Understanding the Metabolic Syndrome, and role of blood glucose and Insulin!


Are you dealing with high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around your waist, with abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels? If you said yes to any one or more of the above symptoms, it’s because you may be dealing with Metabolic Syndrome!

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that occur together, increasing your 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. Having just one of these conditions doesn’t mean you have metabolic syndrome. But it does mean you have a greater risk of serious disease. The key markers to test for metabolic health are blood sugar levels, triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and waist to hip ratio.

What is Metabolic health?

Metabolic health is a term to describe how well we generate and process energy in the body. Energy production, building new tissues, breaking down of old tissues, elimination of waste, growth, cellular reproduction- all this is part of metabolism.

It should be clear that metabolism is everything our body does and therefore metabolic syndrome is very serious as it can influence all the different functions of our body. Metabolic health is critical as it optimises all of the bodily functions and makes you run like a well-maintained car.

Glucose Metabolism

Glucose is a primary precursor of energy in the body and needs to be tightly regulated for metabolism to work efficiently. The foods we eat, get broken down with the help of gastric juices and enzymes, into glucose. The glucose enters the bloodstream, which triggers the release of insulin hormone. Insulin is responsible for shutting all of that glucose out from the bloodstream and into the cells. Some of this glucose is processed by the mitochondria (energy powerhouse) in the cells to form energy (called ATP) that our cells can use. Excess glucose is stored in the muscle and liver as glycogen, and the rest gets converted to triglycerides and gets stored in fat cells as fat.

When our bodies need energy, we can tap into glucose from the bloodstream, stored glycogen in the muscles or liver, or we can even make new glucose from other compounds like amino acids (breakdown products of proteins). Apart from using glucose for making energy, we can also break down stored fat to make energy.

Chronic excess glucose causes the repeated release of insulin from the pancreas. High levels of insulin can, over time, cause cells to become “numb” to insulin’s effect, and lead to a process called insulin resistance. When this happens, less glucose can get into the cells, so circulating glucose rises. High insulin levels block stored fat from being broken down and used for energy. So, ironically, too much energy in the form of glucose leads us to have more trouble using energy effectively.

Given the many downstream effects excess glucose can have on our body, it’s not surprising that major chronic diseases arise from poor metabolism of blood glucose levels and leads to conditions like type-2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

What is driving poor metabolic health?

In the modern world, we are consuming more and more processed, refined and sugar-laden foods than ever before. Many of us don’t even realise it, because sugar is everywhere in our food culture, and it comes with many different names. Imagine a train engine getting more and more dump of fuel (glucose) and trying to convert it into energy. The engine would break down with all the excess fuel being loaded into it! It would start resisting it, in the process of protecting itself. This is what is happening to our bodies.

Metabolic dysfunction looks like obesity (dysfunctional fat storage), insulin resistance and diabetes (dysfunctional glucose processing), non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (dysfunctional management of glucose and fat in the liver), cancer (cancer cells thrive on excess sugar), Alzheimer’s disease (now being called type 3 diabetes, with evidence of insulin resistance in the brain), cardiovascular diseases like heart attack and stroke (damage to vessels from inflammation and excess glucose), and chronic kidney disease (vessels of the kidney impaired by excess glucose).

Indirectly, poor metabolic health can look like the full spectrum of daily discomforts of modern living that keep us from reaching our full potential and goals – fatigue, brain fog, depression, anxiety, lack of exercise endurance, infertility, balding, erectile dysfunction, acne, chronic pain, increased appetite, prostate issues and more.

Since every cell type needs energy to function, metabolic dysfunction doesn’t discriminate! When our metabolic health is not optimal, the effects can be vast and diverse, direct and indirect. Metabolic syndrome is increasingly common, but our bodies are designed to heal themselves, if we just remove the poor lifestyle habits that are interfering with our system, and provide proper fuel to kick start our metabolic engines.

Get started with us, on your journey to good health: https://www.smritikochar.com/get-started/


Functional Nutritionist & Functional Medicine Practitioner

Smriti is a leading Health Coach and Functional Medicine Practitioner, based out of Gurgaon, India.