It’s a Journey – Prevention vs Recovery

Welcome back to the Journey. In review, last week’s post has this quote from The American Heart Association.

The immune system plays an important role in obesity-induced adipose (fat) tissue inflammation and the resultant metabolic dysfunction, which can lead to hypertension, dyslipidemia,and insulin resistance and their downstream sequelae of type 2 diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease.”

Downstream means after, later, the thing that comes last. The quote does a really nice job summarizing the Journey, outlining the stuff that happens before your white water canoe ride crashes into the dam.

When you arrive downstream with cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, a lot of stuff has gone wrong along the way. And that stuff is metabolic dysfunction attached to obesity and inflammation.

Steering-clear of metabolic dysfunction is the key to prevention. Recovery includes the same steering-clear but it is, quite frankly, harder because you are already upside down in the water. We will get to that on another day.

Metabolic Dysfunction

You may not be familiar with some of the words in the quote. So let’s define “metabolic dysfunction.” This definition is from HealthLine.com.

“Metabolism is the chemical process your body uses to transform the food you eat into the fuel that keeps you alive. Metabolic dysfunction is when the metabolism process fails and causes the body to have either too much or too little of the essential substances needed to stay healthy.”

At some historical point, in one article or another, I have written about hypertension (high blood pressure), dyslipidemia (fat in the blood), insulin resistance (too much insulin), obesity (too much body fat), and chronic inflammation (activation of the immune system). Note that every one of these is associated with “too much.”

So what do we know?

Our health is attached to our metabolism and the food that we eat. When metabolic function fails persistently, obesity (and it’s accompanying inflammation) eventually follows – leading to high blood pressure, high triglycerides, insulin resistance, and some other stuff.

If you have read my book and/or followed this column in the newspaper for very long, you aren’t surprised to find that this is all about the food.

Avoiding all the upstream problems in metabolism means assuring that the food you eat contributes all the essential nutrients your body needs AND avoids the excess blood glucose that results in persistent weight gain. It’s the same food.

Repeating from last week, the average American gets almost 70% of calories from ultra-processed foods, which are pro-inflammatory due to high ingredient quantities of sugar and fructose, refined flour, trans fat, refined vegetable oils, salt, additives and preservatives.

Foods made from those ingredients, including processed meat, fast food, chips and crackers, baked goods (breads and sweets), deep-fried foods, candy and soda are high calorie, pro-inflammatory, and nutritionally empty.”

Let me simplify. Sugar and fructose, refined flour, and refined vegetable oils in any significant quantity can be fueling a white water journey.

The Children

So let’s talk about children first because they should be developing eating habits that will carry them forward into a healthy adulthood. Children are growing and (hopefully) active. They need a lot of energy for that to happen. Adults, by the way should NOT be growing.

The trick is sugar/fructose/refined flour/refined vegetable oils are not food. No one sits down to a meal with the sugar bowl, a pile of flour, and a glass of vegetable oil.

Packaged together they can taste good and be chock full of fast burning fuel – like a fireplace fire using only paper – but markedly deficient in the “”essential substances needed to stay healthy.” Believe it or not, a child’s body (and yours) senses when nutrition is missing.

Sugar/fructose/refined flour/refined vegetable oil are sure to generate hunger in a body’s attempt to overcome the nutritional shortfall. And a child will eat whatever they become accustomed to eating.

Same problem when they become adults but I will stick to my point.

Consider what might be pretty typical options for children in the standard American diet and how much sugar/fructose/refined flour and refined vegetable oil is included.

  • Breakfast: sugar coated cereal, toast or bagels, biscuits and gravy, donuts, pancakes (maybe with syrup), orange juice.
  • Lunch: pizza, a sack of chips, soda, a burger and fries.
  • Dinner: batter fried chicken, french fries, soda. Maybe a piece of cake.

Rest assured there will be snacks between those meals because hunger will abound. Those snack will also be whatever the child is accustomed to eating. Say some chips of one kind or another. Maybe some cookies. Another soda or two. Get my drift?

If the child is not active, preferring to spend the day on a computer, a cell phone, or watching TV, this is even more problematic. Even though the absolute energy requirement is less (theoretically) the nutritional deficiency is still there and hunger will still abound.

The older they get the more they eat. A small sack of chips becomes a full bag. So on and so forth.

So you can imagine what happens once a child becomes accustomed to a certain diet. Their “tasters” are set and changing may be difficult. But if that diet is not changed this child becomes an adult accustomed to eating very badly, on a white water canoe ride headed for the dam.

In this post we will consider ways to get children back in a prevention mode, not on a diet but a new life-time way of eating. This directs the discussion toward adults. Because, after all, who do you think is feeding those children?

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Pat Smith is the author of “It’s All about the Food,” a book that guides nutritious food choices as the way to avoid illness and maintain a healthy weight. Proceeds from her book benefit the Montgomery County Food Pantry. Her website is http://www.allaboutthefood.org/ She can be contacted at patsmith2@live.com, 501-605-3902. Her Facebook page is www.facebook.com/patsmithbooks.