Your metabolome may be the new vital sign

Healthy Lifestyle Concept Illustration

We all know our vital signs. Every trip to the doctor starts with the scale, followed by heart rate and blood pressure. Of those, most people usually focus most on the scale, and questions like: “What is your goal weight?” or “How much weight has been lost (or gained)?”

It appears, however, that our obsession with weight may be detracting us from what really matters — health.

We recently wrote about healthy lifestyles being more important than our weight, and for good reason.

After all, weight is comprised of our height, our muscles, our bones, our adipose tissue and more. Of all those, only adipose is concerning, and even then, the visceral (abdominal) adipose is much more concerning than peripheral adipose. No wonder weight is such a poor predictor of health!

There are studies showing we can be overweight but healthy, and normal weight but unhealthy. How can we tell if we are on the right track or if we are at risk?

A new study in Cell Metabolism suggests our “metabolome” may be the answer we have been looking for. The investigators looked retrospectively at metabolic blood markers in 2,000 individuals over a 13-year period to see if any could predict health risk better than simply weight or BMI.

World Economic Forum: It’s time to change how we measure obesity

They found normal weight individuals with an unhealthy metabolome “had a 50% greater chance of becoming obese over the next ten years and had a 200-400% increased risk of heart disease.” They also found that overweight individuals with normal metabolome blood tests were at a much lower risk for insulin resistance and heart disease, and that the metabolome was a better predictor of health than genetic testing.

As these tests become more commercially available, we will learn much more about their real-world utility. In the mean time, we should continue to use weight as one of many metrics we can follow. But instead of making weight our primary focus, we should continue to focus on healthy lifestyle practices, knowing that the best chance of improving our health comes from a few simple practices:

  • Eating real food low in carbs and sugar
  • Getting regular physical activity
  • Prioritizing sleep and stress management

If you can do those practices, you can bet you are improving your health and your metabolome.

Thanks for reading,
Bret Scher, MD FACC

Further reading

DailyMail: Why skinny people die of ‘fat’ diseases – and fat people can be healthier than you think (it’s all down to the body’s inner-workings and a revolutionary blood test can determine YOUR risk)


Why healthy lifestyles may be more important than your weight

Beat disease with crossfit, low carb and intermitting fasting


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