Health & Aging affected by Body Composition
Longevity, staying healthy and slowing down the aging process is greatly dependant on healthy body composition. What is “body composition”? This is a term used to speak about how much fat mass and muscle (or lean body) mass one has. Lean body mass includes everything in your body that is not fat (muscle, bone, organs, other tissues, and fluids). Fat mass is how much percentage of your body is made up of fat cells (adipose cells).
A certain amount of body fat is required for normal functioning, but having too much fat mass and too little muscle, is not the ideal body composition to have. Altered body composition is usually caused by increased fat deposits which are linked to inflammation, as fat cells (adipose cells) actually house inflammatory compounds and estrogen that can cause tissue damage.
Apple shaped body -skinny legs and arms but a tendancy to put on weight around the belly area.
High risk for insulin resistance and heart disease.
Poor body composition is also characterised by muscle loss due to poor lifestyle habits such as a lack of physical exercise and eating badly, even skipping meals, especially breakfast. This can greatly increase your risk of insulin resistance and diabetes and heart disease depending on where the fat accumulates on the body. See article How to Eat...
Muscle is biologically active tissue, whereas fat is inflammatory tissue. Muscle requires more energy to maintain itself compared to body fat. A high metabolism is a result of having a high muscle mass, which means you burn more calories each day. Perhaps the most effective tool against aging and illness is to improve your muscle-to-fat ration as far as possible.
It’s extremely important for the immune system, as muscle provides proteins necessary in times of a crisis, such as in chronic illness, or coma. In illness, muscle is the major source for functions like antibody production, wound healing, and white blood cell production. If the body has a low reserve of proteins due to muscle loss (sarcopenia), there is less for it to draw from when a person is healing.
This is the reason why high muscle mass and strength are the two indicators for healthy aging and why building up muscle is key to anti-aging. Muscles contain the protein needed for overall vitality. If there aren't sufficient protein reserves in the musculo-skeletal system and through the diet, the body goes into 'crisis' mode and starts to 'feed off of itself ' by sourcing proteins from the organs themselves, leading to more health problems. With more fat than muscle, there is more and more inflammation as a further contributing factor to this vicious cycle.
Are you ' SKINNY ' fat?…
Even if you are not considered to be overweight, you can still have more fat than muscle, meaning you have “sarcopenic obesity”. This scenario has multiple complications and health risks. This is a medical term referring to the age-related loss of muscle mass and function, and exists in epidemic proportions in women throughout the world.
A Closer Look at Muscle Loss (Sarcopenia)
Sarcopenic obesity is related to chronic disease states like insulin resistance/diabetes and cardiovascular conditions, which are linked to a faster aging rate. In contrast, a good muscle-to-fat ratio has been linked to living healthier and longer lives relatively free of chronic disease.
However, body composition is not simply measured by weighing oneself on a scale. It requires specialised equipment and has a major focus on your hip-to-waist-ratio. Measuring your waist and hip circumference is one thing you can do to measure your risk. As your waist increases in size, so does your risk. A waist circumference of 35 inches in women is a sign of increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, even if only marginally increased. (Divide your waist circumference by your hip circumference in order to obtain your hip-to-waist ratio.)
What causes muscle wastage?
Poor nutritional lifestyle habits, and a chronic lack of exercise are the main contributors to muscle wastage. In order to keep muscle density, you must exercise. But furthermore, research has shown that there are 2 other important causes of muscle loss: insulin resistance and the way the immune system reacts to certain foods consumed. Certain foods like sugar cause the immune system to go into inflammation mode, causing pain and disease in the body. For instance diabetes can be seen as a low grade chronic inflammatory condition.
Understanding Insulin Resistance
The hormone, insulin, produced by the pancreas, transports energy in the form of glucose (blood sugar) into the cells of the body from the bloodstream. Here it is used to provide energy. Unfortunately, what is happening today in epidemic proportions, due to poor diet & lifestyle, lack of exercise, coupled with high chronic stress, is that the cells have become resistant or ' deaf ' to the message of insulin.
This causes the pancreas to secrete even higher levels of insulin in order to try counteract the insulin resistance. This leads to "high insulin" and the story that happens around this is that of inflammation. Low energy and tiredness is one of the end results, a condition further defined by less efficiency at burning calories, increased blood sugar levels, further muscle loss and fat storage, housing more and more inflammatory compunds and estrogen.This becomes a vicious cycle and often eventually leads to a condition known as "metabolic syndrome" where the body's metabolism slows down.
Other Risk Factors of Insulin Resistance & Metabolic Syndrome:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol (LDL) bad cholesterol)
- Low HDL (good cholesterol)
- High blood lipids (blood fats or triglycerides)
- High insulin levels
- Increased body fat
- Increased waist-to-hip ratio
- Increase in muscle loss or sarcopenia
- Weaker muscles
- Lowered immunity
- Increased risk of Type 2 Diabetes,heart disease, polycystic ovarian syndrome, Alzheimer's disease, stroke, etc
- Low sex dive (low libido)
Natural Solutions to Insulin Resistance & Metabolic Syndrome
- Education and knowledge, to enable one to make the right lifestyle choices.
- Correct eating & supplementation, based on the Mediterranean coastal diet, to correct insulin resistance.
- Regular exercise to prevent muscle loss.
- Adequate sleep -quality and depth of sleep are vital.
- Effective Stress Management, to manage insulin and cortisol hormones.
Firstline Therapy, Therapeutic Lifestyle Program, p1.4-p.1.6, Advanced Nutrition Publications (2006).