A New Paradigm for Health

Metabolic Fitness/Metabolic Flexibility — Mimicking Caloric Restriction

Metabolic flexibility means the ability to rapidly and easily shift between carbohydrates and fats as fuel substrates to match, on the one hand, dietary sources of calories and, on the other hand, particular physical demands for energy. The health implications of metabolic flexibility are significant and are related to the body’s degree of insulin sensitivity. Insulin resistance, meaning a reduced ability to respond to insulin’s regulatory functions, is associated with abdominal (central) obesity, elevated blood pressure, elevated fasting plasma glucose, high serum triglycerides and low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels. This way of looking at matters makes metabolic flexibility a major determinant of health. Caloric restriction is perhaps the most successful way to improve insulin sensitivity as well as to rejuvenate the immune system, reduce signals leading to chronic sub-clinical inflammation and support maximal lifespan.

Practicing caloric restriction is difficult for most individuals, especially those who are active with business and social lives or raising families. The goal of Adaptive Life Sciences is to accomplish the results of caloric restriction through dietary supplements to achieve metabolic fitness/metabolic flexibility. To this end, Adaptive Life Sciences offers products that address insulin/blood sugar/blood pressure and cortisol-stress related issues.

An Insulin–Cortisol–Blood Sugar Viscous Cycle

Good health is a question of balance and of maintaining this balance in the face of environmental challenges. Central to maintaining balance is the relationship between the hormones insulin and cortisol. Insulin is a storage hormone that regulates blood sugar and the body’s choice of energy sources. Cortisol is a “fight or flight” hormone also known as a counter-regulatory hormone. A second counter-regulatory hormone is glucagon, which acts only on the liver to release glucose stored there as glycogen (so-called animal starch). Cortisol can release glucose both from liver glycogen and from the protein that makes up lean tissue. Cotisol comes into play in the face of physical and emotional challenges, including starvation. It is one of the body’s short-term ways of reducing inflammation, but chronic cortisol elevation creates conditions that sustain inflammation.

After meals in healthy individuals, increased blood sugar initially causes a release of insulin that reduces blood glucose levels. When blood levels fall below a threshold range, glucagon and, if necessary, cortisol are secreted to cause glucose to be released from the liver to return blood sugar to a normal range. For individuals eating typical diets, skipping meals, fasting, restricting carbohydrate intake, or exercising on an empty stomach or with endurance exercise, all are actions that decrease blood sugar leading to a release of cortisol that initially causes a liberation of glucose from the liver, but, if this is not sufficient, causes lean muscle tissue to be broken down for energy. One way of mapping out these actions is given on the following chart.

For some individuals, constantly requiring cortisol release to avoid low blood sugar leads to adrenal fatigue. However, almost always this is a symptom and not a cause. The culprit is not being able to fully access fat, which even lean individuals possess in abundance, as an energy source. Indeed, there are whole classes of individuals who do not have energy problems and yet eat no carbohydrates at all, only protein and fat as energy sources. These include those who, from early childhood, avoid all carbohydrates to prevent a special form of seizure and also endurance athletes who are fully fat-adapted.

In other words, by increasing the range of metabolic flexibility and thus the ability to access fat for energy, a person can reduce demands on stored glucose (glycogen) and maintain even energy levels without resorting to cortisol release. The following viscous cycle can be avoided.

PCOS Reversal

chronic ↑blood sugar => ↑insulin + ↑leptin => insulin resistance + leptin resistance => ↑cortisol => ↑blood sugar

For most individuals, there are two paths––not mutually exclusive!–that cause long term metabolic and energy regulation issues, including weight gain. One involves improper eating, often in conjunction with lack of exercise. Excessive consumption of sugar or other refined/high glycemic index carbohydrates, excessively large meals and/or glycemically imbalanced meals elevate blood sugar levels. Chronically elevated blood sugar and/or periodic grossly elevated blood sugar after meals leads to the production of excessive insulin and leptin leading to insulin + leptin resistance and then to fat accumulation. Leptin resistance and other results of insulin resistance lead to subclinical inflammation.

A second path involves cortisol. Significantly elevating cortisol (via physical or mental stress, parasitic infection, food allergies, inflammation, etc.) also will elevate blood sugar and therefore insulin levels. Over time, this leads to insulin resistance, leptin resistance, and another round of the cycle.

Regardless of the cause, insulin is a storage hormone and elevated insulin inhibits the ability to metabolize fats for energy. Cortisol releases energy from lean muscle tissue more readily than it does from fat storage and with insulin resistance the increase in blood glucose/insulin levels from cortisol release dampens the body’s ability to metabolize fats for energy. Cortisol does improve access to fats for energy both from tissues and in cells during starvation…but not during periods of calorie sufficiency or excess.

Caloric Restriction (CR) to the Rescue and How Mimic CR with Supplements

From Nature Medicine 21, 1416–1423 (2015)

Studies of individuals and of ethnic groups who live to advanced old age routinely find that a key factor is blood levels of insulin and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) remaining in the low normal range. Caloric restriction practiced sensibly accomplishes similar effects: it lowers insulin and IGF-1, improves the ability to burn consumed and stored fat for energy, reduces generalized inflammation, improves immune function and increases survival into old age.

The goal of Adaptive Life Sciences is to offer alternatives to a lifestyle preoccupied with counting calories and constantly rigorously restricting the foods that can be eaten. The goal is to achieve what athletes and some “paleodieters” speak of keto-adaptation, which means simply moving the metabolism to preferentially accessing stored fats as fuel sources rather than depending on glucose. The body has quite limited stores of glycogen stored primarily in the liver in contrast to virtually unlimited calories stored as fats. A quite standard assessment is that there may be 400 grams of glycogen in the liver and another 100 grams in the muscles. Glycogen is associated with water on a 1:3 to 1:4 ratio. A major problem in achieving keto-adaptation by diet alone is that most individuals who have been raised on Western-style or standard Asian diets can take six months or more to make the shift and this shift becomes ever more difficult as we age. Studies examining the role of carbohydrates in the metabolism with roughly 30 year old males in good physical condition have revealed, for instance, that even transitioning from a high glycemic index diet to a low glycemic index diet while maintaining the same ratio of carbohydrate, fat and protein can take more than four weeks. Shifting to fatty acid metabolism for energy can be difficult. Full keto-adaptation in resistance athletes can take up to a year.

Adaptive Life Sciences offers nutrients that historically have been associated with longevity. Goals include

  • Improved insulin sensitivity*

  • Support for glucose metabolism*

  • Support for blood pressure physiology*

  • Activation of liver fatty acid oxidation*

  • Enhanced fatty acid oxidation for energy*

  • Stimulation of nutrient partitioning and energy metabolism similar to caloric restriction*

  • Fostering of relaxation, reduced stress and improved sleep quality*

  • Contains herbs traditionally associated with longevity*

The aim is to provide the tools to mimic caloric restriction’s benefits through better nutrition.