Cells around the body are hard at work to ensure your organs function properly, nutrients are absorbed, and waste products are being expelled. These actions happen through a set of very specific chemical reactions meant to transform reacting compounds into usable products, otherwise known as metabolism.
For example, when you head over to your local restaurant for dinner, the acid in your stomach begins to digest the meal through catabolism – the breaking down of matter. Once the food is broken down, the body acts like the trade market as it checks itself over to determine supply and demand. Which cells need which products and do we have the ability to make and deliver them? Once the demand has been determined, the body gets to work on creating new components, such as proteins, in a process known as anabolism – the building up of matter.
In order to make use of these reactions, there are certain pathways that use a variety of steps to achieve the desired outcome. At each step of the reaction, we find a helping hand known as an enzyme. These characters act like the wing-man or -woman on a date as they help to decrease the energy required by one party to complete the necessary chemistry. The enzyme accomplishes this transformation via its role as a catalyst, something that can regenerate itself after participating in the reaction. Also something that not every wing—person can attest to!
To put this all-in perspective, certain reactions generate free radicals which are electrons that are not attached to any molecule or element. They have the potential to wreak havoc in the body as they try to find a molecule to call home, a hunt that creates instability and damages cells. However, certain enzymes in the body can pick-up these free radicals as they’re generated, preventing them from spreading to other locations.
The metabolic syndrome
When metabolic issues occur, they can lead to symptoms such as weight loss, weight gain, cold hands and feet, headaches, and mood swings amongst others. When an individual presents a certain cluster of conditions, they could be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, a condition affecting approximately 1 in 5 Canadians across the country. The conditions that combine to create this picture are:
- increased blood pressure,
- excess waist fat,
- abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels, and
- high blood sugar.
You are probably familiar with these symptoms when you hear about cardiovascular or heart health, and this is exactly what metabolic syndrome relates to. This cluster of symptoms increases a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
More often than not, metabolic syndrome has been linked to obesity, inactivity, and insulin resistance. Insulin can be thought of as a gatekeeper of the cell. When food enters the body, we break it down into simple sugars such as glucose, but without insulin, glucose cannot enter the cells to provide sustenance. This causes the body to think it is starving, signaling your brain to ingest more and more glucose, therefore contributing to weight gain – a risk factor for metabolic syndrome.
In the meantime, here are a few tips that may influence metabolic rate and body mass index (BMI):
- Boost that metabolism. Cells respond to a variety of factors that determine how quickly it should be turning out energy in the form of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) for the body. When metabolism is lower, such as during sleep, the body works mainly through anabolism to build up energy stores in the form of fat, proteins, and carbohydrates to meet the demands of the next day. Many components in food and drink can accelerate metabolism and cause the body to sway towards catabolism, breaking down these fats to provide energy. Green tea, for example, contains polyphenols that interact with GLUT4, a receptor responsible for allowing glucose into the cell. Polyphenols have been shown to reduce the blood glucose spike that occurs after a rich meal, maintaining the levels in the body and curbing obesity and damage to cardiovascular function.
- Symptomatic relief. Products such as Molkosan and its fruitier counterpart Molkosan Berry are a great source of lactic acid, calcium, and potassium. Many of those exposed to the world of lactic acid know it as chemical byproduct of exercise as your body catabolizes sources of energy. Mitochondria, the organelle responsible for creating the ATP driving our day-to-day activities is also responsible for processing lactate. The more lactate in the body, the more mitochondria get created, which then increases one’s metabolism and can help manage risk factors for metabolic syndrome such as obesity and insulin resistance.
- Exercise. Hitting the gym, your local trails for a walk, or taking your bike to the market rather than your car are means of increasing physical activity in your life. Researchers performed an animal study and looked at the ability of exercise to influence cardiac-related genetic material. They measured microRNA-1 and -29c which play a role in depositing collagen throughout the heart, a major protein involved in the cardiac connective tissue, allowing it to stretch. When the levels of these microRNAs rise, collagen builds up and the heart experiences difficulty in its movements. Exercise has been shown to decrease the expression of these microRNAs to nonpathological levels.
- Cut the sugar. When participants reduced their intake of dietary fructose, effects such as reduced diastolic blood pressure, triglycerides, and cholesterol were observed. Fructose has been shown to encourage the synthesis of fats and their accumulation in the body as well as stimulating the reward center of the brain which makes you consume more. In addition, unlike glucose, it does not suppress the hormone ghrelin, which is responsible for making you feel hunger.