What you should know about metabolic disorders

A healthy lifestyle may avert metabolic syndrome. / Net photo

According to research carried out by the International Diabetes Federation, the underlying cause of the metabolic syndrome continues to challenge experts but both insulin resistance and central obesity are considered significant factors.

Dieudonné Bukaba, a Kigali based nutritionist explains metabolism as the process a body uses to get or make energy from the food one eats. Food is made up of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.

A metabolic disorder hence occurs when abnormal chemical reactions in the body disrupt this process. When this happens, you might have too much of some substances or too little of other ones that you need to stay healthy, he says.

Bukaba explains that the exact cause of the metabolic syndrome is not known and that many features of the metabolic syndrome are associated with “insulin resistance.” Insulin resistance means that the body does not use insulin efficiently to lower glucose and triglyceride levels.

He states that metabolic disorders can take many forms. This includes a missing enzyme or vitamin that’s necessary for an important chemical reaction, abnormal chemical reactions that hinder metabolic processes, a disease in the liver, pancreas, endocrine glands, or other organs involved in metabolism nutritional deficiencies.

Medical experts say metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that occur together, increasing someone’s risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. These conditions include increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels.

Research shows, having just one of these conditions doesn’t mean you have metabolic syndrome. But it does mean you have a greater risk of a serious disease. And if one develops more of these conditions, their risk of complications, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, rises even higher.

Bukaba notes that most of the disorders associated with metabolic syndrome don’t have obvious signs or symptoms. 

“One sign that is visible is large waist circumference. And if your blood sugar is high, you might notice the signs and symptoms of diabetes such as increased thirst and urination, fatigue, and blurred vision,” he says.

He adds you can develop a metabolic disorder if certain organs — for instance, the pancreas or the liver stop functioning properly. These kinds of disorders can be a result of genetics, a deficiency in a certain hormone or enzyme, consuming too much of certain foods, or a number of other factors.

According to the Mayo Clinic, metabolic syndrome is closely linked to overweight or obesity and inactivity. It’s also linked to a condition called insulin resistance. Normally, your digestive system breaks down the foods you eat into sugar. Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that helps sugar enter your cells to be used as fuel.

In addition, people with insulin resistance, their cells don’t respond normally to insulin and glucose can’t enter the cells as easily. As a result, blood sugar levels rise even as the body churns out more and more insulin to try to lower the blood sugar.

Bukaba states diabetes is the most common metabolic disease. There are two types of diabetes. Type 1, the cause of which is unknown, although there can be a genetic factor. Type 2, which can be acquired, or potentially caused by genetic factors as well.

“The following factors increase one’s chances of having metabolic syndrome, for instance; age, obesity. (Carrying too much weight, especially in your abdomen increases your risk of metabolic syndrome). However, your risk of metabolic syndrome is higher if you have ever had non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, polycystic ovary syndrome or sleep apnea,” he says.

Bukaba stresses heart and blood vessel disease could be a complication of metabolic syndrome.  High cholesterol and high blood pressure can contribute to the build-up of plaques in your arteries. These plaques can narrow and harden your arteries, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

For prevention, medics say, a lifelong commitment to a healthy lifestyle may avert the conditions that cause metabolic syndrome. A healthy lifestyle includes; getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days, eating plenty of vegetables, fruits, lean protein, and whole grains, limiting saturated fat and salt in your diet, maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding smoking.


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