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Metabolic Disease

We want to teach biology to high school students in a framework that is relevant to their lives. Metabolic disease provides this framework because it focuses on how our body responds to food work and how our choices change our health.

The Metabolic Disease Module is organized around five key questions. These questions guide our investigation of how our bodies use food, and what this means for our health. The students will explore each of these questions and then, for a final project, use what they have learned to describe how the different choices we make about what to eat can affect our bodies.

Unit 1: What’s in your food?

This unit is intended to engage students with understanding what food is and what happens to it before it lands on our plates. Students start the unit by examining the industrial food chain and learning about the additives in food and what they’re for – are additives necessarily bad? Students then investigate the concept of nutritive value and the different components of food and what they’re for. This unit concludes with a lesson about the ‘MyPlate’ nutrition tracker, and students start their own food diaries that will accompany them throughout the module.

Unit 2: How does your body use food?

This unit explores in more detail the processes by which the nutrients in food become available, and how the body uses them. We will begin with digestion and absorption, and then use biochemistry to understand how the body shuttles energy and nutrients into and out of storage. A major emphasis of this unit is the concept of homeostasis with respect to blood glucose levels. We will see that the body is in a constant quest to make sure that glucose is available, and at adequate levels. We will explore the pathways the body can use to maintain homeostasis of glucose and we will understand the impacts fasting and feasting have on weight loss and weight gain.

Unit 3: What is metabolic disease?

In this unit we will focus on the question: What is metabolic disease? We will first define and investigate the metabolic and physiological causes of obesity. Once we understand what obesity is, we can relate it to diseases like diabetes and atherosclerosis, which are both affected by obesity. In all the lessons, the information is connected directly to lifestyle choices that are modifiable.

Unit 4: How do I identify ‘good’ and ‘bad’ food?

In this unit we shift to examining the messages we receive about the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods that are meant to help solve the physiological and psychological challenges that accompany maintaining a healthy weight. We will critically evaluate some examples of nutrition research to understand how the design limitations of nutritional research contribute to confusion behind some nutritional messages.

Unit 5: How does this knowledge apply to me?

This key culminating unit brings together all the understanding the students have acquired investigating the composition of food, digestion and metabolism, metabolic diseases, and how to evaluate nutritional research. But this leaves the question: How can I apply this information to my life?

Final Project

Students work together in groups to create a 15 minute presentation about a current nutritional topic of their choice.