It’s thought that 1 in 5 older adults aged 50 and over in the UK are metabolically unhealthy. That means they have high blood sugars, too many unhealthy blood fats, high blood pressure and excess abdominal weight.
Unless we regularly get them tested, most of us won’t know if our metabolic health markers are rising. That’s why the diseases which result from them are called “silent killers”. Think hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
I suspect that a lot of us already know this. But I want to share something important with you, that you may not know.
These metabolic health markers are now thought to be associated with chronic low-grade inflammation – driven by the immune system. A lot of recent research now agrees that metabolism and immunity are intertwined. It’s called immunometabolism, meaning the way our metabolism works affects the way our immune system works and vice versa.
The more efficiently your body produces energy from the food you eat, the better your metabolic health and the better your immune system will work. And on the contrary, the more metabolically challenged you are (rising blood sugars, rising blood pressure, rising LDL-cholesterol, rising weight), the more your immune system is challenged.
And that’s exactly what we’ve heard in the news. Sadly, people who are not metabolically healthy have more serious complications if they contract SARS-CoV-2 (that’s the virus that causes Covid-19).
2 out of 3 Britons are overweight.
A review of almost 90 studies in the journal Vaccine in 2015 showed that those with a body mass index (BMI) over 30, don’t produce antibody cells in response to vaccination against infectious diseases such as flu, tetanus and hepatitis because their immune systems are not working properly.
In 2017, The Lancet published a study showing that people whose diets were low in plants, fruits, nuts and seeds were three times more likely to die prematurely than those whose diets were high in those food groups.
Another article out on the 20th May 2020 in the BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health explains that an adequate supply of a wide range of nutrients is essential to support the immune system to function optimally.
So, what I hope you’re now thinking is, “I want to improve my metabolic health to help my immune system?”. So how do you do that? Well, it’s by improving your diet and lifestyle.
The answer is quit smoking, minimise drinking, sugary carbohydrates and processed food, eat a nutrient-rich diet high in fruits, vegetables, colourful polyphenols, anti-oxidants, olive oil, nuts, seeds, lean meat and oily fish, take daily exercise, de-stress daily, find time to relax and sleep deeply.
If you need any help, please let me know.
Keep safe, keep resilient.
Afshin A, Sur PJ, Fay A, Cornaby L, Ferrara G, Salama JS, Mullany EC, Abate KH, Abbafati C, Abebe Z and Afarideh M (2019). Health effects of dietary risks in 195 countries, 1990–2017: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017. The Lancet, 393(10184), pp.1958-1972.
Calder PC, (2020). Review: Nutrition, immunity and COVID-19. BMJ Nutrition, Prevention and health.
Jung J, Zeng H and Horng T (2019). Metabolism as a guiding force for immunity. Nature Cell Biology, 21(1), pp.85-93.