Updated: Jun 16, 2022
There is a renewed focus on Metabolic health. Innovations and mega trends spark new human behaviours that are centred around managing our own metabolism.
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As this Healthusiasm community of readers is growing every week, I believe it is a good habit to introduce myself again. So here’s the brief Meta me:
I research, write and speak about health & self-care trends. All changes surrounding health & self-care are structured into three different models to categorise the health & self-care trends, the health market landscape and the underlying drivers of these trends. These are methods to bring clarity in a health-conscious world that is changing at a neck-breaking pace. It also helps me provide answers to everyone who reaches out to me with questions or requests for inspiration about the future of health.
If one of my foresights or trends may spark some thoughts or reflections, never hesitate to reach out to me.
This newsletter must begin with some definitions. What is our Metabolism? What the heck is Metabolic Health? But first of all, I’d like to state very clearly that I am not a medically trained professional. This means that I risk oversimplifying when explaining these terms or the impact of particular innovations. But that is ok for the sake of this newsletter. After all, the purpose of this writing is to highlight the increased interest and importance in specific health-related topics, not to publish a clinical metastudy or research its entire medical relevancy. Then again, if there is that much noise surrounding a particular topic, it might be worthwhile following up on this anyhow. But not here. Not right now.
So here we go.
Metabolism is a series of chemical processes in each cell. Simply put, these processes transform the calories we eat into fuel that keeps us alive. It sustains life and everyday functioning. Amongst others, this includes breaking down food and drink to energy and building or repairing our bodies.
Metabolic health is about having a healthy metabolism. It can technically be described as having ideal levels of blood sugar, triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, blood pressure and waist circumference (just to name a few) without the help of medication. In other words, excellent metabolic health means a person has a low risk of developing metabolic conditions like weight gain, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke,…
However, according to many experts, scientific studies increasingly indicate the actual impact of our metabolic health is far more significant. Because metabolic dysfunction is increasingly linked to a chronic state of inflammation that might induce multiple inflammatory diseases, Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive losses, a weakened immunity, cancer, pneumonia, kidney disease, hormonal diseases and so on… So, one could then easily argue that good metabolic health actually means good overall health. That’s also why I firmly believe that Metabolic Health has shifted away from the notion of dieting. Today, it’s considered a method of managing our overall health. That’s what the Metabolic Mastery trend is all about. Let me explain this to you:
The Metabolic Mastery Trend
What makes Metabolic Mastery a critical health & self-care trend today? In my opinion, trends are often made when three different forces collide: contextual drivers, related innovations, and underlying life aspirations. In this long read, I want to elaborate on all three of these to indicate why Metabolic Mastery should be on the radar of every business.
1. The contextual drivers
So why is metabolic health attracting more attention than ever before? Well, first of all, a higher number of clinical studies indicate the impact of our metabolic health beyond cardiologic diseases. But next to this revealing science (and some other relevant health & self-care trends I will briefly discuss later), two recent drivers contributed to this increased popularity with the general public: the word ‘pandemic’ and the related hunt for ‘immunity’.
In March 2020, the trend in Google searches for the word pandemic grew 100-fold in less than a month. Ever since that moment, the term has been omnipresent. It’s fair to say that likely every individual can explain that a pandemic is a high prevalence of a disease in a region or even the entire world. This mere fact opened plenty of debates on the real pandemic: metabolic dysfunction. Often quoted studies in those debates all indicate that – for example - about 88% of Americans have metabolic dysfunction. Europe may be lagging but surely is catching up. “Shouldn’t we focus more on this pandemic, which actually causes far more deaths than this virus” was a frequently heard question? It sure spurred more and more discussions on the importance of our metabolic health.
During that same period, people sought to boost their immunity to protect themselves from this viral threat. It sparked consciousness and another level of understanding. People realised that those with a weaker immunity system (or weaker health in general) were more vulnerable. We were also confronted that cardiometabolic patients were more often hospitalised. Consequently, Google searches showed a changing public interest in metabolic health-related search phrases, and science proved that metabolic health and immune strength are critically intertwined (at a physiological level). Even the World Economic Forum campaigned for a global metabolic reset because three out of four leading risk factors that affect the Covid survival rate are metabolically related. This all sparked the interest in Metabolic Mastery.
2. The Innovations.
Almost simultaneously with these contextual drivers, many innovations entered the market. These tackled metabolic dysfunction and also optimised metabolic health. I’ll give a brief anthology of several remarkable recent products or services in this long read. Some of them might be more scientifically underbuilt than others, but that is beyond the scope of this writing. The purpose here is to highlight the growing importance of and massive opportunity for metabolic health in the years to come.
Continuous Glucose Monitoring
The roots of metabolic dysfunction lie in an abnormal blood sugar, lipids, and inflammation. About ten different biomarkers could be tracked and optimised to deal with one’s metabolic function. But as of late, measuring blood sugar levels has turned into the vital indicator of metabolic health.
The launch of Continuous Glucose Monitoring Devices (CGM) around 2017, like Abbott’s Freestyle Libre and Libre Sense, provided everybody with a new realm of opportunities. These devices contain sensors to track glucose levels non-invasively and, of course, change the health experience for diabetic patients. But they also found their way to athletes and top sporters who could improve their performance by mastering their metabolic health. Many start-ups (Levels, Supersapiens, Veri, Vital, NutriSense, Signos, January AI,…) came on the market targeting that specific segment. While none of these start-ups owned the CGM hardware themselves, they leveraged the available devices by Dexcom and Abbott. With Apple, Amazon, Google, and Fitbit expressing interest in blood glucose monitoring as well, this market is bound to exponentially grow in the years to come.
Initially conceived as a medical device for patients, these devices grew into a performance-enhancing tool for athletes. But the course of these devices will undoubtedly be the consumer market. At the recent CES conference, considered the most influential tech event globally, Abbott’s CEO Robert Ford revealed the launch of a more comprehensive monitoring device that will offer consumers (his words) an unprecedented understanding of human metabolism. At the same time, Best Buy, a large American consumer electronics retailer, launched its “Season of Me” program to support consumers in sticking to their New Year's resolutions. This 90-day membership includes a medical assessment, a specific app and, nonetheless, a CGM device. We have set a course for a world where parameters like Metabolic Health Index or Metabolic Rate will become widely used (by consumers) as steps or heart rates.
Other Metabolic health tests
Different modes for metabolic health monitoring exist or are being launched. Most are analysing and advising based upon the vital factor in your metabolism: your metabolic flexibility or, in other words, the ability of the human body to switch back and forth between fat and carbohydrates based on their availability.
Lumen might undoubtedly be one of the most popular ones. This breath analyser claims to hack your metabolism by determining the CO2 concentration in a single breath. Doing so indicates the type of fuel your body uses to produce energy. While previously only available for top athletes or metabolic disease patients in hospitals, it is today being used by over 1 million people in 126 different countries. This growing audience, often inspired by popular biohackers, wants to see how their metabolism is affected by sleep, physical activity, and nutrition. With this knowledge, they can impact their overall health.
The market for at-home metabolic tests is shifting gears as well, definitely in the US, where it is not necessary to go into the specialists’ office or a health clinic for a metabolism test. Today, home tests (EverlyWell, myLAB, Allara) facilitate self-collected blood and saliva samples to be analysed and discussed afterwards during a virtual consultation with a medical provider. Standard medical testing is brought into our homes. But it won’t stop here either. Researchers are now working on a proof of principle for an integrated "smart toilet" system to yield critical metabolic data.
These solutions are bound to become increasingly popular, in part because they are galvanised by other essential trends, like the Healthy Homes ànd Decentralised Healthcare Trend. But what’s even more, these solutions simply aim to answer widespread health issues like fatigue, anxiety, mood swings, or weight gain. Who would not want to get to the root of those health issues from the comfort of our own homes?
Our metabolic health is primarily determined by what we eat. We are what we eat. Well, technically speaking, I should say “we are what we metabolise”… In any case, it’s no surprise that many Metabolic Health solutions are focused on what we eat or drink. The popularity of Keto diets or intermittent fasting is mainly due to their assumed impact on blood sugar levels and our metabolism in general. It’s a product of the Metabolic Mastery trend.
The negative impacts of processed food are linked to the popularity of these diets. What’s the story here? Processed foods give us a quick jolt of sugar or salt to satisfy a craving. However, they require less energy to digest due to the high content of refined ingredients. This means that people will expend less metabolic energy. And recent studies have now shown that this can even slow our metabolism and harm health in the long term. ‘Out’ with the processed foods, ‘in’ with the local, fresh, organic foods. Nothing new here besides the fact that this trend is being amplified now.
The Metabolic Health Trend also impacts the market of nutritional supplements. Of course, supplements that boost your metabolism have been around for a long time. The difference today is that they aren’t just linked to weight loss anymore. The focus of these newer supplements, often containing amino acids and polyphenols, is to impact one’s overall health. This is also in line with the Body Positivity trend that helps people focus on being healthy instead of slim.
Even when weight loss is necessary, the spotlight generally remains on a Metabolic Reset. Calibrate is a Metabolic Telehealth solution in which people are coached remotely and holistically. Compared to other weight loss programs, Calibrate believes more in biology than in ‘willpower’. “Sustainable weight loss comes from good Metabolic Health”, they rightfully say.
Looking towards the future, we could expect solutions that navigate us towards the right foods. At the University of Copenhagen, researchers are working on such a FoodNavigator. The program is funded by Novo Nordisk, a pharma company that specialises in diabetes and Metabolic Health. The program analyses continuous glucose measurements, images of meals, metabolomics data, and gut microbiome samples. Then it creates a personal dietary profile that makes recommendations like Netflix does with movies and series today. I can even tell you from previous work that supermarkets have very similar ambitions.
Finally, I wouldn’t be surprised if Ketones would become the next big trending biomarker in Metabolic Health (note: this is not a medical statement). Abbott’s CEO, Robert Ford, already hinted towards the next Libre sensors to monitor biomarkers like lactate, alcohol and ketones. The Libre Keto will hit the market first and help its users to understand when the body is in Ketosis. This process happens when your body doesn't have enough carbohydrates to burn for energy. It then burns fat and makes ketones to use for fuel. You are undoubtedly familiar with this ‘method’ if you are one of the many to follow a strict keto diet.
Ketones are also known as the 4th macronutrient, with fat, carbohydrates and protein being the more popular other three. An increased level of ketones provides sustained energy, boosted endurance, enhanced mental clarity, and appetite control. It is tough to achieve this without fasting or a strict keto diet. But there is a drink soon to be launched. Health Via Modern Nutrition (HVMN) is a Metabolic Health company and pioneer in drinkable ketone technology. The company aims to redefine the limits of human performance, metabolism, and longevity. No wonder cyclists in the Tour de France and the Special Forces are already consuming the product. But soon, we all will directly experience the direct benefits of good Metabolic Health by simply drinking it.
A last evolution driving this Metabolic Mastery trend is related to ‘sleep’. At least, it is related to what happens in our bodies at night (when we are supposed to sleep). In 2017, a group of researchers won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for the discovery of genes that build up proteins at night and degrades protein during the day. This discovery highlighted the importance of our body's internal clock, called Circadian Health. Remarkably enough, these circadian genes not only regulate when to sleep. They also control our heart rate, blood pressure, the immune system, body temperature, hormones, mood and, yes… our metabolism.
It’s early days for Circadian Health. Plenty of research is still necessary to understand its impact exactly. However, the effects of our internal clocks were already researched before. Think about how we metabolise calories better in the morning than in the evening. Also, the idea behind intermittent fasting is grounded in the science of our internal clocks. I believe Circadian Health to be an essential health & self-care trend that will prosper innovations in lighting, food, exercise, sleep and the various environments we live, ride, fly or work in. The ongoing studies on the influence of ‘when’ we sleep and ‘when’ we eat on our Metabolic Health will undoubtedly push the popularity of Metabolic Mastery as well.
3. Underlying aspirations
External drivers and upcoming innovations help identify potential health & self-care trends, but they aren’t viable if not rooted in human life aspirations. I’ve researched 24 different life aspirations categorised into four aspirational drivers. These life aspirations propel any potential health & self-care trends. In other words: A trend can only emerge and exist when it helps people sufficiently in achieving their life aspirations.
And indeed, Metabolic Health touches on some very recognisable life aspirations. First of all, it provides diabetes patients with protection. Good Metabolic Health helps protect from severe hypoglycemia. This is assumably one of the biggest dangers of diabetes every patient wants to be protected from. But it also optimised energy throughout the day, which is aspired by athletes, if not by many of us. Finally, it is fair to state that good Metabolic Health contributes to better mental clarity and creativity (brain boost). We all might strive for this at particular moments or ages in our lives, aren’t we?
These three life aspirations are essential for many of us. It makes me confident that Metabolic Mastery has all the ingredients to become a very dominant health & self-care trend in the coming years. But what does this mean for your business?
The Healthusiasm Take
The Metabolic Health Trend brings a whole new range of opportunities that often reside outside your market. I always mention how boundaries are blurred between the medical, wellness and lifestyle industries. I call this the (overarching) Healthusiasm trend. With the examples mentioned in this newsletter, you can see this happening here. Businesses are growing beyond their archetypical industry boundaries.
· Pharma / Medtech companies are licensing solutions to cater for athletes ànd consumers.
· Supermarkets are helping their customers achieve their New Year’s resolutions.
· Toilets are turning into metabolic test labs.
· Tech companies are putting us in control of our health management.
· Food companies are eradicating processed foods to help us achieve optimal energy.
· Pharma companies and supermarkets alike are at the brink of navigating your food choices.
· Diets are turning into health management methods.
· Drinks will unlock energy like never before.
· Lighting manufacturers will soon influence how we metabolise our food and how we feel throughout the day.
· … and so many more …
Don't hesitate to contact me if you want to discover what opportunities this Metabolic Health trend (or any of the other 15 health & self-care trends) could bring to your business.
Healthusiastic to help.
Keynote speaker on business strategy in this health-conscious world