The World’s Metabolic Problem
There’s an epidemic flying around these days, and it’s not leaving in a hurry. It’s always been knocking at the door, but the last few decades have seen it stage a rapid rise to the top of the risk charts.
We’re not training the scopes on heart disease, diabetes, cancer, or covid for that matter. These are symptoms, and we’re looking for the cause that lurks behind the major killers of the modern world. The culprit here is metabolic dysfunction, and it’s stemming from a diet that has steadily evolved over the past century into something that barely resembles the ancestral version. The metabolic threat is perched high and travelling at pace.
Think of metabolic dysfunction as the breeding ground of disease. The body simply isn’t working as it should. The common conditions that come to mind are often states that occur further down the line. Diabetes can come alongside obesity, but that doesn’t mean getting fat is the reason for getting diabetes. You can be reasonably healthy, medically obese, and without a significant risk of diabetes. But if you’re obese and showing signs of metabolic dysfunction, you’re staring down the barrel.
Any of these can drastically raise your chances of falling to infection and disease.
None of this is news to the medical community. We’ve narrowed the sights on the diet problem and we’ve been throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks. Every conceivable diet has been invented at this point to try and fan the flames, maybe even reverse the trend altogether. But it’s not working. The presence of metabolic disease has been forecast to double in the next two decades. One in four adults in the UK are believed to be affected by it, and a study in the US found it increase by 35% between 1988 and 2012.
If anything, it’s getting worse, despite all the diets and drugs that have been thrown at it. It’s enough to suggest that there’s something deeper at foot here, something that can’t simply be treated away by lowering calories, choosing whole foods, and getting a prescription for metformin.
This isn’t to say none of it is working. The longevity-boosting, disease-purging cocktails have been shown to have some effect at stemming the tide. But it’s a lot of effort, and a lot of wallet, for a modest amount of progress.
Perhaps we’ve made the diet solution far more complicated than it has any right to be. We’re dealing with what is very much a modern phenomenon. Chronic disease simply wasn’t a major fear factor for our hunter ancestors. They often had bigger fish to fry, for sure, like avoiding predators, infections, and making it through the winter. But the ones who managed to get past puberty had a great chance to post a healthy innings.
There was no diabetes, no atherosclerosis, no obesity. Life wasn’t as bad back then as we make it out to be. Healthwise, we’re worse off now, and it’s no contest. So what did our ancestors do so well that we can’t figure out now? The problem doesn’t start with metabolic dysfunction, that’s very much a state that the body finds itself in. Metabolic syndrome itself is driven into action by the four horsemen of disease.
These are all perfectly normal parts of human biochemistry, but when they’re given free rein, and allowed to run rampant, they can be devastating. This is the stage where we need to be spending the vast bulk of our fire-fighting efforts. Unfortunately, the modern diet, and the market behind it, is based on tackling the problems that arrive much further down the chain. It’s a huge misstep. What we have with the four horsemen, are the root drivers of disease.
By looking at the triggers that release the four horsemen, we’re scanning for dysfunction at the very top of the chain, before the cascade of metabolic machinery begins to trickle down towards a medical diagnosis. We can look to prevent, rather than try and fix a body that’s already at breaking point.
And by looking at the triggers, you may start to see a familiar culprit rearing its head.
This is the body’s response to a threat, where it triggers certain chemicals to deal with potential danger. That in itself isn’t a bad thing, it’s a completely natural process that forms a critical part of lifting weights and building muscle. Unfortunately in the modern lifestyle, inflammation doesn’t come to the party when it’s needed. It’s always on. The body is stuck in emergency mode, and that’s causing it to degrade rapidly. Chronic inflammation heightens the intensity of ageing, joint pain, muscle soreness, insulin resistance, and disease.
The four horsemen don’t arrive one at a time, they hunt in packs. A catabolic physiology is when the body is breaking itself down to supply the body with desperately needed bursts of energy. You don’t need to be in an actual crisis where you’ve just spotted a tiger poke its head from a nearby bush. You just need the brain to assume there’s a tiger lurking in that bush. It’s a tough deal for us, and an unfortunate relic from our ancient lifestyles, when tigers weren’t endangered and restricted to zoos. It’s an emergency state to power us through a fight-or-flight situation. Much like inflammation.
The catabolic process has the body steal nutrients from growth and repair, so it can produce enough frantic energy for a quick getaway. Prodded into action often enough, and it sends the body into a chronically fatigued state. The catabolic physiology is most often the result of mental stress overloading the adrenals, but you can’t separate mind from matter.
As for what can negatively affect your neurotransmitters, it’s a diet that has excessive amounts of antinutrients, and not enough of the good stuff. Now we have a pattern emerging.
Without insulin functioning the way it should be, whole pathways in the body are shut down. This is the body’s energy-storing hormone, and it’s vital. Insulin resistance means the receptors in a cell block out the signals of insulin, refusing to open up for any calories coming its way. While this can apply to fat cells, in which case it would be a good thing, this condition is almost always used in the context of muscle and liver cells.
If they don’t open their doors and pick up the glucose molecules in the bloodstream, you’re getting a case of high blood sugar every time carbs are on the menu. And with high blood sugar (hyperglycemia), you’re also strapped in for a period of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). That’s an energy crisis in the body, and a breeding ground for inflammation.
With enough time, insulin resistance can progress to a state of type 2 diabetes. It can take a year or two, even a decade, but eventually, you’ve got yourself a chronic disease to show for it. Until then, there’s plenty to deal with. You won’t be able to lose weight, you’ll be a slave to mood swings, and rampant inflammation can always put you on the fast track to other issues.
Many may put sugar up as the scapegoat for insulin resistance, but it’s likely that vegetable oils are the actual culprits due to the unique effects they have on the metabolism. These oils make your muscle cells resistant, but the fat cells sensitive. It’s the perfect combo if you’re looking to amass a coat to last you through the next ice age.
Carbs on the other hand don’t exactly work in an insulin-resistant metabolism, and will add to more fat gain. But they’re not so problematic in the pre-vegetable oil version.
The final of the four horsemen is the most damaging and dangerous of them all. And like the rest, oxidation is a natural process that’s designed to be beneficial. Free radicals interact with other molecules, calling large-chain chemical reactions. When it’s constantly triggered into action, your cells take a beating. Oxidative stress is the main cause of rapid ageing, and leads to a number of chronic diseases down the line.
Many foods and supplements are marketed to aid the body’s fight against free radical damage, but the use of antioxidants is a little more complicated. Sulforaphane, found in broccoli, is a great example of this. Ingesting creates a cascade of events that results in the body releasing more glutathione, our natural antioxidant. But now the glutathione stores are depleted, and you’re at risk of being unable to deal with fires in the near future.
Sulforaphane itself causes oxidative stress, rather than acting as an immune aid. The same is true for other plant foods that get propelled as antioxidants. Eating them in excessive amounts could be making things worse.
The Prime Culprit In All This
The four horsemen all have their own ways of causing havoc on the metabolism, but there’s a lot of overlap. You’re rarely getting the chance to deal with them one at a time, and that’s why most strategies are set up to fail. An antioxidative supplement would only be able to fight the flames further down the chain, rather than fix the problem and prevent future outbreaks in oxidative stress. And that’s without considering that these supplements rarely deliver on the label’s promises.
A broken metabolism can look like a mess without a remedy. Most supplements only offer ways to alleviate the side effects that get churned out by an existing dysfunction. Many are content to shrug their shoulders and leave it at that. Which is a shame, because there’s a solitary and simple solution here for a complex set of problems. The four horsemen don’t appear without a provocation. There’s one giant factor stirring them into action.
In the modern lifestyle, the diet is the main antagonist behind the emergence of metabolic dysfunction and chronic disease. But it’s also the solution. It’s just in desperate need of a reset.
This wraps up Part One of my series, ‘The Cult Of Carnivore’.
Head To Part Two – The Modern Vs The Original Diet
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