Fat Cell Frenzy – Understanding the Complexity of Obesity

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Each year, American’s spend billions of dollars on weight loss products; dietary programs and new trends “guaranteeing” pounds will come off quickly using their plan.  The desperation to shed unwanted body fat is clear, yet many individuals continue to struggle with their weight.  Why does this remain such a growing problem in America today?  It’s partially due to misconceptions regarding the scientific nature of weight / fat loss coupled with an obvious urgency for people to understand the complexity of obesity, fat storage and fat metabolism at the cellular level.

Extensive studies have shown that excessive body fat / obesity is a widespread, multifaceted disease correlated with a other health problems that negatively affect an individual’s quality of life.  With the overwhelming increases in obesity today, the National Institute of Health, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and other organizations invest a tremendous amount of time and money studying this epidemic crisis – specifically the neurological, hormonal, genetic, social andmetabolicorigins of obesity.

Basic biology tells us that dietary fatsand lipids(all fats, oils and sterols) are broken down into structural chains of fatty acids stored in our fat cellsas adipose tissue.  A certain amount of stored body fatfulfills three, essential roles:  Fat acts as our primary fuel reservein the form of triglycerides; chains of fatty acidsare building blocks for key membrane constitutes; and fatty acid derivativesserve as hormonaland intercellular messengers.  Our bodies need essential fat for optimum functioning, however, excess reserves of adipose tissue can have severe consequences.  For example, fat cells can expand three to six times their normal size, with a seemingly infinite capacity to make more of themselves.  When fat cells reach their maximum storage capacity, they can “burst” much like an over-inflated balloon.  The secreted substances (inflammatory chemicals) act like a poison in the body.  Once the cell bursts, new fat cells develop in an effort to store excess fuel reserves and chemical wastes.  As the degree of obesity increases, the duplication of fat cells continues to escalate.

As mentioned, body fat is stored in the form of triglycerides.  Triglycerides(chains of fatty acids) continually circulate throughout the body, but they primarily specializein storage as adipose tissue.  If an individual is consuming more food than their bodies can metabolize, the surplus of calories is deposited in a multitude of fat cells.  Considering that one-pound of body fat stores approximately 3,500 calories, an extra 50 pounds has an excess fuel reserve of 175,000 calories!  To lose 50 pounds of body fat, one needs to “burn” and dispose of the excess reserve through sequential chemical and metabolic processes at the cellular level.  Enzymes and key nutrients pay a significant role.

Triglycerides are broken down by the enzyme lipase. It’s a metabolic system of fatty acid oxidationregulated by hormones, catalytic reactions and a proper balance of key nutrients (proteins, carbohydrates and dietary fats).  Proteins (containing amino acids), carbohydrates (containing carbon chains) and dietary fats (FA’s) have unique nutritional properties to help maintain synergy within the body.  Scientifically, carbohydrates do not need any assistance from fatty acids to help them metabolize, however, fatty acids need carbon chains for hydrolysis (the breakdown of stored body fat).

Carbohydrates usually get a bad rep for causing weight gain, and many people avoid them on a “diet” without realizing that vegetables and legumes are classed as carbohydrates – leafy greens, broccoli, asparagus, fresh green beans, snap peas, etc.  Legumes also contain a good source of fiber – they provide quality nutrients, aid in digestion and the elimination of food byproducts.  The saying “Fat Burns in the Flame of Carbohydrates” bears truth.  Without some carbohydrates in the diet, there is an incomplete breakdown of adipose tissue and a decrease in the rate of fatty acid oxidationat the cell level.

Fatty acid oxidation also has to occur in the “powerhouse” or mitochondria of a cell.  Long chain fatty acids cannot penetrate into the cell membrane without the presence of carnitine, a compound formed from the essential amino acids lysine and methionine. Both of these amino acids are found in animal proteins and complementary vegetarian sources.  Although L-carnitine and other supplements are widely marketed to enhance weight-loss, no conclusive medical evidence supports these claims.  Nutrient intake should come from high quality food sources prior to investing money in supplements that may or may not work.

If asked, do you think fast food burgers and egg-muffins contain a decent supply of essential amino acids and quality nutrients to support fat burning at the cell level?  Would your body respond better with whole food sources in the diet, or perform better with processed foods?  How do you think your body metabolically reacts to a greasy hot-dog over fresh vegetables, baked chicken, fish or legumes?  The obvious answer is to spark your metabolism with nutritious foods in their most natural state.

In the book “Fat Land”, Greg Critser takes us back to several developments in the food industry that have also contributed to the obesity crisis.  Back in the 1970’s, corn surpluses led to the production of high fructose corn syrup found in several food products today – including soda and snack drinks.  Cheap imports of palm oil and kernel oil combined with advances in technology led to increases in the number of convenience foods, snack items and artificial flavorings.  Because our bodies metabolize high fructose corn syrup, palm oil and palm kernel oil differently than “natural food sources”, these additives and preservatives have been shown to prompt fat storage, increase adipose tissue, elevate levels of triglycerides, cholesterol, glucose and insulin, and increase the risk factors for associated diseases.

Controversial Issues with Obesity

  • Obese people are not getting critical chemical signals to their brain to since fullness: Under normal conditions, the hormone, grehlin, signals the brain to tell the body it has had enough to eat, to more or eat less,.  Some studies suggest that obesity is associated with either a transport or interpretation problem with grehlin function.  Other studies suggest that excessive body fat, in itself, triggers an impairment of this gut hormone signaling.  The more adipose tissue an individual has, the greater the impairment becomes.  For example:  Studies have shown that obese mice develop a brain-barrier defect that causes them to eat more and store more body fat with age, but skinny mice stay about the same weight and eat until satisfied (William Blanks; MD).
  • Hormonal Defects and Insulin Resistance Cause Obesity: Hormonal defects and insulin resistance do not specifically cause obesity, however, obesity has been shown to play a dominant role in insulin resistance. Once a person moves into the state of obesity, hormonal balances for fuel metabolism are impaired.  As a result, glucose and insulin levels are compromised.  Left untreated, the risk of Type II Diabetes is inevitable.
  • Fat Deposits are Determined at Birth: We are all born with a certain number of fat cells. However, as discussed earlier, when an adipocyte has reached full storage capacity, hormonal signals drive the process of fat cell multiplication.  If unnecessary calories continue to enter the body, adipocytes will continue to multiply over and beyond what an individual had at birth.
  • Obesity is all Genetic: According to the Harvard School of Public Health, genetics only plays a small role in whether someone will become obese.  If a parent or both parents are obese, a child may be born with a greater number of fat cells, but it doesn’t mean they will become obese. Weight gain is influenced by a combination of environmental and lifestyle factors more than genetic make-up alone.
  • Neurological and Social Environment Trigger Obesity: With billions of neurons firing in complex circuits, scientists cannot measurably peer into your mind and emotions to suggest obesity is caused by a neurological malfunction.  They can, however, measure physical behaviors and the social environment surrounding that behavior.  There are external factors that often prompt poor lifestyle choices and dietary habits. These include: eating out more often; a trend of eating more fast foods; super-sizing meals; spending more time watching TV or playing video games; opting to drive because it’s easier than walking; organizing social events around food; taking the elevator over the stairs, or opting out of exercise because “it takes too much time”.
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Promising Solutions for Weight Loss Results

The buzz in weight loss these days is to decrease carbohydrates and reduce calories. However, if you decrease carbohydrates too much, blood sugar drops, stress hormones increase (cortisol rises) and insulin levels become imbalanced. When this occurs, the body resists weight loss. A better approach is to modify the types of carbohydrates eaten to allow blood sugar, insulin and cortisol levels to remain stable. Eliminating refined starches and simple sugars is a perfect start.

Next is the selection of quality protein (lean meats, poultry, fish, whey and eggs or egg whites). Increasing protein decreases the potential for weight gain and regain. Higher protein, combined with a lower intake of starch and sugar also has a favorable impact on belly fat.

Fat intake alone will not impact insulin or cortisol levels, but the combination of fat, starch and sugar eaten together spells disaster. The combination of protein and vegetables, however, does not spike hormonal imbalances. Additionally, protein and vegetables sources suppress hunger and increase fiber. This is a powerful punch to enhance fat burning at the cell level.

Obviously some individuals lose weight and burn fat quicker than others, but results are achievable for everyone with a positive mind-set and personal commitment to one-self. Losing weight is a systematic process that takes time. Be patient, results will not happen overnight.

The Fat Burning Plan

A healthy, fat burning plan limits the intake of simple sugar and starch, increases quality protein, vegetables and legumes, includes small portions of low-sugar fruits, advocates healthy fats rich in omega fatty acids and allows for skim or low fat dairy and dairy substitutes. The fat burning plan requires meal spacing and exercise. No skipping these two.

For exercise, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends a minimum of 150-250 minutes of cardiovascular exercise per week and resistance exercise at least 2x/week. You can split exercise sessions into 10-minute bouts performed 2-3 times/day, or cut back the intensity and increases the duration to a do-able amount for your body.

When choosing an exercise plan, pick something you enjoy! If it’s walking the dog, gardening, hiking, using in-home equipment, swimming or biking, make it a routine. Set realistic goals and schedule your exercise in advance. Make an appointment with yourself.

I also recommend self-monitoring weekly activity and food intake. When you have a visual, the success rate increases dramatically. There are several aps to help with this or you can journal by hand.

Finally, when attacking fat stores, expect to lose no more than 1 1/2 to 2 pounds per week. This equates to 5,250 to 7,000 calories burned per week! If you are losing more than 2 pounds per week, the additional loss is likely water or lean body mass.

Dieters Beware!

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Quick and Easy Weight Loss…Not so Fast

According to recent data (MarketResearch.com 2014), approximately a third of the U.S. population, over 100 million Americans are on a weight-loss “diet” at any given time. Americans spend billions of dollars each year desperately trying to lose weight, yet the ability to maintain results remains a mystery for most. One of the several reasons diets fail in the long run is due to an exponential explosion in advertising deception. Marketing campaigns professing their program (product or diet) is the “weight loss solution” for America. These claims are simply false, misleading and ambiguous. Not surprisingly, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported that over fifty percent of weight-loss advertisements make claims that lack scientific data supporting lasting results. As a consumer, you deserve to be aware of the marketing strategies being used against you before embarking on a program or investing in a product that may prove to be deceptive in the long run.

Deciphering Dubious Claims

Most weight loss “diets” have specific rules. Unfortunately, they vary from program to program. Do you cut calories, eliminate fat, reduce carbohydrates, eliminate dairy, increase protein, or select gluten free? Exercise at a high intensity, low intensity, lift weights or perform whole body training? It’s very confusing and the options are endless! To evaluate a nutritional product, exercise program or diet, look at the claims. If it transmits to one of these words or phrases, remain skeptical.

New Discovery                  Mysterious               Easy

Breakthrough                      Magical                    Exotic

Exclusive                              Miraculous               Effortless

Ancient Research             Amazing                   One of a Kind

Money Back                        No Risk                      Quick Start

 

Resistance Training for Overweight Youth

Years ago, resistance training for the youth population was often considered unsafe and potentially injurious to the developing muscle-skeletal system.  Particularly so for children under the age of 14 years.  With the global epidemic of pediatric obesity on the rise, new research has emerged.  Over the past decade, numerous studies have shown that regular participation in resistance training programs can improve cardiorespiratory fitness, bone mineral density, blood lipids and total well-being for our youth.  Resistance training can also help children lose excess body fat and improve insulin sensitivity at the cellular level.  These two factors alone can have a huge impact on the reduction of childhood obesity as a whole.

General Program Design and Guidelines for the Overweight Youth

  • Make sure the program is adequately supervised by a qualified instructor / personal trainer.
  • Ensure the exercise environment is safe and free from potential hazards.
  • Begin each session with a 5 to 7 minute, dynamic warm-up.
  • Perform 1 to 3 sets of 6 to 15 repetitions for each exercise.
  • Include exercises for the legs, arms, back and midsection.
  • Focus on technique rather than the amount of weight being lifted.
  • Include a cool-down and stretch period after each session.
  • Strive to resistance train 2 to 3 times / week on nonconsecutive days.
  • Use individual workout logs to chart progress.
  • Periodically vary the resistance training program.
Food Journaling for Weight Loss

Food Journaling for Weight Loss

It’s not exactly a new strategy for aiding weight loss, but if you aren’t currently using food journals to try to shed pounds, recent research suggests that perhaps you should be.

Scientists from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center summarized the following from their study, which appeared in the July 16 online edition of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: women who want to lose weight should faithfully keep a food journal and should avoid skipping meals and eating in restaurants—especially at lunch.

“When it comes to weight loss, evidence from randomized, controlled trials comparing different diets finds that restricting total calories is more important than diet composition such as low-fat versus low-carbohydrate. Therefore, the specific aim of our study was to identify behaviors that supported the global goal of calorie reduction,” said lead researcher Anne McTiernan, MD, PhD.  McTiernan et al. found:

  • Women who kept food journals consistently lost about 6 more pounds than those who did not.
  • Women who reported skipping meals lost almost 8 fewer pounds than women who did not.
  • Women who ate out for lunch at least weekly lost on average 5 fewer pounds than those who ate out less frequently.

“For individuals who are trying to lose weight, the No. 1 piece of advice based on these study results would be to keep a food journal to help meet daily calorie goals. It is difficult to make changes to your diet when you are not paying close attention to what you are eating,” said McTiernan, director of the Hutchinson Center’s Prevention Center and a member of its Public Health Sciences Division.

As you start to keep a food journal, use the following tips, drawn directly from those provided to study participants:

1. Be honest. Record everything you eat.

2. Be accurate. Measure portions and read labels.

3. Be complete. Include details such as how the food was prepared and which toppings or condiments you added.

4. Be consistent. Always carry your food diary with you or use a diet-tracking application on your smartphone.

“While the study provided a printed booklet for the women to record their food and beverage consumption, a food journal doesn’t have to be anything fancy,” McTiernan said. “Any notebook or pad of paper that is easily carried or an online program that can be accessed any time through a smart phone or tablet should work fine.”

 

Complements of IDEA Health & Fitness Association.