Metabolic Starvation

Seth Godin wrote an interesting blog post yesterday about how organizations need to realize that an insatiable appetite for a resource is a sign of a problem.

An insatiable appetite is a symptom: There’s a hole in the bucket. Something’s leaking out. When a system (or a person) continues to demand more and more but doesn’t produce in response, that’s because the resources aren’t being used properly, something is leaking.

If your organization demands ever more attention or effort or cash to produce the same output, it makes more sense to focus on the leak than it does to work ever harder to feed the beast.

It occurred to me that this is a pretty good description of metabolic starvation. When your level of circulating insulin gets too high, it blocks the proper routing of nutrients into the cells where they are needed. Some portion of what you eat gets diverted into being stored as fat.

So, instead of the normal cycle:

  • your cells need nutrients
  • you get hungry
  • you eat
  • your body sends the nutrients to the cells
  • you are satisfied and stop eating

You get this vicious cycle instead:

  • your cells need nutrients
  • you get hungry
  • you eat
  • some of the nutrients get diverted towards fat storage
    • your body grows more/bigger fat cells
    • fat cells trigger more inflammation and insulin resistance
  • only some of the nutrients get sent to the cells
    • your cells still need nutrients
    • they signal that you are still hungry (or hungry again shortly after eating)
    • you eat some more
  • you get obese

And of course, obesity leads to less activity which leads to more insulin resistance, etc.

So, despite taking in lots of nutrients, your body is still metabolically starving because it is unable to use them as efficiently as it should.

So telling an obese person that they just need to eat less and move more really does not address the problem. You need to address the source of the problem, which is insulin resistance.


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