Reviewed By: Dr. Kurt Kloss, MD
Last Reviewed Date: Mar 20, 2018
Last Modified Date: Mar 20, 2018
Published Date: Mar 20, 2018
8 Insane (But True) Facts about Metabolic Disorders
Metabolism is the process by which your body transforms the foods you eat into the substances it needs to fuel the countless complex systems and processes that keep you alive, and, when all is running smoothly, that keep you healthy and strong. Given the importance of metabolism to health and well-being, metabolic disorders – or defects in the metabolic process – can cause a wide range of problems. Here we'll discuss types of metabolic disorders and some of the problems they can cause – including some of the more surprising and unusual issues – as well as how blood tests, including metabolic panels, can help diagnose them.
1. METABOLIC SYNDROME IS HAPPENING IN CHILDREN
Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of metabolic risk factors that can lead to serious health issues, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. These include excessive abdominal fat, high blood pressure, high triglyceride and/or high cholesterol levels, and high blood sugar. While metabolic syndrome has traditionally been considered an adult problem, it is becoming common in kids, with an estimated 1 in 10 teens and 5 percent of second and third graders suffering its effects.
2. WATCHING TOO MUCH TV INCREASES DIABETES RISK
In a 2003 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found that each two-hour-a-day increase in time spent watching TV increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 14 percent. According to study authors, this association held true even after adjusting for factors that included age, smoking, exercise levels and dietary factors, among others.
3. DIABETES CAN CAUSE YOUR EYESIGHT TO CHANGE DAY-TO-DAY
Most people are aware that diabetes can cause complications that lead to serious eye problems. What is not so well-known is that the blood glucose fluctuations that occur with this metabolic disorder can change the ability of the crystalline lens in the eye to maintain a sharp focus, affecting how well a person sees from one day to the next.
4. DARK SKIN SPOTS CAN BE A SIGN OF CERTAIN TYPES OF METABOLIC DISORDERS
Metabolic disorders, such as pre-diabetes, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome can cause acanthosis nigricans, which are dark, often velvety, skin spots. Frequently these spots form at the back of the neck or the underarms, but they can appear most anywhere on the body.
5. HYPERTHYROIDISM (OVER-ACTIVE THYROID) CAN MAKE YOU A NERVOUS WRECK
Hyperthyroidism is a metabolic disorder caused by overproduction of thyroid hormones by the thyroid gland – which regulates the body's rate of metabolism. Excessive amounts of these hormones speeds overall metabolism, accelerating virtually all body processes. This can affect the nervous system, causing a person to feel anxious, nervous and irritable.
6. HYPOTHYROIDISM (UNDER-ACTIVE THYROID) CAN MAKE YOU TIRED, DEPRESSED
Hypothyroidism, which is when the thyroid gland fails to produce enough thyroid hormones, slows the overall rate of metabolism. This can affect virtually all aspects of health, including emotional health, leading to overwhelming fatigue and depression.
7. SOME TYPES OF METABOLIC DISORDERS CAN CHANGE HOW YOU SMELL
Trimethylaminuria, commonly called fish odor syndrome, is a rare disorder that is caused by an inability to metabolize certain compounds in foods. The result is a buildup of those compounds in the body, which causes body fluids, such as sweat and urine, to carry an odor that resembles that of rotting fish. Maple syrup urine disease, also rare, is a similar condition, resulting from the inability to metabolize certain amino acids. As these amino acids build up in the body, they cause the urine to carry an odor that resembles that of maple syrup.
8. SOME METABOLIC DISORDERS CAN MAKE SUNLIGHT TOXIC TO THE SKIN
Cutaneous porphyrias are inherited metabolic disorders that interfere with the body's ability to produce heme, a component in hemoglobin (which carries oxygen in the blood) and other iron-containing proteins in the body. Among more prominent symptoms of these disorders is skin that becomes fragile and blisters when exposed to sunlight.
Diagnosing Metabolic Disorders
Most metabolic disorders can be controlled with proper diagnosis and treatment. Many common types of metabolic disorders can be detected with a blood test called a metabolic panel test. Among the factors measured by a metabolic panel are levels of glucose, calcium, various proteins, electrolytes, chloride, carbon dioxide, and enzymes and other chemicals related to liver and kidney health, among others, offering a comprehensive overview of how well many crucial bodily systems are functioning. Other tests that may be used to detect certain types of metabolic disorders include lipid panels, which measure levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, and genetic testing, which can detect hereditary metabolic disorders.