Category Archives: metabolism

What is Behind the Epidemic of Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes in Children and Teens in the U.S.?


by Gary Pepper, M.D. and Andrew Levine, Pre-med

If you ask the average person to define diabetes, a typical response might be “it’s when you have unhealthy eating habits and an overabundance of sugar in your blood.”  Although that is not far from the truth, a more accurate definition is that diabetes is a disorder in the way our body uses insulin to process digested food for energy and storage. A good part of what we eat is broken down into glucose, the principle form of sugar in the blood. Diabetes occurs when there is not enough insulin to push the glucose into our cells. This deprives the body of the energy it needs because glucose is metabolized as fuel by all the organs in the body. Therefore in diabetes despite an elevated amount of sugar in the blood,  the cells are actually starving for energy.  We sometimes conceive of glucose in the blood as the enemy , but without it we would die. Continue reading

What is Metabolism?


CHAPTER 1

What Is Metabolism?

“I’ve searched the web but found nothing that tells me how to

distinguish if my metabolism is healthy. I’ve found plenty of

ways to tell me how to improve my metabolism but nothing

that explains what is normal. Are there outward signs that

will tell you if your metabolism is healthy?”

Metabolism.com member

      According to Webster’s Dictionary, metabolism is “the chemical and  physical processes continuously going on in living organisms.” But when most people think about metabolism they focus on one specific process—the process that releases and stores energy from the food we eat. This is because this type of metabolism not only affects how efficiently your body burns fuel but also influences how easily our bodies gain or lose weight.

 Turning Food into Energy

In simple terms, your metabolism is the rate at which your body breaks down nutrients from the foods you eat and converts them into a form the body can use. After you’ve eaten a bowl of cereal or a sandwich, chemicals produced in the digestive tract, known as enzymes, break down all of the complex molecules that make up the food into smaller, more usable nutrients. Proteins are broken down into amino acids, fats into fatty acids, and carbohydrates into simple sugars like glucose. These nutrients are then absorbed into the blood where they are transported all over the body.

 At this point the nutrients can be used in different processes. Amino acids are usually used to build and repair tissues, while glucose enters cells and is metabolized for energy. Any extra nutrients left over after these processes are generally stored in body tissues, especially the liver, muscles and body fat, and used for energy at a later date if the body needs it. (Think of it like a squirrel stocking up nuts for the winter.)

In this way, the process of metabolism really is a balancing act between two very different types of activities: (1) building up body tissues and energy stores, and (2) breaking down energy-rich nutrients, body tissues and energy stores to produce fuel that will power the body. Continue reading

Slow Acceptance by Doctors of Combination Treatment for Hypothyroidism


Mainstream endocrinologists seem to be moving grudgingly toward acceptance of combination T4 plus T3 therapy for hypothyroidism. A great example of the mixed feelings harbored by endocrinologists in this regard is the title of a recent editorial, “ Combo (treatment) a Last Resort for Hypothyroidism” . Although the author, Dr. Bruce Jancin of the University of Colorado, recognized the value of combination T4 plus T3 therapy, he did so with the least possible enthusiasm. In his article the doctor acknowledged the weakness of scientific studies showing negative results with combination therapy and pointed out the findings of the Watts Study which provides a genetic rationale for why some people need to have T3 added to T4 to return to proper thyroid hormone balance. Continue reading

Metabolism.com ebook available for $4.95 at the Kindle Store (or $3.95 on this site)


Beginning July 1, 2012 my ebook Metabolism.com became available from the Kindle Store at Amazon.com for $4.95 . For those interested in why endocrinologists behave the way they do or achieving healthy weight loss (or weight gain)….and much more, visit Kindle books on Amazon.com. You can even preview the book for free using the functionality on their website.

Dr. G. Pepper

Low Vitamin D Linked to Obesity and High Triglycerides


Understanding of the various ways vitamin D effects the body is growing rapidly. Originally this vitamin was thought to only effect calcium in the blood and bone but recent research shows it possesses important influences on the immune system and cancer development. A study just published in Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism June 2012 now shows that this same vitamin can possibly influence metabolism. A common disorder of metabolism known as Syndrome X or the Metabolic Syndrome is characterized by high triglycerides and low good cholesterol (HDL), abdominal obesity, along with elevated blood pressure and blood sugar. The researchers discovered those with vitamin D levels between 16 and 20 were 75% more likely to develop the Metabolic Syndrome within 5 years than those with vitamin D levels above 34 (levels below 30 are considered low).

Whether low vitamin D is the cause of the Metabolic Syndrome is unclear. Vitamin D prevents fat cells from reproducing, helps the natural process of triglyceride breakdown and helps regulate blood sugar by making insulin work more efficiently. Without enough vitamin D the fat cells could multiply faster, triglyceride levels accumulate and blood sugar rise as is seen in Metabolic Syndrome.

As I have explained in previous posts at metabolism.com, vitamin D is also related to development of hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) and obesity in Type 2 Diabetes which could be considered a more advanced form of Metabolic Syndrome.

Doctors’ efforts to monitor vitamin D levels are being hindered by new regulations by Medicare and private insurance carriers to deny payment for vitamin D screening. Lately, a number of my patients’ vitamin D tests were denied by insurance carriers with patients being charged over $200 per test because it was not “indicated”.

Recommendations for vitamin D supplementation are debated. When skin is exposed to sunlight it manufactures vitamin D so there is thought that people who get sun exposure should not need vitamin D supplement but that is not borne out in reality. Previously the recommended daily allowance (RDA) was 400 units per day an amount which has been increased slightly for the elderly. Some experts recommend 1000 unit daily or more. In my practice I generally recommend starting at 1000 units and then rechecking 25 hydroxy vitamin D levels a few months later. Some individuals require 4000 unit or more daily to achieve vitamin D levels over 30. When purchasing vitamin D the D3 form appears to be converted in the body more rapidly than the D2 variety. High priced brands of vitamin D, in my opinion, are a waste of money.

Gary Pepper, M.D.
Editor-in-Chief, Metabolism.com

Coconut Milk as Health Food? You’ve Got to Be Kidding.


Much as has been said recently about the health benefits of coconut milk and coconut oil. Coconut milk is a white liquid mixture of water and the white “flesh” of the coconut and is considered a more diluted form of coconut oil a thick clear liquid. Coconut extracts have been used in commercial food products, non-dairy creamers and cooking for many years but lately there has been a burst of publicity for coconut oil and milk as a new form of health-food with beneficial properties including increasing energy, preventing cancer and speeding weight loss.  I have seen it being added to ice cream and even bottled water. I want to sound a note of warning here.

 

Most physicians and nutritionists will advise against having too much fat in the diet for a number of reasons. First, and most obvious, fats have lots of calories. In addition dietary fat can increase the bad cholesterol (LDL) content of the blood leading to increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Among the different kinds of fat that raise LDL the worst are the saturated fats. One tablespoon of coconut oil contains about 120 calories with about 90% of the coconut oil being saturated fat.  In fact the saturated fat, palmitic acid, takes its name from the plant that produces coconuts, the palm tree. Compare this to the fat in dark chocolate which is 30% oleic acid, the healthy monounsaturated fat found in olive oil.

 

Oils which are far more beneficial for preparing foods are unsaturated fats including the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. I like canola, safflower and olive oil due to their high content of these healthier fats.

 

Coconut oil has many other applications which are useful outside the body. It can be used as a diesel fuel, deodorant, insect repellent, to make soap, and as a moisturizer for hair and skin.  My advice is to think twice however, before supplementing your diet with it.