To paraphrase the author Robert Lustig M.D., in his book, "Metabolical," "Excel at these eight processes, and you'll live to be one hundred playing tennis. On the other hand, fail at these eight processes, and you'll be disabled, depressed, and on dialysis or die before your time."

This paper is to help people age successfully by giving insight into these eight processes. First, you must understand that you will be in trouble if you eat like a typical American. This is an excellent time to define metabolic syndrome. It is a cluster of biochemical and physiological abnormalities associated with the development of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Overweight is defined as a BMI (body mass index) of 25 to 29.9. BMI is found by using the formula: BMI=(weight (lb) / height² (in)) * 703. The consensus is that 88% of the American population is in some sort of metabolic dysfunction. In addition, 67% of the population is overweight. From those two statistics, it is crucial to understand that just because you are at an ideal weight, it doesn't mean you are metabolically safe. Sixty percent of people at an ideal weight are metabolically sick. Eighty percent of people who are obese are metabolically sick.

The theme of this paper is to eat real food, not processed food. However, it is just as essential to understand what has been done to the food we eat. At the end of this paper, I will go over seven characteristics that help you to identify processed food. Just remember this, real food goes rancid relatively quickly. I know this is a bit of an oversimplification. There are things like kimchi and sauerkraut that I would put in the "real" category. The real key to processing food is to get rid of fiber. Fiber doesn't freeze well and has a very poor shelf life, so it is the first to go. Dr. Lustig feels that the two most important organ systems to keep healthy are the liver and gut. The one nutrient that is instrumental in keeping both systems healthy is fiber.

Right now, there is an epidemic of liver disease in the United States. One would think that these people must all have one thing in common: big drinkers. However, that is absolutely false; you can die of cirrhosis and not be a drinker. All it takes is eating like the typical American.

The key to a healthy gut is to feed your gut. If you don't feed your gut, your gut will feed on you. What your gut bacteria needs is fiber.

Process 1: Glycation

Glycation is the primary reaction causing you to age, form wrinkles, and lose flexibility. This reaction needs no energy input, no enzymes, no co-factors, or other nutrients for it to take place. All that is required is either glucose or fructose and any amino acids. It is a by-product of living, yet it is the primary reason for dying. All of our proteins are browning all the time.

The key for you to understand is the rate at which this reaction occurs is variable. Glucose, a six-member ring, is much more stable than fructose, a five-member ring. The rings must be cleaved and made linear for them to be reactive. The reaction is seven times faster with fructose when the ring is broken. If you over-consume fructose, you create more waste faster than can be cleaned up; you create advanced glycation end products. Now you are aging on the autobahn in the fast lane.

There is a specific by-product of advanced glycation called Methylglyoxal. This drives glycation at a rate 250 times faster than glucose metabolism; now, you are aging at Formula 1 speed. Fructose is a toxin and should be consumed in very small doses and preferably with fiber (See attached Appendix A).

The American diet is now full of high fructose corn syrup, creating a dopamine dump, making us addicted, and aging us faster. It is also causing a fatty liver. So don't get near high fructose corn syrup if you want to play tennis at 100.          

Process 2: Oxidative Stress

The body obviously needs oxygen, and our brain is the biggest consumer. It's dead in four minutes without it.

Oxygen can be catalyzed by an enzyme called superoxide dismutase (SOD). It turns O2 into O2- which is a reactive oxygen species. So what drives the formation of O2-? The three causes of reactive oxygen species are glycation, iron, and inflammation.

Each cell in our body has to deal with an oxygen radical or oxygen species pool. If all were unleashed simultaneously, we would be dead fast. Oxidative stress occurs when there are more oxygen radicals than antioxidants. When under oxidative stress, this will cause cellular dysfunction, structural damage to fats, protein, DNA, and in the extreme, even cell death. If the cells are dying in the liver or pancreas, you have diabetes. So eat real food, especially those full of color, where antioxidants are the greatest.

Process 3: Mitochondrial Dysfunction

All chronic disease is a mitochondrial dysfunction. The mitochondria are the small organelles within the cell that produces energy. These structures are fantastic at creating our quality of life. We could not blink our eyes or lift our little finger without the mitochondria making it happen. Unfortunately, they are very prone to oxidative stress. They lose capacity easily. They are in constant need to be renewed and replenished.

Nothing is better at renewing mitochondria than exercise. The best form of exercise to develop mitochondria is high-intensity interval training.

When Mitochondria lose capacity, instead of creating ATP, the body's energy currency, they store excessive energy in the form of fat, called de novo lipogenesis. If these mitochondria happen to be in the liver or pancreas, you develop diabetes. It is one to one; the sicker your mitochondria, the earlier you will die.

Process 4: Insulin Resistance

Insulin, the storage hormone, is the key to moving glucose inside the cell membranes of adipose, fat cells, and liver cells. Insulin resistance is a result of too much insulin in the bloodstream. So what are the leading causes of poor insulin signaling? The primary culprits are chronic stress, environmental chemicals, obesity, and, last but not least is, processed foods. Insulin resistance is the central problem of metabolic syndrome, mainly caused by processed food. If increased dietary fructose reaches the liver, it spurs on an enzyme called C-JUNN terminal Kinase -1 (JNK1), which inactivates the insulin signaling pathway.

Process 5: Membrane Integrity

Membranes are composed of three layers. Lipids or fats are the inside and outside layers, and protein is the middle layer.

Two main mechanisms for membrane dysfunction are:

1.       Altered Lipids from toxins or oxidative stress

2.       Lipids themselves are inflexible

Because there are no double bonds with saturated fats, they are more flexible. Still, problems can occur with more flexible fats clumping over each other on the cell membrane. The double bonds of unsaturated fats have a more fixed angle, where oxidative stress and toxins will damage. Saturated fats have little effect on metabolic syndrome. It is critical to understand the smoking points when cooking with fat. By driving a fat into its smoking point, you create trans fats. Trans fats are toxins that have been removed from the market, but you can still produce them on your own. Avocado oil is a perfect high heat oil, with a smoke point of 520°F. On the other hand, extra virgin olive oil has a smoke point of 375°F. Olive oil is an excellent finish oil but not a great cooking oil. These fats are what will end up making our cell membranes. (See attached Appendix B)  

Process 6: Inflammation

First of all, none of us would be alive if it weren't for inflammation. The process helps wall-off invaders and start the process of healing after trauma.

Like any good thing, it can undoubtedly be overdone, and in the American diet, it is way over-done. You guessed it; much of that increased inflammation is related to processed food. Processed foods use many oils that are very high in pro-inflammatory omega 6 and low in the anti-inflammatory omega 3. For example, on Chart B, refined safflower oil is 133:1 omega 6 to omega 3. Linking this increased inflammatory response is also affecting our guts. Inflammation can cause a widening of the junctions of the intestines, causing leaky gut syndrome. Many have also linked widening junctions and the leaking of toxins to Alzheimer's disease.

Body fat is now being considered part of the endocrine system. If fat cells become too large, they can release palmitate, an inflammatory lipid. Also, as adipose cells, fat cells become overly enlarged, they can leak grease and create a need for phagocytosis driving inflammation into high gear.

Process 7: Epigenetics

It is thought that about 15% of metabolic syndrome is genetic. This should give hope to all of us. Epigenetics is the study of how your behavior and environment can cause changes that affect the way your genes work.

Trans-generational epigenetic inheritance can affect as many as four generations. You are not only what you eat, but also what your great, great grandmother ate. Proper nutrition dramatically affects how genes are expressed. Eat food that is real. Real food tends to be found in the outer perimeter of the grocery store.

Process 8: Autophagy

Autophagy is a process of cleaning biological waste products, a key to healthy aging, especially in the brain. The brain uses a lot of energy; therefore, it has a lot of mitochondria, oxygen radicals, and a lot of waste and damage to omega 3 fatty acids. This is the crucial job of sleep. In addition, intra-cerebral pressures go down during sleep which opens small pores within the brain called glymphatics. So you have to get adequate sleep. There is a lot of great information related to good sleep hygiene. Examples of sleep hygiene: consistency in sleep time, cooler temperatures, dimming of lights, and reading. Nutritionally, vitamins D and B help, as well as intermittent fasting. Fasting lowers insulin levels and raises ketones, both of which promote autophagy.

The eight subcellular pathologies are all driven by processed food. Let's define processed food: 1.       Mass-produced

2.       Consistent batch to batch

3.       Consistent country to country

4.       Uses specialized ingredients from specialized companies

5.       It consists of pre-frozen macronutrients

6.       Must stay emulsified so that the fat and water do not layer out

7.       Must have a long shelf or freezer life; therefore, low or no fiber.

In conclusion, fructose is a toxin. Your body can handle fructose in small doses when wrapped up with fiber. Today high fructose corn syrup dominates all processed food. This is one of the chief reasons processed food is so toxic and addictive. Another risk associated with processed food is high doses of essential fatty acid, omega 6, driving inflammation which has catastrophic health implications. Eat high-quality proteins high in omega 3's, a potent anti-inflammatory effect. Eat a lot of high fiber vegetable matter, especially those full of color. Eat food that goes bad and eat it before it goes bad.        


Lustig, R. H. (2021). Metabolical: The truth about processed food and how it poisons people and the planet. Yellow Kite.

Almeida, F. (2022, March 20). Cooking Oil Comparisons - Smoke Points and Omega 3 Fatty Acid Ratios. Center for Integrative Healing & Wellness.

E. (2012, December 1). Fructose in Fruits, Vegetables, Nuts, Seeds, Legumes and Grains. Family Wellness HQ.              

Brian Rafool

Brian Rafool


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