Posts Tagged ‘metabolic syndrome’

All Fat Is Not Created Equal

September 29, 2018

Andrew Siegel MD  9/29/2018

www.maxpixel.net-Obesity-Weight-Obese-Fat-Heavy-Overweight-3313923

Thank you, Max Pixel for image above

My next few entries concern weight and diet. Clearly, obesity is unhealthy on many levels and I do not encourage anyone to carry excess pounds. However, fat can be advantageous under certain circumstances: see below 12 Benefits to Being Overweight (to be taken tongue in cheek).  Next week’s entry (to be taken seriously) will discuss a healthy eating style that  effectively can improve your shape and shred excess pounds that I am excited to share with you.

Some fat is good, but not too much

Having some fat on our bodies is actually a good thing, as long as it is not excessive. Fat serves a number of useful purposes: it cushions internal organs; it provides insulation to conserve heat; it is a means of storing energy and fat-soluble vitamins; it is part of the structure of the brain and cell membranes; and is used in the manufacture of certain hormones.

All fat is not created equal

Not all fat is the same. It is important to distinguish between visceral fat and subcutaneous fat.  Visceral fat–also referred to as a “pot belly” or “beer belly”– is  fat deep within the abdominal cavity that surrounds the internal organs.  Subcutaneous fat–also known as “love handles,” “spare tires” or “muffin top”– is present between the skin and the abdominal wall. In addition to the physical distribution of the fat being different, so is the nature of the fat. Although neither type is particularly attractive, visceral fat is much more of a health hazard than is subcutaneous fat since its presence increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes and metabolic disturbances.  This is as opposed to subcutaneous fat, which is inactive and relatively harmless and generally does not contribute to health problems.

 

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Thank you Pixabay, for above image of visceral obesity (“beer belly”)–NOT GOOD FOR ONE’S HEALTH

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Image above, subcutaneous fat (“muffin top”), Attribution: Colin Rose from Montreal, Canada–MIGHT NOT BE THAT ATTRACTIVE, BUT GENERALLY NOT A HEALTH ISSUE

 

A beer belly is called a beer belly for good reason. One of the real culprits in the formation of visceral fat is drinking liquid carbs, whether sweetened beverages including sodas, iced tea, lemonade, sports drinks, etc., fruit juices such as orange, grapefruit, cranberry, etc., and alcoholic beverages.  Liquid carbs have no fiber and are essentially pre-digested, stimulating a massive insulin surge and rapid storage as fat. It is much healthier to eat the real fruit rather than drink the juice, since the product in its original form is loaded with fiber that fills you up and slows the absorption process and also contains abundant phytonutrients.  You would have to eat 3 oranges to get the same sugar and calorie load as drinking a glass of OJ, and it is hardly possible to do that.

Visceral fat is a metabolically active endocrine “organ” that does way more than just create an unsightly appearance. It produces numerous hormones and other chemical mediators that have many detrimental effects on all systems of our body.  So, fat is not just fat. Visceral fat ought to have a specific name, as do other endocrine organs (thyroid gland, adrenal gland, etc.). This name should convey the dangerous nature of this “gland.”  I suggest “die-roid” gland because of its dire metabolic consequences, including risk of metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart disease and premature death.

The good news about visceral fat is that it is metabolically active so that with the appropriate lifestyle modifications it can readily melt away, as opposed to subcutaneous fat, which is tenacious and can be extremely difficult to lose.

12 benefits to being overweight

  1. Less prominent crow’s feet, wrinkles and nasal-labial folds
  2. More comfort in the cold winter months because of more insulation
  3. More likely to survive hypothermia if your ship should sink in icy waters or your plane goes down on a snow-laden mountaintop
  4. Better buoyancy in the water
  5. Better survival when stranded on a desert island because of the fat (stored energy) that will keep you sustained and alive long after the thin people have perished
  6. Less osteoporosis (bone thinning) because of the weight-bearing that keeps bones mineralized
  7. Strength because of all that weight-bearing—think NFL offensive linemen
  8. Built-in airbag for better survival of traumatic motor vehicle crashes and other forms of trauma
  9. More comfortable when sitting on tailbone or lying on vertebra because of better padding
  10. More stable footing under conditions of gale-force winds
  11. Curvier, more voluptuous bodies
  12. Cuddlier, like a teddy bear!

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

A new blog is posted weekly. To receive a free subscription with delivery to your email inbox visit the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a physician and urological surgeon who is board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  He is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community.

Dr. Siegel has authored the following books that are available on Amazon, iBooks, Nook and Kobo:

PROMISCUOUS EATING: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health

THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health 

 

Cover

These books are written for educated and discerning men and women who care about health, well-being, fitness and nutrition and enjoy feeling confident and strong.

Dr. Siegel is co-creator of the male pelvic floor exercise instructional DVD (female version is in the works): PelvicRx

New video on female pelvic floor exercises:  Learn about your pelvic floor

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On Beer Bellies, Heart Disease And Sexual Function

July 30, 2016

Andrew Siegel MD  7/30/16

fat

 

A bit of fat is good…but not too much

Having some fat on our bodies is not a bad thing, as long as it is not excessive. Fat serves a number of useful purposes: it cushions internal organs; it provides insulation to conserve heat; it is a means of storing energy and fat-soluble vitamins; it is part of the structure of the brain and cell membranes; and it is used in the manufacturing process of several hormones.

All fat is not created equal…It’s all about location, location, location.

Not all fat is the same. It is important to distinguish between visceral fat and subcutaneous fat. Visceral fat–also referred to as a “pot belly” or “beer belly”– is internal fat located deep within the abdominal cavity. Subcutaneous fat–also known as “love handles,” “spare tires,” “muffin top,” or “middle-age spread”–is superficial fat located between the skin and the abdominal wall. In addition to the physical distribution of the fat being different, so is the nature of the fat. Although neither type is particularly attractive, visceral fat is much more hazardous to one’s health than subcutaneous fat since it increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes and metabolic disturbances. Subcutaneous fat is inactive and relatively harmless and generally does not contribute to health problems.

Factoid: A beer belly is called a beer belly for good reason. One of the real culprits in cultivating visceral fat is drinking liquid carbs, whether they are sweetened beverages (sodas, iced tea, lemonade, sports drinks, etc.), fruit juices such as orange, grapefruit, grape, cranberry, etc., or alcoholic beverages. These liquid carbs have no fiber and are essentially pre-digested, stimulating an insulin surge and rapid storage as fat. It is always better to eat the fruit rather than drink the juice, since the fruit is loaded with fiber that fills you up and slows the absorption process and contains abundant phytonutrients. You would have to eat 3 oranges to get the same sugar and calorie load as drinking a glass of OJ, and it is hardly possible to do that.

Visceral fat essentially is a metabolically active endocrine “organ” that does way more than just create an unsightly protrusion from our abdomens. It produces numerous hormones and other chemical mediators that have many detrimental effects on all systems of our body. So, fat is not just fat. Visceral fat ought to have a specific name, as do other endocrine organs (thyroid gland, adrenal gland, thymus gland, etc.). This name should convey the dangerous nature of this “gland.” I suggest “die-roid” gland because of its dire metabolic consequences, including risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, low testosterone, erectile dysfunction (ED) and premature death.

When a patient walks into the office and the first thing I observe is a protuberant and bulging belly, a siren goes off screaming “metabolic syndrome, metabolic syndrome, metabolic syndrome.”

Factoid: Anybody with a big belly is pre-diabetic, if not diabetic already.

“Metabolic syndrome” is a cluster of risk factors that are dangerous to one’s health. These include visceral obesity as defined by waist circumference (men > 40 inches; women > 35 inches), elevated blood sugar (> 100 mg/dL), high blood pressure (> 130/85 mm), elevated triglycerides (>150 mg/dL) and low HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol): (men < 40 mg/dL; women < 50 mg/dL).

Sexual dysfunction

Beer belly and metabolic syndrome are highly associated with low testosterone and poor erection and ejaculation function. The fatty tissue present in obese abdomens contains abundant amounts of the enzyme aromatase, which converts testosterone to estrogen—literally emasculating obese men. So, visceral fat can steal away our masculinity, male athletic form and body composition, mojo, strength, as well as the ability to obtain and maintain a good quality erection.

ED serves as a good proxy for cardiac and general health. The presence of ED is as much of a predictor of heart disease as is a strong family history, tobacco smoking, or elevated cholesterol. The British cardiologist Graham Jackson expanded the initials ED to mean: Endothelial Dysfunction (endothelial cells being the type of cells that line the insides of arteries); Early Detection (of heart disease); and Early Death (if missed).

Factoid: The penis can function as a “canary in the trousers.” Since the penile arteries are generally rather small (diameter of 1- 2 mm) and the coronary (heart) arteries larger (4 mm), it stands to reason that if vascular disease is affecting the tiny penile arteries and causing ED, it may affect the larger coronary arteries as well—if not now, then at some time in the future. In other words, the fatty plaque that compromises blood flow to the smaller vessels of the penis may also do so to the larger vessels of the heart and thus ED may be considered a genital “stress test.”

“Fatal retraction”

While the penis can genuinely shrink for a variety of reasons, most of the time it is a mere illusion—a sleight of penis. Obesity causes a generous pubic fat pad that will make the penis appear shorter. However, penile length is usually intact, with the penis merely hiding or buried behind the fat pad, the “turtle effect.” Lose the fat and presto…the penis reappears. Yet another reason to remain lean!

Trivia: It is estimated that for every 35 lbs. of weight gain, there is a one-inch loss in apparent penile length.

What does this all mean?

  • Visceral fat is a bad, metabolically-active form of fat that is highly correlated with metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart disease and sexual dysfunction.
  • ED often occurs in the presence of “silent” heart disease (no symptoms) and serves as a marker for increased risk for heart disease (as well as stroke, peripheral artery disease and death) often occurring 3-5 years before heart disease manifests. Early detection of ED provides an opportunity to decrease the risk of heart disease and the other forms of blood vessel disease.  ED has a similar or greater predictive value for heart disease as do traditional factors including family history, prior heart attack, tobacco use and elevated cholesterol. The greater the severity of the ED, the greater the risk and extent of heart disease and blood vessel disease.
  • Intensive lifestyle intervention has the potential for reversing visceral obesity, metabolic syndrome and sexual dysfunction. This lifestyle intervention involves achieving a healthy weight, losing the belly fat, healthy eating, regular exercise, smoking cessation, moderation of alcohol intake, stress management, etc.
  • The good news about visceral fat is that it is so metabolically active that with the appropriate lifestyle measures it can readily melt away, as opposed to subcutaneous fat, which is tenacious and can be virtually impossible to lose.

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

http://www.AndrewSiegelMD.com

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Author of THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health– and MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health available on Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, B&N Nook and Kobo; paperback edition available at TheKegelFix.com

Author page on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Andrew-Siegel/e/B004W7IM48

Apple iBook: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-kegel-fix/id1105198755?mt=11

Trailer for The Kegel Fix: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHZxoiQb1Cc  

Co-creator of Private Gym and PelvicRx: comprehensive, interactive, FDA-registered follow-along male pelvic floor muscle training programs. Built upon the foundational work of Dr. Kegel, these programs empower men to increase pelvic floor muscle strength, tone, power, and endurance: www.PrivateGym.com or Amazon.  In the works is the female PelvicRx pelvic floor muscle training DVD. 

Pelvic Rx can be obtained at http://www.UrologyHealthStore.com, an online store home to quality urology products for men and women. Use promo code “UROLOGY10” at checkout for 10% discount. 

Fat: Location, Location, Location Matters

September 14, 2012

Andrew Siegel, M.D.     Blog #74

 

We all have body fat; even elite athletes have a body composition that is a svelte 5-10% fat—this translates into roughly 10-20 pounds of fat for a 180-pound athlete.  What is important is that all fat is not created equal—where the fat accumulates in our bodies dramatically effects how that fat behaves.  So, the very location where your fat takes up residence has a tremendous influence on your health.

Fat on our body surface is much less problematic than fat deep within our body. Humans have two basic types of fat: subcutaneous fat and visceral fat. Subcutaneous fat—also known as “love handles,” “spare tires,” “muffin tops,” or “middle-age spread”—is present between the skin and the abdominal wall. When present in normal amounts, it gives us nice contours and makes us look less bony and skeletal and more smooth and curvy. When present in excessive amounts, it makes us look plump, roly-poly and pear-shaped. A moderate amount of subcutaneous fat is of little danger to our health and, in fact, provides us numerous advantages including padding and insulation to conserve heat and help with temperature regulation, a means of storage of fat-soluble vitamins, and a ready source of energy. Visceral fat—also referred to as a “pot belly,” “beer belly,” or “Buddha belly”—is internal fat deep within the abdominal cavity that can make us apple-shaped.  It wraps around our internal organs including our liver, kidneys, and pancreas. Visceral fat is always unhealthy fat that can have dire metabolic consequences. In general, waist circumference is a reasonably good measure of visceral fat. (Of course, morbid obesity due to either type of fat can prove extremely  dangerous to one’s health.)

It’s kind of like real estate, the value of which is predicated on location, location, location. Think of visceral fat as prime, expensive beachfront property on the gold coast with a short walk to the ocean, the ocean of metabolic disasters.  Think of subcutaneous fat as less expensive, inland property, quite removed from this ocean of metabolic disasters.  Clearly, visceral fat is fat that behaves badly and fat that is strongly desirable to avoid.

In many ways, the distinction between subcutaneous and visceral fat parallels the distinction between good fats and bad fats in our diet.    The not unhealthy one or two inches of subcutaneous fat that you can pinch around your waistline can be thought of as a good fat such as the fat in olive oil, avocados, or nuts.   On the other hand, the unhealthy visceral fat that causes a man to have a big protuberant abdomen—creating an appearance not unlike a very pregnant female—can be thought of as bad fats such as the partially hydrogenated fats present in vegetable shortening that are commonly used in fast foods and other processed baked goods.

Visceral fat storage is not static but dynamic, meaning that there is continuous mobilization of our fat (as fatty acids) and storage (as triglycerides).  Lipolysis is the chemical reaction in which the fat is broken down into fatty acids that the body can use as energy. This can occur very readily in visceral fat. Likewise, accumulation of visceral fat can occur in a very rapid fashion. Excessive intake of calories will be rapidly stored as visceral fat, whereas under circumstances of a reduced calorie intake, the visceral fat is broken down to provide fuel for our bodies’ metabolic processes, particularly muscle contraction.

Visceral fat is not just a bland collection of fatty tissue sitting inertly within your belly causing an oversized appearance to your abdomen.  It is an extremely metabolically active endocrine organ with a life of its own.  Fat is the largest endocrine organ in our bodies and it releases a myriad of pro-inflammatory factors, hormones and immune cells that can affect metabolism and other bodily functions. Fat has an abundance of the hormone aromatase, which converts testosterone to the female hormone estrogen.  One consequence of too much fat in men is excessive conversion of testosterone to estrogen. Men with plentiful visceral fat often will bear the consequences of lower testosterone and higher estrogen levels, including sexual issues and breast development as well as numerous other negative consequences of insufficient levels of testosterone.

Visceral fat is intimately connected to the inflammatory process and can result in insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease and an entire array of negative health ramifications, including chronic diseases such as arthritis and cancer.  This is in contradistinction to subcutaneous fat, which produces far less inflammatory chemicals. Since men have a tendency towards visceral fat collection whereas women have a tendency towards subcutaneous fat collection, this might explain why women are less susceptible to cardiovascular disease then men are.

Insulin is the principal regulator of fat metabolism. After a sugar and carbohydrate load, insulin is released to get the fuel into our cells. When we go without food, as happens when we sleep, insulin levels decrease and fat is released to be used as fuel.  Insulin levels are determined primarily in response to our carbohydrate intake in order to keep our blood sugar regulated. Insulin has much to do with the way our bodies store or burn fat. You can think of insulin as our fat hormone—when insulin levels are elevated, we accumulate fat; when levels are low, we burn fat for fuel.  So if you have a substantial collection of visceral fat, it becomes highly desirable to reduce sugar and refined carbohydrate intake to decrease insulin and burn away that bad, pro-inflammatory fat as fuel. The good news is that by losing abdominal fat, the potentially bad health repercussions can be reversed. The dangerous visceral fat submits relatively easily to diet and exercise whereas the less harmful subcutaneous fat at the waist is more stubborn and resistant to reversal measures.

How To Burn Fat:

  • Eat in accordance with nature’s design—meaning whole foods.  Avoid processed foods.  The best diet is an “anti-processed-atarian” diet.
  • Avoid “naked” calories (stripped of fiber), so restrict sugar, simple white carbohydrates, and liquid calories. Specifically avoidsugared drinks, white pasta, white rice, white bread, doughnuts, bagels, potatoes, etc.  Aggressively steer clear of high fructose corn syrup.
  •  Eat high-quality, whole-grain, high-fiber carbohydrates (whole grain pasta, brown rice, whole grain breads, legumes, whole fruits and vegetables), lean protein sources (easy on meat and dairy) and healthy fats (vegetable and seafood-origin).
  • Avoid giant meals in which the caloric load will be stored as fat; substitute with multiple smaller meals in which the calories will be used for immediate energy.
  • Limit after dinner snacking since unnecessary calories at a time of minimal physical activity will be stored as fat.
  • You must incorporate exercise into your lifestyle, achieving balance between aerobic, resistance and core workouts.  Aerobic exercise has great potential in burning fat for fuel and interval training seems to really rev up our fat-burning capabilities.
  • Portion control is the name of the game: in order to burn fat, energy intake must be less than energy output.  Even if you eat only the healthiest of foods, if calories in exceed calories out, you will not burn fat for fuel.
  • Minimize stress; if you can’t eliminate it, work to manage it.
  • Get adequate amounts of quality sleep.  See my previous blog entitled “Sleep To Slim” to find details: https://healthdoc13.wordpress.com/2012/07/20/sleep-to-slim/

The bottom line is that while body fat in any excessive amount is unhealthy and unattractive, it becomes a potentially life-threatening issue depending on its location in our bodies.  An enormously protuberant belly can lead to processes that result in disease—and even death.

Andrew Siegel, M.D.

Author of Promiscuous Eating: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

www.PromiscuousEating.com

Now available on Amazon Kindle

 

Man-Oh-Pause: When Things Are Not So Good Under The Hood

September 1, 2012

Blog #73     Andrew Siegel, M.D.

 

“T”  (an abbreviation for testosterone) has become a very commonly used and in vogue term. Many of my patients come into the office specifically asking for their T levels to be checked.  The pharmaceutical industry has been responsible for direct-to-consumer advertising of testosterone replacement products, a practice that has promoted this recent grass-roots awareness of testosterone issues, a subject that was previously the domain of urologists and endocrinologists.

T is that all-important male hormone that goes way beyond male sexuality.  Testosterone has moved to the endocrine vanguard and is now regarded as a key factor in men’s health. Current evidence suggests that a man’s testosterone level might serve a function as a good indicator/marker of general male health.

Aside for contributing to libido, masculinity and sexual function, T is responsible for the physical changes that commence at the time of puberty, including pubic, axillary and facial hair, deepening voice, prominent Adam’s apple and increased bone and muscle mass.  Additionally, T contributes to our mood, bone and muscle strength, red blood cell count, energy, and general mojo.  Most testosterone is manufactured in the testicles, although a small percentage is made by the adrenal glands.

There is a gradual decline in T that occurs with the aging process—approximately a 1% decline each year after age 30.  This will occur in most men, but will not always be symptomatic.  40% of American men aged 45 or older have low or low range T.  Low T is associated with metabolic syndrome and diabetes, bone mineral loss, and altered sexual function.  Specifically, symptoms of low T may include one or more of the following:  fatigue; irritability; depression; decreased libido; erectile dysfunction; impaired orgasmic function; decreased energy and sense of well-being; loss of muscle and bone mass; increased body fat; abnormal lipid profiles. Essentially, low T can accelerate the aging process.

Belly fat is literally the enemy of masculinity and a testosterone-choker that can push you in the direction of the female gender.  Perhaps when you are standing naked in the shower and you gaze down towards your feet, all you see is the protuberant roundness of your large midriff, obscuring the sight of your manhood.  Perhaps you’re wondering where your penis is hiding.  In most cases, the abundant pubic fat pad that occurs coincident with weight gain obscures the penis—the “turtle effect.”  If your belly blocks your view of your penis, your pubic fat pad makes your penis difficult to locate, your breasts have filled out, and your libido and erections are sub-par, it may just really be time to rethink your lifestyle habits!

Abdominal obesity—an accumulation of fat in our midsections—not only is unattractive from a cosmetic standpoint, but can have dire metabolic consequences that can affect the quality and quantity of our lives. Obesity has a pivotal role in the process leading to low T and waist circumference is a reasonable proxy for low T. Fat is not just fat—it is a metabolically active endocrine organ that does way more than just protrude from our abdomens.  Fat has an abundance of the hormone aromatase, which functions to convert T to the female sex hormone estrogen (E).  The consequence of too much conversion of T to E is the potential for gynecomastia, aka man boobs.  Too much E slows T production, and with less T, more abdominal obesity occurs and even more E is made, a vicious cycle (literally a vicious circus) of male castration and emasculation.

Obesity can steal away your masculinity, male athletic form and body composition, mojo, strength, and also one of your most precious resources—the ability to obtain and maintain a good quality erection.  Remember the days when you could achieve a majestic, heaven-pointing erection simply by seeing an attractive woman or thinking some vague sexual thought?  Chances were that you were young, physically active, and had a svelte build with a hard abdomen. If those days are mere memories, it is probable that you are now carrying extra pounds, have a soft and protuberant belly, and are not physically active.  When you’re soft in the middle, the consequence is that you will probably be soft down below. The good news is that by losing the abdominal fat, the unfortunate consequences of low T can often be reversed.

How To Turn On Your Testosterone Boosters: 

  • A healthy lifestyle, including good eating habits, maintaining a healthy weight, engaging in exercise, obtaining adequate sleep, moderation with respect to alcohol intake, avoiding tobacco, and stress reduction are the initial approaches to treating low T engendered by abdominal obesity.  Insufficient sleep can lower T.  Excessive alcohol increases the conversion of T to E.  Maintaining an active sex life can help maintain T.
  • It is of paramount importance to lose the abdominal fat, with the caveat that a sufficient caloric intake of quality food and nutrients is necessary to prevent the body going into “starvation mode,” which can substantially decrease T production.
  • In terms of exercise, a healthy balance of aerobic, resistance, and core training is best, but in particular, vigorous resistance exercise is crucial.  This will help the flabby abdomen disappear and build lean muscle mass, which in turn will increase metabolic rate.

If lifestyle modification fails to improve the symptoms of low T and T remains measurably low via a simple blood test, a trial of T replacement under the supervision of your doctor can provide a meaningful improvement of your quality of life.

Andrew Siegel, M.D.

Author of Promiscuous Eating: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

www.PromiscuousEating.com

Available on Amazon/Amazon Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Promiscuous-Eating-Understanding-Self-Destructive-ebook/dp/B004VS9AC6

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What’s This Metabolic Syndrome I’ve Been Hearing So Much About?

August 18, 2012

Andrew Siegel, M.D.    Blog #71

 

The “metabolic syndrome” is a cluster of risk factors that are dangerous to your health.  These include visceral obesity as defined by waist circumference, elevated blood glucose level, high blood pressure, elevated triglycerides, and low HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol).  Visceral obesity is a collection of fat within the abdomen as opposed to under the skin (subcutaneous fat).

When a patient walks into the office and the first thing observed is a protuberant and bulging belly, a siren goes off screaming “metabolic syndrome, metabolic syndrome, metabolic syndrome.”

If you have at least three of the following five risk factors, you have metabolic syndrome.  Those who have metabolic syndrome often develop cardiovascular disease and/or type-2 diabetes.

 Features of Metabolic Syndrome:

 

  • Elevated waist circumference: men > 40 inches; women > 35 inches
  • Elevated triglycerides: > 150 mg/dL
  • Reduced HDL (“good”) cholesterol: men < 40 mg/dL; women

< 50 mg/dL

  • Elevated blood pressure: > 130/85 mm Hg
  • Elevated fasting glucose (sugar): >100 mg/dL

One of every four Americans has metabolic syndrome. This syndrome is caused by insulin resistance—the body’s inability to properly process nutrients including sugars and fats because the pancreatic hormone insulin no longer works in an efficient manner to get nutrients into our cells.  The root cause of insulin resistance is too much waist and not enough movement.  Essentially, our well-engineered systems are “flooded” by taking in excessive calories.  Our bodies simply were not designed for chronic caloric overload, and the only people who can handle this caloric flooding are endurance athletes who burn the calories, such as Michael Phelps.

Triglycerides are the main fat in food and the bloodstream.  One in three adults have a fasting triglyceride level higher than 150; optimally, triglycerides should be under 100.  Even a non-fasting triglyceride level should not be that high, because no healthy person should ever develop an extremely high level even in response to a fatty meal.  Diets high in sugar are the major underlying cause of elevated triglycerides.

The good news is that lifestyle modification has a very positive impact on triglyceride level—it is very possible for triglycerides to decline as much as 30% based upon a diet with less calories, sugar, saturated fat and alcohol.  EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are marine-derived omega fats that are capable of lowering triglycerides.  Fish contain these two omega-3 fats because they consume algae that are rich in them.   Exercise is an equally important component of lowering triglycerides, since it activates lipoprotein lipase, which breaks down triglycerides.

Ways To Avoid Metabolic Syndrome:

  • Lose excess weight to improve each of the five features of metabolic syndrome
  • Eat a diet with abundant fruit, vegetables, and fiber
  • Minimize saturated fats and refined carbohydrates
  • Minimize sugar: the American Heart Association recommends a maximum of 6 teaspoons daily for women and 9 for men, including the sugar in processed foods
  • Eat fatty fish high in EPA and DHA including salmon, herring, sardines, halibut and trout; if you don’t eat fish, take fish oil capsules
  • Exercise will facilitate weight loss and will improve every feature of metabolic syndrome

Andrew Siegel, M.D.

Author of Promiscuous Eating: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

www.PromiscuousEating.com

Now available on Amazon Kindle

 

Refined Foods: Not So Fine For Us

February 11, 2012

 

Blog # 45   Andrew Siegel, M.D.=

 

 

Nature is ever so clever—look at our human species—amazingly engineered, evolved and adapted not only to survive, but also to thrive on this planet.

Whenever nature provides us with a nutrient that is potentially unhealthy, it protects us does by limiting our access to that nutrient.  Take, for example, sugar—also known as sucrose or alternatively, 50% glucose/50% fructose—clearly unhealthy and a key contributor to the obesity epidemic.  The major sources are sugar cane and sugar beets.  Did you ever try to get the sugar out of a sugar cane or sugar beet plant?  They are fibrous and unyielding and if we want to derive calories from these, it will require great effort and we will likely end up frustrated.  It’s like chewing on a stick of bamboo!

However, because of the collective intelligence of mankind—standing on the shoulders of giants, if you will—we are now able to easily remove the protective fiber matrix and process the sugar cane or sugar beet into a pure, refined and powdery product.   This process enables unrestricted access to the sugar and allows many “naked” calories to be easily consumed in a short time period. That is NOT the way nature intended, but humankind has prevailed over nature. Processing has allowed us to cheat nature by refining sugar, permitting consumption in immoderate and unhealthy amounts, contrary to nature’s design.

Now lets move on to a discussion about the processing of grains—specifically wheat, since these amber waves of grain are one of the staples of the American diet. However, this same line of thought is relevant to other grains including rice, corn, rye, oats, barley, etc.  The bottom line is that processing leaves us with a very refined product—not unlike sugar—again cheating nature’s “natural” protective mechanisms.  Unfortunately, when we cheat nature, we ultimately cheat ourselves.

Wheat needs to be processed to make it available and accessible to us. Threshing is the means whereby the chaff  (the wheat husk) is separated from the wheat kernel, the diamond of wheat.  Highly efficient milling enables the wheat kernel to be separated into the following three components—the bran: the outer covering of the wheat kernel; the germ: the embryo or sprouting section; and the endosperm: the source of the white flour that contains starch and protein.

White flour has the bran and germ removed, resulting in a pure, highly refined powder as opposed to whole-wheat flour that contains the bran and germ. By removing the fiber-rich bran and germ, the resulting product has a longer shelf life and makes for lighter and fluffier breads, as opposed to the darker, coarser, heavier breads made from the whole-grain wheat.

The removed bran and germ—the wholesome and healthy components of the wheat kernel—are often used to produce animal and poultry feed.   Interestingly, the farm animals are fed the wholesome, slow-digesting grain components and us humans end up with the refined and unhealthy component!  Go figure!  In fact, the nutritionally depleted and deficient processed white flour needs to be fortified with vitamins and minerals to replace those that were lost with refining, hence the term “enriched” wheat flour.

What is the problem with enriched wheat flour?  Simply, wheat grain that is hulled and stripped of the bran and germ results in a pulverized, super-fine, silky-white powder. This highly refined substance is very similar in appearance to cocaine or heroin. This pre-chewed, pre-digested, melts-in-your-mouth, adult baby food equivalent is absorbed extremely rapidly and is promptly transformed into glucose; it is not unlike getting an injection of intravenous glucose into one’s bloodstream.  Insulin levels (remember that insulin is our “fat” hormone) surge in response and any glucose that does not need to be immediately used as fuel gets stored as glycogen in our muscles and liver and when that is maximized, any excess glucose gets stored as fat.

This quick fix of sugar is not particularly filling because of the absence of fiber; it is a short-lived satisfaction that begs for more consumption, establishing a vicious cycle. The result is a push in the direction of weight gain, insulin-resistance, obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Furthermore, the refined product does not induce the “thermic effect” that many more substantive foods do, in which the body’s metabolism increases because of the energy expenditure it takes to digest a wholesome, fiber-rich product.

In contrast to the refined, enriched wheat flour product, whole-wheat flour is made by grinding up the entire wheat kernel. “Whole” refers to all three grain components used—bran, germ, and endosperm.  Whole-wheat flour is brown in color and textured, as opposed to the silky-white enriched wheat product. Whole wheat is very nutritious because the bran and germ components contain abundant fiber, protein, calcium, iron and other minerals. Because of the fiber, absorption and glucose transformation occur in a slow, gradual and well-regulated fashion. Whole wheat is filling, satisfying and substantive and literally sticks to your ribs.  Whole-wheat adds heaviness to breads or to whatever recipe it is used for and requires more flour to obtain the same volume of bread as white flour. Whole-wheat has a shorter shelf life than white flour because of its higher oil content—the source of the oil being the wheat bran, and the oil being a healthy one.  Products containing oil will go rancid faster than products that do not contain oil.  Whole-wheat flour is more expensive than white or enriched wheat flour.  It is easy to understand why the Industrial Food Complex is enamored with enriched wheat flour.

Now let’s go way beyond mere processing and separation of a natural product into its components and get into a real chemistry experiment—high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).  HFCSis a sugar substitute that is derived from corn via a complicated chemical process. Corn is milled to produce cornstarch, a powdery derivative. The cornstarch is processed into corn syrup, which contains glucose. Glucose is converted to fructose by using a process developed in the 1970’s by food scientists in Japan. Glucose is then added back in differing percentages to the fructose to achieve the desired sweetness. 55% fructose HFCS is used to sweeten soft drinks and a 42% fructose HFCS is used in baked goods. HFCS is abundant in processed foods and drinks.

Why does the Industrial Food Complex adore HFCS?  It is less costly than sugar because of corn subsidies and sugar tariffs. It is easy to transport as the viscous syrup lends itself to huge storage vats within trucks.  Fructose is the sweetest of all naturally occurring carbohydrates and does not crystallize or turn grainy when cold, as sugar can do in cold drinks such as iced tea. Because HFCS is highly soluble, its use makes for softer products and its ability to retain moisture allows for moister and better textured baked goods. Finally, it acts as a preservative to help prevent freezer burn as well as maintain the freshness and extend the shelf life of processed foods.

While HFCS may help preserve processed foods, it does not help preserve us; in fact, I would describe HFCS as killer sweetener.  It’s not just about the “naked” calories of the refined, fiber-less carbohydrate but is all about the fructose, which can be thought of as “poisonous” carbohydrate that has unique and distinct properties.  Fructose is remarkably similar to a carbohydrate that is very familiar to all of us—ethanol, a fermented sugar that is an acute toxin to the brain. However, fructose can only be metabolized by the liver and not by the brain, so in the words of Dr. Robert Lustig, fructose is “alcohol without the buzz.”   While ethanol is an acute toxin, fructose can be thought of as a chronic toxin. The “beer belly” from alcohol is not unlike the “soda belly” seen in those who overindulge in products containing HFCS.

Fructose is metabolized entirely differently from the way glucose is.  Every cell in our body can metabolize glucose, but only the liver can metabolize fructose. Fructose does not stimulate insulin release, as does glucose.  Fructose does not stimulate thesecretion of our satiety hormone leptin, nor suppress our hunger hormone ghrelin, so that foods containing fructose, unless couched in fiber, do not fill us up and curb our appetites. Fructose much more readily than glucose replenishes liver glycogen, and once the liver is saturated with glycogen, triglycerides (fats) are made and stored. Thus, HFCS ingestion can readily lead to obesity, elevated cholesterol, fatty liver, hypertension, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. The bottom line is that excessive HFCS ingestion pushes our metabolism towards fat production, and it doesn’t take eating that much processed food to cross the excessive HFCS threshold.

Fructose is the predominant sugar in many fruits, hence the name fructose. The difference between this sugar contained within a piece of fruit as opposed to that within a bottle of cola is that fruit fructose is natural (not created in a chemistry lab) and the amount is significantly less than the load contained within the soft drink. Additionally, the fruit fructose is accompanied by a substantial amount of fiber, anti-oxidants, and other phyto-nutrients, all health-promoting ingredients not present in the cola.

 

Bottom line:  Resonate with nature and literally think “outside the box,” can, package, bottle, etc., by eating whole, natural foods and not their refined by-products. Whole and real foods do not require a label because what you see is what you get. Leave the chemistry experiments to the chemistry lab and not for our consumption. Processing is a necessity to make some foods accessible to us, so read food and nutritional labels as carefully as you would read the ingredients in a medication, because when it comes down to it, food is medicine. The best diet is the “anti-processed-atarian” diet.  Your body will thank you.

 

 

Andrew Siegel, M.D.

Author of Promiscuous Eating: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

www.PromiscuousEating.com

Male Obesity Causes Low Testosterone With Potentially Dire Medical Consequences

July 30, 2011

Testosterone (T) is an important male sexual hormone that promotes the physical changes that commence at the time of puberty including pubic, axillary and facial hair, deepening voice, prominent Adam’s apple and increased bone and muscle mass.  Throughout adulthood, testosterone helps maintain libido, masculinity, sexuality, and youthful vigor and vitality.  The lion’s share of testosterone is manufactured in the testicles, although a small percentage is made by the adrenal glands.

There is a gradual decline in T that occurs with the aging process—approximately a 1% decrease each year after age 30. The decline will occur in most men, but will not always be symptomatic. Symptoms of low T may include one or more of the following:  fatigue, irritability, depression, decreased libido, erectile dysfunction, ejaculatory dysfunction, decreased energy and sense of well-being, loss of muscle and bone mass, increased body fat, abnormal lipid profiles. Essentially, low T can accelerate the aging process.

Obesity can have a pivotal role in the process leading to low T. Fat is not just fat—it is a metabolically active endocrine organ that does not just protrude from our abdomens in an inert state.  Fat produces pro-inflammatory factors, hormones and immune cells—including cytokines—which function to inhibit T production in the testicles and the release of hypothalamus and pituitary hormones that govern the release of T.  Low T is present in about half of obese men.   Fat has an abundance of the hormone aromatase, which functions to convert T to the female hormone estrogen (E).  The consequence of too much conversion of T to E is the potential for gynecomastia, aka breast enlargement or alternatively, man boobs.

There is a strong relationship between low T and metabolic syndrome.  Metabolic Syndrome is defined as having three or more of the following: high blood glucose levels; abdominal obesity; high fats (triglycerides); low levels of the “good” cholesterol (HDL); and high blood pressure. If we have a substantial amount of belly fat, then by definition we have insulin-resistance, a condition in which our pancreas works overtime in order to make more and more insulin to get glucose into our cells.  This is a precursor to diabetes, cardiovascular disease and all the havoc they can wreak.  Those with metabolic syndrome have a much-increased risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

Bottom line:  Abdominal obesity—an accumulation of fat in our midsections—not only is unattractive from a cosmetic standpoint, but can have dire metabolic consequences that can unequivocally affect the quality and quantity of our lives. Obesity in males often promotes low levels of the all-important male hormone testosterone, which can have a number of detrimental effects on our sexuality, bone and muscle health, energy, well-being, etc.  The good news is that by losing the abdominal fat, all of the potentially bad consequences can be reversed.

Andrew Siegel, M.D.

http://www.PromiscuousEating.com for information on Promiscuous Eating: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship With Food

http://www.youtube.com/incontinencedoc for educational videos on low T and a variety of other urological and wellness subjects