Metabolism and Nutrition: Know How to Fuel Your Body

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Going for a run around the neighborhood. Cheering on your child at their soccer game. Having a successful client call at work. No matter your age or stage of life, all your day-to-day activities require energy, which is inherently tied to metabolism and nutrition.

Metabolism, an array of chemical reactions in the body that power every one of our biological processes, also includes the processes our bodies use to absorb nutrients and convert them to energy and the building blocks needed to grow and rejuvenate.

Why should you pay attention to your metabolism and nutrition?

There are more reasons than you might realize.

Research has found that metabolic dysfunction influences and drives some diseases and has more recently linked trouble with cellular metabolism to less obvious diseases, including Parkinson's.

Van Andel Institute's Metabolic and Nutritional Programming group, formed in late 2018, is tackling the full range of metabolism research, to design life-changing solutions that translate into the doctor's office. Russell Jones, Ph.D., Program Lead, Metabolic and Nutritional Programming, and Professor, Center for Cancer and Cell Biology, Van Andel Institute, says a common misconception is that nutrition is metabolism.

"In reality, nutrition is simply the food we eat to obtain the energy to fuel the body's metabolic processes," said Dr. Jones, noting it's been well-established that the total amount of calories a person consumes is central to maintaining metabolic balance. "Nutrition is a big aspect of metabolism, because it represents the fuel our bodies use for metabolic processes."

The total amount of macronutrients a person consumes has a direct impact on metabolic health, with excess weight considered the most telling sign of metabolic imbalance. Obesity, Jones said, has also been shown to correlate with many other health issues, among them diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even cancer.

"We're beginning to understand how these factors affect health outcomes in people," said Jones, adding that adopting healthy eating habits and exercising regularly are two of the most important actions women could take to maintain a healthy metabolism throughout their lives. "One aspect some women may not realize is that your dietary choices may have an impact on future generations."

Though VAI researchers are in the early stages of understanding how information about environmental exposure could be transmitted to future generations, Jones notes future findings in this area will have a huge impact on how we understand our own metabolic health.

Also important is focusing on maintaining a healthy immune system.

"The immune system refers to the collection of cells in your body that protect you from infection. We've come to understand in the last 20 years that proper functioning of your immune system is not just important for fighting infections like the flu, but also for protecting us from age-related diseases like cancer," Jones explained. "As people age, there's a natural decline in our immune function and we are learning how metabolism also affects our immune system as we age."

It's important, Jones says, to keep in mind that all bodies are different and paying attention to how your body reacts to a certain diet can help you understand what personal considerations to account for in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Five Ways to Help Boost Your Metabolism Through Nutrition

According to the Health Beat blog from Spectrum Health

  • Build resistance by using resistance exercises to build more lean mass.
  • Eat breakfast. A meal in the morning has been found to get the metabolic process rolling.
  • Enjoy a meal every four hours. Skipping meals actually slows down your metabolism.
  • Include protein with every meal. Whether it's nuts, seeds, beans, eggs, meat or otherwise.
  • Be sure to eat enough. Even if you're on a weight loss journey!

Written by Sarah Suydam, Staff Writer for West Michigan Woman.

This article originally appeared in the Apr/May 2020 issue of West Michigan Woman.


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