Sitting at your computer – or anywhere in a chair – for too long could be keeping your body’s fat from burning off.
Resident Medical Authority: J. E. Williams, OMD, FAAIM
[Kev's Note: This is a great in-depth article that is a great follow up to my posting last week about the dangers of sitting.]
We all know that exercise is healthy, but it turns out that too much sitting is really bad for you. Chair time shuts down the circulation of a fat-absorbing enzyme called lipase. Researchers found that standing up engages muscles, helps circulation of blood and lymph, and promotes the distribution of lipase, which helps the body to process fat. Even total cholesterol levels go down. That’s right: whether at the computer, your workstation, or on the couch, the time you sit in your chair could be keeping your body’s fat from burning off.
They also found that standing up uses more blood glucose and therefore lowers the risk for diabetes. According to Mark Hamilton of the University of Missouri, (Hamilton 2008) rates of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity are doubled or even tripled in people who sit a lot. One reason, he says, is the common enzyme lipase.
Benefits of Lipase
Lipase is an enzyme the body uses to break down fats in food so fatty acids can be absorbed in the intestines. Lipase is primarily produced in the pancreas but is also made in the mouth and stomach. Most people produce enough pancreatic lipase, but people with cystic fibrosis, Crohn’s disease, and celiac disease may not have enough lipase to get the nutrition they need from their food. Standard laboratory lipase testing is useful in diagnosing these conditions, but not for finding out if you have enough for healthy body function.
It appears that simply standing up also helps shrink your waistline. The average person can burn an extra 60 calories an hour just by standing. Standing also improves your HDL or good cholesterol levels. People who sat reduced their good cholesterol levels by 22 percent! The healthy range for HDL is between 40 and 60 mg/dL. I like my male patients to be at least 55 mg/dL and females to be above 65 mg/dl.
Most people with healthy pancreas activity don’t need additional lipase. However, people with the following conditions find lipase supplements helpful:
1. Celiac Disease
Celiac disease is a condition in which gluten, the main protein found in grains like wheat and barley, inflames the intestinal tract producing serious symptoms including abdominal pain, bloating, weight loss, and fatigue. People with celiac disease must follow a strict diet that includes no gluten. Pancreatic enzymes have been studied as part of the treatment for Celiac disease. While scientists debate on how much they help, naturopathic physicians already know that pancreatic enzyme supplements, including lipase, help.
2. Fatty Food Induced Indigestion
Supplements containing lipase and other pancreatic enzymes help reduce bloating, gas, and fullness following a high-fat meal. These symptoms are commonly associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and gall bladder disease, as well as liver dysfunction including fatty liver disease.
3. Cystic Fibrosis
People with cystic fibrosis, an inherited condition that causes the body to produce abnormally thick, sticky mucus, have many nutritional deficiencies because mucus blocks pancreatic enzymes from getting to the intestines. Taking pancreatic enzymes helps improve the nutrition they get from food.
Lipase is produced primarily in the pancreas and is not found in food; therefore, supplements are necessary. Lipase supplements are usually derived from animal enzymes; usually pork, and plant sources are very popular. Lipase may be taken in combination with protease and amylase enzymes, or in a full spectrum plant-based pancreatic enzyme supplement. To promote healthy digestion take 1 – 2 capsules (or tablets) amounting to a total of 6,000 LU (Lipase Activity Units), with a pH at 6.5, three times per day, 20-30 minutes before meals on an empty stomach. Do not give lipase to children under age 12 unless under a doctor’s supervision.
Remember, often it’s the little things that make a big difference. Avoid the chair. If you can perform a behavior while sitting or standing, choose standing. Stand up and walk around, as much as you can during the day. Eat well and follow a plant-based diet. Use supplements wisely.
Hamilton, M. T. (2008). “Too little exercise and too much sitting: Inactivity physiology and the need for new recommendations on sedentary behavior” Current Cardiovascular Risk Reports Volume 2 (Number 4): 292-298.
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