In a recent analysis of the NHANES data from 2009-2016 encompassing over 8,700 adults in the United States, a pertinent question was asked by researchers. What percentage of the American population is metabolically healthy?
Now there are many ways to define metabolic heath. In this case waist circumference, HDL, triglycerides, fasting glucose and blood pressure were used. I would have loved to have seen fasting insulin added to the mix if available from the dataset but this isn’t an often used marker and quite frankly if included would have likely made a bad situation look even worse. The results…12.2% or 1 in 8 Americans are in a state of metabolic health!(1)
I don’t think those statistic can be overstated. With all of our medical technology and dietary guidelines roughly 88% of the US population is experiencing metabolic dysfunction.
Given the current global health climate as I write these words I cannot begin to imagine how different things would look if this were not the case. The saddest part of all is that this is under our control. This isn’t a popular opinion because it removes other people or circumstances from blame and focuses the problem inward…but this is where the work must be done.
There is no magic bullet or simple solution. We do not get metabolically unhealthy overnight and we will not find optimal health overnight. The CDC released a document highlighting the at risk populations for the COVID-19 issue and obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease all top the list.(2)
Johns Hopkins reports less than 1% mortality in people without pre-existing conditions and this is not the only data to support these claims.(3) Anecdotal evidence from ICU doctors who have personally told me who this is and more importantly is not impacting is consistent with data from around the globe. You do not have an immune system, you are an immune system and everything you do, don’t do, think and eat effects it.
I cannot help but think that if we were a healthier society we could have been spared the human and financial cost of this pandemic. We are a resilient species but that resilience only goes so far when we do not simply and adequately care for the bodies we possess.
This is not a failure of the human body to cope with a novel virus. This is a body acting in accordance with the environment we create for it. So the question is this…What environment are you creating? Every time you eat you make a choice. Nutrition can be the source of both optimal health and also disease.
If you are still of the mindset that all calories are created equal then you are either willfully ignorant or purposefully diluting yourself(see diagram on the left). In the case of COVID 19 up to half of type 2 diabetics can improve their blood pressure and glycemic control within weeks by simple lifestyle changes including nutrition and send their condition into remission.(4)
This is the power of nutrition and it has nothing to do with weighing and measuring food. The calorie count on the back of the box tells you absolutely NOTHING about the quality of the product or how your body will respond to it and yet this is where most people focus.
The paradigm must shift to an understanding of human physiology and basic biology. If we continue to ignore the very nature of the human body and how it was designed to run we will find ourselves in an eerily similar situation in the not so distant future.
So many tools are at your fingertips including low carbohydrate nutrition, intermittent fasting, movement, stress management…all of these require no doctors, no prescriptions and no waiting. These are changes you can implement at your next meal and begin to see what happens when you live your life in accordance with the brilliant design of your body and its physiology.
Feed with a purpose!
J. Gulinello NTP is a contributing writer to Sapien.org and you can follow his work on social media as well @perpetualhealthco
1. Araujo J, Cai J, Stevens J. Prevalence of Optimal Metabolic Health in American Adults: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2009–2016. Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders. 2019;17(1). https://doi.org/10.1089/met.2018.0105
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Information for People who are at Higher Risk for Severe Illness. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/groups-at-higher-risk.html. Accessed April 16, 2020.
3. Johns Hopkins ABX Guide. Coronavirus COVID-19(SARS-CoV-2). https://www.hopkinsguides.com/hopkins/view/Johns_Hopkins_ABX_Guide/540747/all/Coronavirus_COVID_19__SARS_CoV_2_. Accessed April 16, 2020.
4. Malhotra A. COVID 19 and the elephant in the room. European Scientist. 2020. https://www.europeanscientist.com/en/article-of-the-week/covid-19-and-the-elephant-in-the-room/. Accessed April 17, 2020.