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Every Month: a Review of Major Teaching Points

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A Power Program for Student Review

Course Coverage 2016

  • Jan Fit To Last
  • Feb Visceral Obesity
  • Mar Modern Malnutrition
  • April Metabolic Syndrome
  • May Prevalent Predicaments
  • June Sugar Diabetes
  • July Diabetes Complications
  • Aug Cholesterol, Atheroma
  • Sept Aging Brain & Body
  • Oct Cancer Considerations
  • Nov Feeling Liverish
  • Dec Energetic Longevity
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April’s Weekly Teaching Patients demonstrated a few clinical elements in the Metabolic Syndrome, the biochemical disorder of our time, and now reviewed here…

The Metabolic Syndrome describes a kind of chemical stiffness in the body’s tissue reactions…a slowing of nutrient processing, initially in the liver, but eventually in peripheral tissues. It emerged as an idea decades ago when patients with diabetes of the kind called Type II, were found to produce 10 times more insulin than normal to absorb a drink of glucose. Most were obese with bubble bellies, and a resistance of their tissues to the sugar-clearing effects of insulin was postulated…as Insulin Resistance.

In the beginning, fatty acids from deposits of adipose tissue among loops of small intestine (called visceral fat), flood the liver to overload. The deposits lie deep in the abdomen beneath a protuberant belly. Fat that you can pinch up between your fingers, lying just beneath the skin, plays only a secondary role in the Metabolic Syndrome. Visceral fat is where it’s at, and its flood of fatty acids choke liver cell machinery into slow disfunction, gradually allowing excessive cholesterol and insulin into the circulation.

After any meal, the normal liver allows insulin to rise in the blood. It’s a hormone that helps distribute nutrients like glucose and amino acids into muscle and fat. Insulin flows up into the liver from the pancreas through the portal vein. A liver choked by fatty acids begins allowing extra cholesterol and insulin into the blood. The extra cholesterol collects in the walls of arteries, while the extra insulin retains sodium and water, raising the blood pressure

One molecule of sodium can hold 25 molecules of water. This plumps up the blood pressure and is called Essential Hypertension. The word ‘essential’ doesn’t mean necessary, but originally meant ‘unexplained.’ We now know that it can result from excessive circulating insulin retaining sodium and water. It tends to be regarded casually, treated with tablets (often diuretics), while the underlying visceral fat and bubble belly are ignored. When you hear ‘essential hypertension’ think: ‘troubled liver.’

High blood pressure is a sneaky disorder. It exists for years without symptoms or recognition. Yet over those quiet years, high pressures drive cholesterol into arteries, weaken artery walls to the bursting point of a stroke, and can wear the heart down into failure from years of overwork.  Most American men over 40 have visible bubble bellies, and half of them also carry invisible high blood pressures… an early sign of the Metabolic Syndrome. It can be easily followed at any pharmacy blood pressure station. Take off a little weight and watch it come down…all by yourself, and no drugs. That’s personal power.

The excess circulating blood cholesterol of a fat-loaded liver is the ‘bad’ kind or LDL cholesterol. At blood levels within generally accepted upper limits of normal, LDL cholesterol begins to infiltrate the walls of arteries. Early on, the artery defends itself by capturing these errant cholesterol molecules and returning them to the circulation.

Eventually, the artery’s defenses are overwhelmed, cholesterol droplets accumulate and bulge out into the tunnel, looking like tiny drops of candle wax under the artery lining. They are called atheroma deposits. Over months and years of continuing high blood levels, they grow out into the artery tunnel to narrow and block it, causing a heart attack or stroke.

As if this were not enough mischief from the Metabolic Syndrome, the high insulin levels promote insulin resistance and Type II diabetes. (Diabetes is a course topic with a month of coverage.) Obese individuals with diabetes and the Metabolic Syndrome are turning to stomach surgery. It’s surgeon  proponents say it puts diabetes, heart attacks and strokes into the distant future…and it cures sleep apnea, and obesity’s aches & pains. A wary obesity doctor who relies on clinic visits & anorexic meds to treat obesity, talks about operative risks and costs ($20 thousands per procedure)…the permanent 1000 calorie diet and loose stools, dehydration, late bone loss…and many intervening unknowns.

Persistently high blood insulin levels also encourage the growth of cancer. Studies confirm a 4-fold cancer increase in patients with bubble bellies and the Metabolic Syndrome. How so? Well, when cancer cells are cultured in the laboratory they must have insulin to grow, although normal cells do not. High insulin levels over years are cancer promoters.

The liver of a trim-belly soaks up most insulin arriving through the portal vein, up from the pancreas, (along with the nutrients of digestion). Over time, if fat collects in liver cells and their machinery chokes, the liver will become dysfunctional as outlined earlier, and its cells grow physically sick. They are swollen and inflamed, die and scar take part in a process that, unchecked, will destroy the liver with either cirrhosis or cancer.

Think of your liver as the body’s Maestro of Metabolism, keeping all metabolic processes nicely tuned and harmonious. It also maintains the brain with its glucose supply, between meals and during starvation, by making glucose from the amino acids of proteins. But flooding fatty acids from the visceral stores of a bubble belly will handicap this performance, lead to the Metabolic Syndrome, and a bundle of lethal pathologies.

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