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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 Muscles
  • Feb Meals
  • Mar Metabolism
  • April Nutrition
  • May Metabolic Syndromes
  • June Diabetes
  • July Diabetic Complications
  • Aug Longevity
  • Sept Atheroma
  • Oct Carcinoma
  • Nov Aging
  • Dec Mind & Memory
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Habits cause the Metabolic Syndrome…for a kind of stiffness in the body’s normal chemistry and machinery…and is the biomedical disorder of our time. There’s a slowing of nutrient processing, initially in the liver, but eventually in most body tissues. It emerged as a concept decades ago when patients with garden variety diabetes were found to produce 10 times more insulin than normal during glucose testing. A resistance of their metabolism to the sugar-clearing effects of insulin was postulated, and now accepted.

Insulin resistance is an early sign of a struggling imbalance between forces that threaten the normal steady state. In life, many processes exist in the body under states of tension maintained in normal balance by opposing forces. Normal temperatures, respirations, blood pressures or blood sugars are examples of balanced opposing forces, called homeostasis or the steady state.

The liver of a trim belly soaks up most insulin arriving into it through the portal vein, up  from the pancreas, (along with nutrients of digestion). The normal liver holds whatever nutrients it needs and allows the others out into the blood stream for tissues to use for replacement and repair. Insulin is normally released to speed glucose and amino acids into tissues.

Insulin stimulates glucose transfer into muscle for energy use or storage and into adipose tissue for conversion to fatty acids and later release for energy as fuel. Insulin is secreted most heavily during digestion when it is allowed into the general circulation by the liver to help muscle and adipose tissue benefit from the tide of nutrients.

Fasting blood sugar levels normally rise with age: averaging 60-70 mg % in childhood…70-80 in adulthood…and 80-90 in the elderly. They go up briefly after every meal and are lowest after an overnight fast. But at any given moment the blood sugar level is in dynamic equilibrium between inputs (liver & food) and outgoes (brain, muscle & fat stores).

As insulin levels rise in the blood, tissues like muscle must protect themselves from overloading, becoming resistant to its effects. In pre-diabetes this results in delays of glucose transfer from food to tissues, while evermore insulin is produced to overcome the resistance and maintain a steady-state. Eventually overproduction fails, resistance prevails and the blood sugar rises for Type II diabetes to appear. The full metabolic syndrome consists of hypercholesterolemia, hypertension and diabetes. Insulin levels are high but ineffective, and rarely measured clinically.

Persistently high blood insulin levels help encourage the growth of cancer. When cancer cells are cultured in the laboratory they must have insulin to grow, although normal cells do need it, and clinical studies confirm a 4-fold cancer increase in patients with bubble bellies and the metabolic syndrome. How?  High insulin levels encourage any emerging cancer’s growth.

Obese individuals with diabetes and the Metabolic Syndrome are increasingly turning to bariatric surgery to put into a more distant future their diabetes, heart attacks and strokes. Its weight loss does benefit sleep apnea, and obesity’s many aches & pains, but the bypassing surgery does deliver permanent weight loss, loose stools and intervening unknowns.

Within the liver, as fat accumulates in liver cells and their machinery fails, the liver begins to suffer. It is at first the liver of a foie gras goose, large and pale and fat-filled. It can become diseased, its cells swollen and inflamed. They die and scar to take part in a process called cirrhosis of the liver. Finally, the process can lead to liver cell cancer.

Think of the liver as your body’s metabolism regulator, keeping multiple tissue reactions finely tuned and in healthful harmony. It maintains the brain with glucose between meals and during starvation, making glucose from the amino acids of plasma proteins. Any flood of fatty acids handicaps its performance and will eventually lead to the Metabolic Syndrome, which carries its own tailing bundle of lethal pathologies. Sadly, poor lifestyle habits underlie much of today’s lethal ill-health.

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