Blast Off!

Every Month: a Review of Major Teaching Points

Back to The Launch Pad


A Power Program for Student Review

Course Coverage 2015

  • 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
Begin Countdown

Last month’s Weekly Teaching Patients on Twitter focused on the Metabolic Syndrome, and is the topic reviewed in this Countdown…

The Metabolic Syndrome describes a kind of chemical stiffness in the body…a slowing of nutrient processing in the liver initially, and eventually in all 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 effects of insulin was postulated

Fatty acids, from deposits of fat among loops of small intestine and called visceral fat, flood the liver to overloading. These collections are located deep in the abdomen beneath a protuberant belly. The fat you can pinch up between your fingers that lies just under the skin, plays only a secondary role in the Metabolic Syndrome. Visceral fat is where it’s at. Its fatty acids choke liver cell machinery into dysfunction, and gradually allow excessive cholesterol and insulin to circulate in the blood.

After a meal, the normal liver allows insulin to rise in the blood. Insulin is a hormone that helps distribute glucose and amino acids into muscle and fat. A liver choked by fatty acids no longer works this way but allows extra cholesterol and extra insulin out into the circulation. The extra cholesterol tends to collect in the walls of arteries, while the extra insulin tends to retain sodium and water.

A molecule of insulin can hold 25 molecules of water. This plumps up the blood pressure for a condition called Essential Hypertension. The word ‘essential’ doesn’t mean it is necessary, but originally meant ‘unexplained.’ We now know that it can result from an excess of circulating blood 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. Think: ‘troubled liver’ when you hear essential hypertension.

High blood pressure is a sneaky disorder because it’s often carried for years without symptoms and unrecognized. But over those years high pressures drive any elevated cholesterol into arteries, weaken artery walls to the bursting point of a stroke, and wear the heart down into failure from years of working against the high pressure. While visibly true that most American men over 40 have bubble bellies, it is invisibly true that half of them also carry high blood pressures… an early and symptomless expression of their disordered internal environments. High pressure is one early sign of the Metabolic Syndrome, and easily followed at any pharmacy blood pressure station. Lose a little weight and watch it come down… all by yourself, and no drugs. That’s real power, Man.

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. At first the artery defends itself by capturing these errant cholesterol molecules and returning them to the circulation.

Eventually, however, 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 and called atheroma. Over many months and years of continuing high blood levels, the atheroma grows out into the tunnel to narrow and then block it, causing a heart attack or stroke.

As if this were not enough mischief from the Metabolic Syndrome, its high insulin levels promote insulin resistance and Type II diabetes. (Diabetes will be covered as two topics, later in the year.) High blood insulin levels also encourage cancer growth. Studies confirm a 4-fold cancer increase in patients with bubble bellies. How come? Well, when cancer cells are cultured in the laboratory they must have insulin to grow, while normal cells do not. High insulin levels over the years are cancer promoters.

A trim-bellied liver soaks up most of the insulin coming into it through the portal vein, up from the pancreas, (along with normal nutrients of digestion and those pesky visceral fatty acids). Over time, as fat collects in liver cells their machinery chokes and grows dysfunctional as outlined earlier, then the cells get physically sick. They become swollen and inflamed. They die and scars appear in a process that, unchecked, can destroy the liver with cirrhosis or cancer.

The liver is the body’s Maestro of Metabolism, keeping all metabolic processes nicely tuned. It maintains the brain with its glucose supply, between meals and during starvation, by making glucose from the amino acids of proteins. But a flood of fatty acids from the visceral stores of a bubble belly can handicap its performance, lead to the Metabolic Syndrome, and a bundle of aforementioned pathologies.