How Obesity Increases the Risk of Metabolic Syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is a collection of interrelated illnesses and disorders, most visibly categorized by obesity in all its forms. Some of the risk factors of metabolic syndrome work together and can severely increase the risk of developing coronary artery disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. (1) Metabolic syndrome, as with obesity, is one of the fastest growing disorders throughout the developed world. Currently, it is estimated that some 25% of the United States population is suffering from this disorder. (2) The main mechanism that causes metabolic syndrome is a disfunction in the metabolism which causes the body to release more insulin than is necessary. (3)
The pancreas, the liver and metabolic syndrome
A normally functioning pancreas releases insulin into the body in order to regulate blood-sugar levels. (4) At the same time, it is the liver that is responsible for maintaining the body’s blood-sugar levels through regulating how sugar is stored in the body. (5) The liver can either store energy from sugar as glycogen for itself, or it can send triglycerides around the body through the bloodstream to be deposited as adipose tissue (body-fat). (6) Having too much body-fat is a bit of a vicious cycle: the liver creates more adipose tissue, but excess fat, especially abdominal fat, also has a function in the body. Basically, it releases hormones that regulate appetite as well as other functions. (7) This hormone, known as leptin, also fills the bloodstream. (8) The third substance that is created by the liver and the pancreas is cholesterol. (9)
Desensitization and insulin immunity
One of the key concepts in understanding the metabolic disorder goes back to an ancient concept – too much of a good thing can be bad for you. While insulin, cholesterol, triglycerides and leptin are all needed and useful substances in your body, if there is too much of them the body can become desensitized or immune to their effects. (10) Desensitization to leptin carries with it the very real threat that appetite can no longer be regulated in the body. A person who is leptin-immune does not know when they are really hungry. Instead, whenever they see food they are likely to feel hungry, because one of the key roles of leptin is to prevent eating when a body is not really in need of sustenance. Leptin has been associated with that feeling of ‘fullness’ or ‘nausea,’ when you see more food than you can eat. (11) In addition to this, if a person is eating too much sugar (or sustenance that converts into sugar, i.e., carbohydrates), then the result of this is that the liver can become overworked and not be able to transport the sugar into energy storing fat molecules fast enough. (12) This results in there being far too much sugar, or triglycerides in the bloodstream. As a result of this, the pancreas begins to work overtime releasing insulin in order to regulate this blood-sugar. (13) But because the insulin is working so hard to regulate the high levels of blood sugar, then the cholesterol can get out of control, because insulin is also responsible for regulating that. (14)
Obesity is a sign of life-threatening diseases
The result of all this extra activity and overabundance of the messenger molecules leptin, insulin, cholesterol and triglycerides is that the heart must work faster to pump the blood around and the blood is also more densely packed with molecules, which is what causes hypertension (high blood pressure) and hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis). (15) Additionally, the increased insulin in the bloodstream is dangerous because if the body becomes desensitized to the insulin, then this is the first step to contracting type 2 diabetes mellitus. (16) In many ways, obesity is a precursor to diabetes if nothing is done about it. So the result of obesity is that through the metabolic disorder and the overabundance of otherwise useful substances in the blood causes an imbalance that can lead to many forms of heart disease, cardiovascular disease, strokes, diabetes and also some forms of cancer, particularly around the abdominal areas. (17)
Obesity is quite easy to turn around
It is important to understand all the biochemical and anatomical ways in which the metabolic syndrome can develop and to also understand that obesity is just another way that your body is indicating to you that you are doing something seriously wrong with your diet and lifestyle. The first problem is that although many people understand that sugar in excess amounts is bad for you, as shown by the much touted food pyramid, which suggests we only eat tiny amounts of sugar every day, (18) people don’t seem to realize that sugar is not just the white stuff we know as sucrose, the stuff from fruit known as fructose and the glucose from honey. Sugar is energy and it is stored as fat in the body. Most people watch carefully the amount of pure sugar they consume, but they don’t often realize that another huge part of the sugar in their diet comes in the form of carbohydrates. (19) Carbohydrates are derived from plant material and plants store their excess energy in the form of carbohydrates. These carbohydrates are converted into sugar in our bodies and then into body-fat through the Krebs cycle. (20) Some food, such as refined grains (bread, pasta, corn) and starchy staples (potatoes, carrots) have extremely high amounts of carbohydrates in them. In addition to this, the starchy ones are extremely concentrated and convert to massive amounts of sugar in the body.
The easiest way to reverse the effects of obesity is to change one’s diet and to take up regular exercise. If you eat less carbohydrates during the day (green vegetables) and more meat and beneficial fat or oils, then you can start a process in your body known as ketosis, which will begin to burn body-fat instead of the nutrients you are consuming for energy. (21) Once you are in ketosis, it’s only a matter of time before you begin losing weight. Coupled with regular exercise this excess body-fat will begin to be converted into muscle instead.