Metabolic health is the body’s ability to burn stored fat, glucose, and ketones for energy in a balanced manner. There are many factors that can influence a person’s metabolic health, including age, activity level, stress levels, body composition, genetics and hormonal levels. Impaired metabolic health, known as metabolic syndrome, can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Metabolic health can also be defined as having ideal levels of blood sugar, triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, blood pressure, and waist circumference, without using medications,
- Longevity translates into existence for a long duration. In the context of human life, it refers to how long an individual lives. The term is often synonymous with life expectancy,
- Managing blood sugar levels can also help in reducing the influence of AGES that could make us old earlier.
The link between Glucose Fluctuations and Longevity
Longevity research has proposed three major pathways that influence the ways in which our bodies repair themselves on a cellular level – the insulin/insulin-like growth factor (IGF), target of rapamycin (TOR), and germline signalling pathways. Two of them are the same pathways that respond to our daily glucose and insulin levels, which can be easily influenced by a considered diet and exercise. Studies have also shown that calorie restriction can improve blood sugar regulation and extend both lifespan and health span.
Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs)
There are many connections between a longer than usual life, and fluctuations in one’s sugar/glucose levels. One is a complex group of harmful compounds called Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs), a by-product of the body’s metabolism process, formed when protein or fat combines with sugar in the bloodstream through a process called glycation. In fact, people who have high blood sugar levels are at a higher risk of producing too many AGEs, which can accumulate in the body. Certain methods of cooking, like barbecuing, grilling and roasting, and some foods like red meat, certain cheeses, fried eggs, butter, etc., are more likely to contribute to the production of AGEs. Studies conducted over the past twenty years have shown that AGEs could be implicated in the development of chronic degenerative diseases of ageing, such as cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
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AGEs can quite literally make us old before our time. When they bind to receptors on the surface of our cells called RAGEs, they trigger pathological processes like inflammation, oxidative stress, cell death, and ultimately organ damage. RAGE receptors appear to multiply when our blood glucose remains high for prolonged periods, aggravating the problem. Once formed, they accumulate and are known to cause wrinkles. Collagen molecules in the skin tend to get tangled and form incorrect chemical bonds when sugar binds to them. This is conducive to loss of skin elasticity. Research suggests that abatement of blood sugar spikes is associated with the decline in the levels of glycated collagen in the skin.
What is Glucose Variability?
When you consume food, it enters your gastrointestinal tract and the body starts working to convert it into glucose. Various enzymes break down the food with help from the pancreas, which produces insulin to manage and regulate glucose levels. When these glucose levels vary at different points in time, they offer important insights into our body. There’s a good metric that helps to identify these internal oscillations in blood glucose levels. It is known as glucose variability.
Glycemic excursions can include episodes of hyperglycemia (high blood glucose) as well as hypoglycemia (low blood glucose). Glucose variability offers insights into the daily fluctuations in blood sugar levels and tells us how often an individual’s blood sugar levels are significantly above or below the target/ideal range. Keeping your blood glucose variability under 12% is considered an ideal range.
What is Oxidative Stress?
Extreme changes in blood glucose levels can lead to oxidative stress in the body. Oxidation is a result of normal metabolic processes while oxidative stress is a disruption of equilibrium. Another effect of fluctuations in glucose levels that has a direct correlation to more rapid ageing is oxidative stress, which is a disturbance in the balance between the production of reactive chemicals formed from oxygen and antioxidant defences.
The human body does not have an efficient way to remove oxidative stress, thereby accumulating it and leading to various problems such as cancer, inflammation, and cognitive decline. Constant sugar fluctuations will also cause chronic inflammation, which is when our body’s process of fighting against things like infections, injuries, and toxins, lingers on for longer than usual, leaving it in a constant state of alert, causing fatigue, body pain and gastrointestinal complications, among other, making it a significant factor contributing to ageing. Oxidative stress also can cause the constricting and stiffening of blood vessels—in people with insulin resistance, leading to serious heart health complications.
How is good Metabolic Health related to Healthy Ageing?
Recent studies have found that metabolic health can be considered a predictor of lifespan. Thermic foods rich in antioxidants like dark green leafy, green tea and spices prevent the build-up of free radicals and prevent oxidative stress associated with adverse effects of ageing. Antioxidants function by connecting unpaired electrons to neutralize free radicals before they can be detrimental to other molecules. To counterbalance the effects of a reduction in muscle mass with age, eating a higher amount of protein may be crucial.
EPOC or the post-exercise recovery phase is correlated with an elevated metabolism. Studies suggest that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) enhances your metabolic rate for a period of time even after the end of the exercise, translating into a higher calorie burn throughout the day. Increased muscle mass aids glycemic control and moderation of insulin levels. A study suggests that individuals with higher fat-free mass have a higher resting energy expenditure.
Ageing leads to impaired glucose and fat oxidation in the mitochondria causing metabolic inflexibility – inefficiency in toggling between glucose and fat as fuel sources. Regular exercise can enhance mitochondrial capacity and protect against ageing-related changes.
The idea of ageing and working towards a long, healthy life can be worrisome, but nothing a measured lifestyle cannot solve. Maintaining steady glucose metabolism can help ensure that adverse geriatric syndromes such as accelerated muscle loss, functional disability and frailty are not developed too quickly in a person. Managing blood sugar levels can also help in reducing the influence of AGES that could make us old earlier. Mitochondrial dysfunction is at the heart of many diseases of ageing. Glycemic control can prevent these changes. Regulating oxidative stress, regular exercise and taking care of other metrics of metabolic and heart health can facilitate longevity and the ability to age gracefully.
Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for general information and educational purposes only. It neither provides any medical advice nor intends to substitute professional medical opinion on the treatment, diagnosis, prevention or alleviation of any disease, disorder or disability. Always consult with your doctor or qualified healthcare professional about your health condition and/or concerns before undertaking a new health care regimen including making any dietary or lifestyle changes.
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