Children take a journey into their brain and body to see how their own ‘metabolic symphony’ works to keep them healthy.
The Metabolic Symphony movement was founded by Joanna Giles in response to the alarming trend of type 2 diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) being diagnosed in children and teenagers – with a high proportion in Aboriginal communities.
Joanna enlisted a team of passionate health and education specialists to create a set of innovative teaching resources that tackle the ‘healthy lifestyle’ story from a quirky scientific perspective. Children take a journey into their brain and body to see how their own ‘metabolic symphony’ works to keep them healthy, and the damage caused by poor lifestyle habits.
The Metabolic Symphony Program consists of 10 self-contained Lessons that lay the foundations for healthy self-management. This includes building a resilient mindset and understanding food, digestion, energy metabolism and the importance of hydration, exercise and sleep – all supported and reinforced by engaging, hands-on activities.
The curriculum is appropriate for delivery in schools, homeschooling families, paediatric weight management clinics and community health centres.
We are sincerely grateful for the ongoing clinical guidance and support provided by the Diabetes and Endocrinology Team at Perth Children's Hospital in Western Australia (WA).
The Metabolic Symphony project is also very fortunate to have received seed funding and ongoing support from the Perth Children’s Hospital Foundation.
We are extremely grateful for assistance afforded to us by the late Honorable Ernie Bridge AM, and his dedicated team during early research with Aboriginal communities in The Kimberley, WA.
We are here for the long haul
The Metabolic Symphony movement is a social enterprise dedicated to supporting children and their families to successfully negotiate the generational change required to eradicate preventable lifestyle-related disease from the child and adolescent population.
Our mission is
To be a trusted source of life science education resources in the world.
To provide reliable, accessible and engaging education that helps children understand how lifestyle choices influence their short and long-term physical and mental health outcomes.
To build individual capacity and provide resources that support lifestyle champions to live more intuitively and feel equipped and confident to teach others.
Sharing the love
Metabolic Symphony uses commercial strategies and strict governance to accomplish its mission. Operational overheads are paid for by profits drawn from the sale of education resources and other activities.
Surplus net profit is distributed to community initiatives that align with the Metabolic Symphony mission. [d CR] Please get in touch with us to discuss your local effort and how we can support you.
The Metabolic Symphony Program provides general science and health-related information only. It is not a medical advice service. If you have concerns about your health, please consult a medical professional.
Joanna Giles is a passionate child advocate, educator, life coach and communications specialist.
Jo’s focus on children’s health and wellbeing began while working at The Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia where she spent a decade creating internationally award-winning patient education videos about managing type 1 diabetes (T1D).
Joanna recalls: I had the great privilege of working with children diagnosed with T1D, and their families, who were leveling up to the challenge of integrating diabetes management into their family life. Diagnosis was usually sudden and traumatic, and the child patient and their parents had to absorb a ton of information about metabolic function, food, exercise, hydration, medication and how to manage the condition to avoid health complications.
We produced video resources to make their learning journey easier. As a consequence, I gained a sound understanding of metabolic function and witnessed first-hand how education could significantly improve health outcomes for child patients.
When type 2 diabetes (T2D) and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) began to emerge in children and adolescents, it occurred to me that the lifestyle management information we provided to families living with T1D could be re-purposed to build a T2D/NAFLD prevention program for children and families in the general population.
There is a lot of debate around what constitutes the optimum human diet and exercise regime. We are keen to give children and their families the foundation knowledge they need to effectively engage with this global discussion. The Metabolic Symphony curriculum provides unbiased, evidence-based science about how our ancient metabolism works, and how it responds to modern life. We want to help people to build their knowledge and motivation to make healthy moment to moment lifestyle choices for themselves, and on behalf of those who rely on them for sustenance and guidance.
A brief look at lifestyle-related disease
Most people have heard of ‘diabetes’, but did you know there are four types depending on the cause?
1. Gestational diabetes can develops during pregnancy and, in most cases, resolves after the baby is born.
2. Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is a chronic (incurable) condition that develops relatively suddenly as a result of an autoimmune malfunction in the body which, for reasons still not fully understood, destroys the cells responsible for producing Insulin. Insulin is the hormone that facilitates the conversion of glucose molecules from food into energy.
People with T1D introduce synthetic insulin into their bloodstream via a needle, or an insulin pen or pump. They need to carefully balance their insulin dose and diet, and maintain a healthy exercise regime.
T1D does not discriminate. It develops in both normal weight and overweight children and adults, and is not caused by poor diet or lifestyle choices.
3. Type 1.5 diabetes (T1.5D), also known as ‘latent (hidden) autoimmune diabetes in adults’ (LADA), is similar to T1D in that it is caused by an autoimmune malfunction.
LADA develops over a long period of time and is often misdiagnosed as type 2 diabetes. T1.5D is initially treated with diabetes tablets, diet and lifestyle changes. Eventually, the individual will become dependent on synthetic insulin.
The only way to tell the difference between T1.5D and T2D is through an antibody test.
4. Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is also chronic, but largely preventable. It develops more slowly than T1D and, in the case of children and adolescents, has everything to do with poor diet and lifestyle.
Family medical history is another critical factor that increases the risk of T2D in some individuals. The inherited risk factors for metabolic dysfunction can be passed down through the family. Adults and children who become aware of a family history of T2D can reduce their risk by maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regime.
Unfortunately, the risk factors will still be passed on to their children and grandchildren. The potency of these inherited risk factors is increasing, which has contributed to a growing incidence of T2D in children and teenagers.
Action and prevention education are critical to ensure our children grow into healthy, happy adults!
In Australia, around 300 people are diagnosed with T2D every day. An increasing number of those cases are children and teenagers.
More than twice that number have insulin resistance (pre-diabetes) – and most of those individuals are unaware of their metabolic dysfunction. The warning signs for T2D are silent, but easy to identify from a simple blood test.
Don’t get NAFLD!
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) typically develops in overweight children or adults who consume large quantities of processed sugar – in particular soda, energy and sports drinks. NAFLD can be a precursor to, or a result of, metabolic dysfunction and can lead to dangerous complications.
As children will learn in the Metabolic Symphony Program, sugar (Sucrose) is comprised of two molecules – glucose and fructose. The body has a mechanism to turn the glucose, that comes in with food and drinks, into immediately available energy. If that energy is not used, it is stored as fat around the body by other metabolic processes.
Fructose is a different story. We are not supposed to consume it in large quantities. High doses of fructose can overwhelm the liver, which results in fatty deposits that impair and inflame the organ.
Tooth decay is rising exponentially in children and adolescents on a high sugar diet.
Decay is accelerated by bacteria in the mouth that uses sugar from processed food and drinks to produce acids that weaken and damage tooth enamel and roots.
Poor dental health can have a devastating affect on a child’s health and self esteem, and reduce their interest in food – particularly high fibre foods such as vegetables and fruit, due to mouth pain and chewing difficulties.
Regular brushing can reduce the risk, however managing sugar intake and promoting good mouth hygiene is best.
The Metabolic Symphony Program curriculum and YiYO card games is are evidence-based and devised by credentialed Researchers, Educators, Dietitians, Diabetes Educators and Exercise specialists.
The resources have been trialed extensively in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal primary and secondary schools in Victoria and Western Australia, including remote and regional schools in The Kimberley.
Our partnerships with Perth Children’s Hospital in Western Australia, and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles in the United States ensure our curriculum continues to align with evidence-based research and best practice disease prevention education methodologies.
We are extremely supportive of the stellar efforts being made around the world by sustainable nutrition and physical education groups and organisations. Children benefit from a diverse but consistent approach to life sciences, and we consider any group providing children and families with sound life management advice as an ally.
We take our independence very seriously. Metabolic Symphony is a private social enterprise with no support from industry or alignment with organisations that do not align with evidence-based, universal self-management messaging.