December 4, 2009 at 9:19 am
Did PastaQueen’s health assessment reveal that she’s made of sugar and spice and everything nice? Find out behind the jump.
Disclosure: Nutrilite paid for all expenses related to this health assessment.
My Nutrilite health assessment arrived in the mail last week, bound in a snazzy spiral booklet that made me nostalgic for middle school geography reports. (My favorite? Bolivia: A World Within a Country which featured Lake Titicaca. *snicker* Yes, my sense of humor is stuck in middle school too.) The health assessment was offered to everyone who attended the Nutrilite Blogger Event last month. After undergoing a zillion and one tests over the past two years in search of the source of the headache from hell, throwing a bone density test and a body fat analysis into the mix felt like ordering an appetizer.
A few days after receiving the report, I had a one-hour phone consultation with Dr. Duke Johnson, the Medical Director of the Nutrilite Center for Optimal Health, who is a specialist in chronic diseases. He’s also a speaker and author of The Optimal Health Revolution.
The results were divided into four sections: Fitness results, blood analysis, BCoR score, and bone density. The results of these tests determined the contents of a fifth section, titled “Risk factors.” First off, Dr. Duke emphasized that the aim of the report is to help you achieve “optimal health.” This is defined not just by being free of disease, but by eliminating risk of disease. You don’t have to be a bodybuilder to meet these standards, and in fact a bodybuilder who uses steroids that has caused a heart attack before the age of 40 wouldn’t qualify. I was glad to learn the assessment was taking a holistic view of health, and I wasn’t going to get a point knocked off for every stretch mark on my belly. The goal of the report is to help identify and correct habits that increase your risk for chronic disease.
The fitness section of the assessment measured my grip strength, flexibility, resting heart rate, body composition, waist-to-hip ratio, and blood pressure. My grip strength and flexibility were scored as average. My resting heart rate was above average and my blood pressure showed no risk for heart disease. (Score two points for the beta blockers!) However, my body composition was, uh, predictably problematic. I felt bad for the guy at the body composition station (a.k.a. the “How fat are you?” station). He was as popular as a tax collector. Using the most lenient standards for a desirable body fat percentage, I’m 12% off. Using a more strict standard, I’m 19% off. So, yeah, I got some work to do there. On the positive side, while I would make a buoyant life preserver, my waist-to-hip ratio was well below the risk area. This is because I’m pear shaped, so I don’t have much abdominal fat, which is the fat that is more metabolically active and a risk indicator of heart disease.
I have a blood analysis done every six months at the headache clinic I visit. I also had two or three blood panels done the first year of my headache, so I wasn’t surprised when my blood work came back looking fairly stellar. Still, there were two problem areas.
I’m low in Vitamin D, scoring in the “insufficiency” range, and not too far from the “deficiency” range. My allergist made a similar observation last year, at around the same time of year. This is not a surprise because Vitamin D is synthesized by your skin’s exposure to the sun, and Indiana is the home of the long, grey winter. Dr. Duke told me that even if you’re getting the FDA recommended daily allowances of nutrients, your body can often benefit from receiving more than those minimums. The allowances were created during World War II to ensure that the food being shipped to the troops overseas wouldn’t cause any deficiency diseases, like lack of Vitamin C had once caused scurvy in sailors. Of course, you can also get too much of a good thing, so it’s best to find a balance. I’m going to start taking some Vitamin D supplements, since this is the second time it’s been recommended to me.
I’m also going to start taking Vitamin D because it’s supposed to help with the other issue, a higher than usual fasting insulin level. The blood analysis looked at both my glucose and my insulin level after a 12-hour fast. My glucose level scored well within average, but my insulin level was unusually high. There is some debate over the importance of measuring the insulin level, and I’m not an expert on this so I can’t really give you deep insight into the issue, but this site offered some information about the tests. I’m sure some of you will tell me why the insulin test is complete bullshit, and then some of you will comment to tell me why those people are complete morons. Work it out amongst yourselves.
Part of me wonders if the water with lemon juice I drank right before the test could have boosted my score, but when life hands you a lemon, I don’t want to blame the lemon. According to Dr. Duke, a high insulin level can be a sign of growing insulin resistance, which ultimately can lead to type II diabetes. I was rather surprised by my insulin score since I eat fairly well and exercise. I don’t know if this is a medical trait leftover from my years of morbid obesity, or if it’s a result of my current lifestyle. Anyway, my grandmother had type II diabetes, and I’d rather not lose a foot, so I’m going to watch this. I was also surprised to learn that Vitamin D and magnesium have been shown to help lower insulin levels. Dr. Duke’s book also includes a list of 22 ways to decrease insulin resistance. They gave me a free copy of the book at the event, so I’ll have to look that up and report back to you on it.
The BCoR stands for “Body Composition Health Risk Score” and is a formula developed by Nutrilite. It’s an attempt to take a comprehensive look at someone’s health to determine if they are obese and if that obesity is putting them at risk for chronic disease. It is calculated using a person’s body mass index (BMI), body fat percentage, and waist-to-hip ratio. I liked that Nutrilite wasn’t focusing on any single one of these obesity indicators, since you can find flaws in any one of them. The BMI can score extremely muscular people as obese, and can score thin people with low muscle mass and high abdominal fat as normal. The BCoR formula is still being tested to see if it is a more accurate predictor of risk, and I’ll be interested to hear their results.
My BCoR score placed me at risk for chronic disease, but if I manage to lose the 40 pounds I gained during the horrible, headache years, I’ll reduce that risk significantly.
My bone density was measured by a device that did an ultrasound on my foot. The results were printed in a multi-colored graph which shows that my bone density is within acceptable levels, but is slightly lower than average. I was a bit surprised by this because I’d hoped my bone density was still at the levels it must have been when I was morbidly obese. Bone density can be increased by strength training, so morbidly obese people usually have denser bones than their thin counterparts because they lift more weight simply by moving around. I suppose like everything in your body, if you don’t use it you lose it, so whatever high density I once had is gone. Bone density only drops as you get older, so I should add some strength training to my exercise routine to help increase this.
The final section of the report summarized the results by listing what my risk factors were for heart disease, cancer, and diabetes (all of which I’ve mentioned above). They recommended that I reduce these risk factors to increase my optimal health.
The health assessment was interesting, and I respected the balanced approach taken in interpreting the results. At no point did Dr. Duke try to sell me any Nutrilite products, but with my permission he told me which supplements he’d recommend (like Vitamin D, magnesium, etc.). Those supplements were only recommended on top of a healthy diet and regular exercise.
After visiting Nutrilite and talking to Dr. Duke, I was reminded of the book review I did last year of Toxic Fat by Barry Sears, which talked in-depth about inflammation and the idea that inflammation is what causes most chronic diseases. I had never encountered that concept before, but it’s something Nutrilite and Dr. Duke mentioned several times, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a concept that continues to gain attention in the press.
And, hey, I got a snazzy spiral binder, and all I had to do was give them a vial of my blood!