an overview. Curr Vasc Pharmacol. 2013 Nov;11(6):842-57. doi: 10.2174/15701611113116660173. PMID: 24168443.

[4] Sievenpiper JL. Low-carbohydrate diets and cardiometabolic health: the importance of carbohydrate quality over quantity. Nutr Rev. 2020 Aug 1;78(Suppl 1):69-77. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuz082. PMID: 32728757; PMCID: PMC7390653.

[5] Wilcox G. (2005). Insulin and insulin resistance. The Clinical biochemist. Reviews26(2), 19–39.​

[6] Owen, N., Healy, G. N., Matthews, C. E., and Dunstan, D. W. (2010). Too much sitting: the population-health science of sedentary behavior. Exerc. Sport Sci. Rev. 38, 105–113. doi: 10.1097/JES.0b013e3181e373a2

[7] Mullington, J. M., Haack, M., Toth, M., Serrador, J. M., and MeierEwert, H. K. (2009). Cardiovascular, inflammatory, and metabolic consequences of sleep deprivation. Prog. Cardiovasc. Dis. 51, 294–302. doi: 10.1016/j.pcad.2008.10.003

[8] Ashraf, S. A., Elkhalifa, A. E. O., Siddiqui, A. J., Patel, M., Awadelkareem, A. M., Snoussi, M., Ashraf, M. S., Adnan, M., & Hadi, S. (2020). Cordycepin for Health and Wellbeing: A Potent Bioactive Metabolite of an Entomopathogenic Medicinal Fungus Cordyceps with Its Nutraceutical and Therapeutic Potential. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland)25(12), 2735–. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules25122735

[9] Cao, C., Yang, S., & Zhou, Z. (2020). The potential application of Cordyceps in metabolic‐related disorders. Phytotherapy Research34(2), 295–305. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.6536

[10] Hirsch, K. R., Smith-Ryan, A. E., Roelofs, E. J., Trexler, E. T., & Mock, M. G. (2017). Cordyceps militaris Improves Tolerance to High-Intensity Exercise After Acute and Chronic Supplementation. Journal of dietary supplements14(1), 42–53. https://doi.org/10.1080/19390211.2016.1203386