Blame weight gain on the brain

Many people claim they are addicted to food. That may not be too far from the truth.

Over millions of years of evolution, our brains have adapted to provide us a reward for successfully ingesting food. The hormone dopamine appears to be the key link in this reward process. But to complete the circuit, dopamine has to interact with its receptor. It has been known for many years that the ability of dopamine to combine with one of its receptors (the D2 dopamine receptor) is compromised in obese individuals compared to normal-weight individuals (1). This led to the hypothesis that obese individuals overeat as a way to compensate for the reduction in the dopamine reward circuits just as individuals with addictive behaviors (drugs, alcohol, gambling, etc.) do when their dopamine levels are low. It is also known that food restriction up-regulates the number of D2 receptors (2). This likely completes the reward circuit.

This effect of increasing D2 receptors is confirmed in obese patients who have undergone gastric bypass surgery that results in calorie restriction (3). This may explain why gastric bypass surgery is currently the only proven long-term solution of obesity. More recent studies with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) have indicated that unlike women with a stable weight where the mere visual image of palatable food increases the reward activity in the brain, that response is highly reduced in women who have gained weight in the past six months (4). This suggests that the dopamine reward circuits are compromised in women with recent weight gain, thus prompting a further increased risk for overeating in those individuals to increase dopamine output.

So does this mean that the obese patient with a disrupted dopamine reward system has no hope of overcoming these powerful neurological deficits? Not necessarily. There are a number of dietary interventions to increase the levels of dopamine and its receptors. The first is calorie restriction, which is only possible if you aren’t hungry. The usual culprit that triggers constant hunger is a disruption of hormonal communication of hunger and satiety signals in the brain. It has been shown that following a strict Zone diet can quickly restore the desired balance that leads to greater satiety (5-7). The probable mechanism is the reduction of cellular inflammation by an anti-inflammatory diet (8-10).

Another dietary intervention is high-dose fish oil that has been demonstrated to both increase dopamine and dopamine receptors in animals (11,12). This would explain why high-dose fish oil has been found useful in the treatment of ADHD, a condition characterized by low dopamine levels (13). Finally, high-dose fish oil can reduce the synthesis of endocannabinoids in the brain that are powerful stimulators of hunger (14).

I often say that if you are fat, it may not be your fault. The blame can be placed on your genes and recent changes in the human food supply that are changing their expression, especially in the dopamine reward system. However, once you know what causes the problem, you have the potential to correct it. If you are apparently addicted to food, the answer may very well lie in an anti-inflammatory diet coupled with high-dose fish oil.

References

  1. Wang GJ, Volkow ND, Logan J, Pappas NR, Wong CT, Zhu W, Netusil N, and Fowler JS. “Brain dopamine and obesity.” Lancet 357: 354-357 (2001)
  2. Thanos PK, Michaelides M, Piyis YK, Wang GJ, and Volkow ND. “Food restriction markedly increases dopamine D2 receptor (D2R) in a rat model of obesity as assessed with in-vivo muPET imaging and in-vitro autoradiography.” Synapse 62: 50-61 (2008)
  3. Steele KE, Prokopowicz GP, Schweitzer MA, Magunsuon TH, Lidor AO, Kuwabawa H, Kumar A, Brasic J, and Wong DF. “Alterations of central dopamine receptors before and after gastric bypass surgery.” Obes Surg 20: 369-374 (2010)
  4. Stice E, Yokum S, Blum K, and Bohon C. “Weight gain is associated with reduced striatal response to palatable food.” J Neurosci 30 :13105-13109 (2010)
  5. Ludwig DS, Majzoub JA, Al-Zahrani A, Dallal GE, Blanco I, and Roberts SB. “High glycemic-index foods, overeating, and obesity.” Pediatrics 103: E26 (1999)
  6. Agus MS, Swain JF, Larson CL, Eckert EA, and Ludwig DS. “Dietary composition and physiologic adaptations to energy restriction.” Am J Clin Nutr 71: 901-7 (2000)
  7. Jonsson T, Granfeldt Y, Erlanson-Albertsson C, Ahren B, and Lindeberg S. “A paleolithic diet is more satiating per calorie than a mediterranean-like diet in individuals with ischemic heart disease.” Nutr Metab 7:85 (2010)
  8. Pereira MA, Swain J, Goldfine AB, Rifai N, and Ludwig DS. “Effects of a low glycemic-load diet on resting energy expenditure and heart disease risk factors during weight loss.” JAMA 292: 2482-2490 (2004)
  9. Pittas AG, Roberts SB, Das SK, Gilhooly CH, Saltzman E, Golden J, Stark PC, and Greenberg AS. “The effects of the dietary glycemic load on type 2 diabetes risk factors during weight loss.” Obesity 14: 2200-2209 (2006)
  10. Johnston CS, Tjonn SL, Swan PD, White A, Hutchins H, and Sears B. “Ketogenic low-carbohydrate diets have no metabolic advantage over nonketogenic low-carbohydrate diets.” Am J Clin Nutr 83: 1055-1061 (2006)
  11. Chalon S, Delion-Vancassel S, Belzung C, Guilloteau D, Leguisquet AM, Besnard JC, and Durand G. “Dietary fish oil affects monoaminergic neurotransmission and behavior in rats.“ J Nutr 128: 2512-2519 (1998)
  12. Chalon S. “Omega-3 fatty acids and monoamine neurotransmission. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids 75: 259-269 (2006)
  13. Sorgi PJ, Hallowell EM, Hutchins HL, and Sears B. “Effects of an open-label pilot study with high-dose EPA/DHA concentrates on plasma phospholipids and behavior in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.” Nutr J 6: 16 (2007)
  14. Watanabe S, Doshi M, and Hamazaki T. “n-3 Polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) deficiency elevates and n-3 PUFA enrichment reduces brain 2-arachidonylglycerol level in mice.” Prostaglandin Leukot Essent Fatty Acids 69:51–59 (2003)

Nothing contained in this blog is intended to be instructional for medial diagnosis or treatment. If you have a medical concern or issue, please consult your personal physician immediately.

When is a diet not a diet?

One of the major problems in nutrition is the lack of rigor in describing diets. The first problem is that the root of the word diet comes from the ancient Greek phrase “way of life”. A diet is not a short-term plan to fit into a swimsuit, but rather it is a way of life to reach a lifetime goal, like a longer and better life. If your goal is less grand like simply to lose weight, then to lose that weight and keep it off, you had better maintain that diet for the rest of your life. From that perspective, a diet like the Grapefruit diet doesn’t make much sense.

The second problem is the lack of precision in defining a diet. My definition of a diet is based on the macronutrient balance that ultimately determines hormonal responses. From this perspective, there are really only four diets based on the glycemic load, assuming that each diet contains the same number of calories.

Diet Common Name
Very low glycemic-load diet Ketogenic (i.e. Atkins diet)
Low glycemic-load diet Non-ketogenic (i.e. Zone Diet)
High glycemic-load diet American Heart (or Diabetes or Cancer, etc.) Association diet
Very high glycemic-load diet Strict vegetarian (i.e. Ornish diet)

Assuming these diets have an equal number of calories, you can then rank them in terms of the total amount of calories coming from protein, carbohydrates and fat as shown below:

Diet Macronutrient Composition
Very low glycemic-load diet 30% P, 10% C, and 60% F
Low glycemic-load diet 30% P, 40% C, and 30% F
High glycemic-load diet 15% P, 55% C, and 30% F
Very high glycemic-load diet 10% P, 80% C, and 10% F

You can see that depending on the macronutrient composition of the diet you choose to follow, it will generate very different hormonal responses. A ketogenic diet will induce increased cortisol levels that make you fat and keep you fat. High-glycemic diets induce excess insulin levels that make you fat and keep you fat. It’s only a low-glycemic diet that has been shown to burn fat faster (1) as well as maintain weight loss most effectively (2).

That’s why unless you define a diet carefully in terms of macronutrient balance, you can’t ever undertake any meaningful nutritional research to validate whether or not it achieves its stated goal. This is why most diet studies produce such conflicting results.

The wild card is which food ingredients you choose for a particular diet. This is where much of the confusion emerges as people throw around arbitrary terms like a Paleolithic diet or a Mediterranean diet. What the heck is a Mediterranean diet? Is it the diet from Morocco, Lebanon, Italy, or Spain? What you can do, however, is to review the food ingredients found in these diets.

For example, Paleolithic food ingredients would consist only of fruits, vegetables, nuts, grass-fed beef, eggs, and fish. A pretty limited group of foods to choose from, but it was all that was available to man 10,000 years ago. Mediterranean food ingredients include all of those in the Paleolithic group but now adding whole grains, alcohol, legumes, and dairy products. These were the dietary choices available about 2,000 years ago — a more diverse number of food choices for a particular diet, but now with a greater potential for generating inflammatory responses. Finally, there are the “Do-You-Feel-Lucky” food ingredients. This includes very recent additions to the human diet, such as sugar, refined carbohydrates and vegetable oils. These are food ingredients that make processed foods possible. However, they carry with them the greatest potential to increase cellular inflammation. Remember, it is increased cellular inflammation that makes you fat, sick, and dumb.

So if you want to be correct about the use of the word diet, then you should use the right terms. It could be an anti inflammatory diet using only Paleolithic food ingredients (i.e. a Paleo Zone Diet), or an anti inflammatory diet using only Mediterranean food ingredients (i.e. a Mediterranean Zone Diet), or even an anti inflammatory diet using the “Do-You-Feel-Lucky” food ingredients. This designation includes the most recent additions (sugar, refined carbohydrates, and vegetable oils) that have the greatest impact on inducing cellular inflammation, regardless of the macronutrient balance. Ultimately important are the hormonal responses of the macronutrient balance of the diet (especially after avoiding the worst offenders in the “Do-You-Feel-Lucky” group). The more restrictive your choices for food ingredients for any diet, the better the hormonal outcome for that particular diet. In particular, the primary clinical outcome for the anti inflammatory diet is the life-long management of cellular inflammation. And for that clinical parameter, the clinical research has found the anti inflammatory diet to be the clear winner regardless of the food ingredients selected (3-5).

References

  1. Layman DK, Evans EM, Erickson D, Seyler J, Weber J,; Bagshaw D, Griel A, Psota T, and Kris-Etherton P. “A moderate-protein diet produces sustained weight loss and long-term changes in body composition and blood lipids in obese adults.” J Nutr 139: 514-521 (2009)
  2. Larsen TM, Dalskov SM, van Baak M, Jebb SA, Papadaki A, Pfeiffer AF, Martinez JA, Handjieva-Darlenska T, Kunesova M, Pihlsgard M, Stender S; Holst C, Saris WH, and Astrup A. “Diets with high or low protein content and glycemic index for weight-loss maintenance.” N Engl J Med 363: 2102-2113 (2010)
  3. Pereira MA, Swain J, Goldfine AB, Rifai N, and Ludwig DS. “Effects of a low glycemic-load diet on resting energy expenditure and heart disease risk factors during weight loss.” JAMA 292: 2482-2490 (2004)
  4. Johnston CS, Tjonn SL, Swan PD, White A, Hutchins H, and Sears B. “Ketogenic low-carbohydrate diets have no metabolic advantage over nonketogenic low-carbohydrate diets.” Am J Clin Nutr 83: 1055-1061 (2006)
  5. Pittas AG, Roberts SB, Das SK, Gilhooly CH, Saltzman E, Golden J, Stark PC, and Greenberg AS. “The effects of the dietary glycemic load on type 2 diabetes risk factors during weight loss.” Obesity 14: 2200-2209 (2006)

Nothing contained in this blog is intended to be instructional for medial diagnosis or treatment. If you have a medical concern or issue, please consult your personal physician immediately.

The new “eat less” USDA Food Pyramid

For the first time in recent history the new USDA dietary guidelines finally reflect the realization that America has an obesity epidemic.

Five years ago, its dietary guidelines were best characterized as “eat more; exercise more”. After all, their constituency is not the American public but American agribusiness. Due to the constant fear of incurring the wrath of powerful food lobbies, the USDA dietary recommendations were virtually useless in preventing the spread of obesity and diabetes in America.

Now the Guidelines are somewhat helpful as they suggest that fruits and vegetables should occupy one-half your plate. Although that volume is not equal to the two-thirds of the plate that I have advocated for more than 15 years, at least it is a start. Unfortunately, the “eat-less” message is more deeply buried within the Guidelines.

This is because the “eat-less” message is a difficult one to digest for American agribusiness, whose revenue growth is based on “eat more”. Today agribusiness produces more than 4,000 calories per day for every American. For Americans to eat less, every sector of agribusiness (except the fruit and vegetable sector) has to make less money. In reality these new guidelines don't come out and actually say eat less of anything.

When the secretary of agriculture was asked if the guidelines might suggest something like eating less meat, his response was like asking President Clinton his definition of sex — it depends. (Well, that remark will drive comments for sure!). Obviously, he didn't want to offend the meat lobby.

The one segment of the agribusiness sector the USDA was willing to throw under the bus was the salt lobby due to the strong USDA message to eat less salt. Of course, the Salt Institute responded, “Obesity, not salt, is the main culprit in rising blood pressure rates”. The obvious implication is salt has no calories; therefore, the blame should be on those sectors of agribusiness that sell products that contain calories. Unfortunately, it is the responsibility of the USDA to promote those specific sectors.

If you are encouraged to increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables, eat more seafood (just forget about contamination), and replace dairy with soy protein, then what do you have to reduce in order to eat fewer calories? The usual suspects would be saturated fats, (which Harvard now tells us aren't so bad for heart disease), and sugar. Unfortunately, those recommendations are buried deep within the report. Without those ingredients it is difficult to make the tasty, cheap processed foods that drive the profits of agribusiness. This sounds very similar to our current budget crisis: No one wants to raise taxes, and no one wants to lower spending, although everyone wants to reduce the deficit.

Finally, the new guidelines contain the message that there is “no optimal proportion of macronutrients that can facilitate weight loss or assist in maintaining weight loss”. Maybe they should read the DIOGENES study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that came to an opposite conclusion (1). Of course, why let published nutritional science stand in the way of intuitive eating. I guess we will have to wait another five years for the next update of the USDA Guidelines.

References

  1. Larsen TM, Dalskov SM, van Baak M, Jebb SA, Papadaki A, Pfeiffer AF, Martinez JA, Handjieva-Darlenska T, Kunesova M, Pihlsgard M, Stender S, Holst C, Saris WH, and Astrup A. “Diets with high or low-protein content and glycemic index for weight-loss maintenance.” N Engl J Med 363: 2102-2113 (2010)

Nothing contained in this blog is intended to be instructional for medial diagnosis or treatment. If you have a medical concern or issue, please consult your personal physician immediately.

Lights off for weight loss

I have often said that weight loss is a lot more complicated than simply “eating less and exercising more”. New research indicates how much more complicated weight gain is due to circadian rhythms. Our brain and virtually all of our cells are programmed to run on a 24-hour cycle to help us optimize future events (like sleep and eating) that are essential for life. In fact, even fungi have these biological clocks. There is a central clock in the brain that responds to light and dark by releasing the hormone melatonin. Melatonin, as well as other hormones, prepares the individual cells in different organs for an anticipated stimulus that allows those organs to rapidly respond with the greatest efficiency. The adipose tissue is one of those organs. This is why the uptake and release of fatty acids by the adipose tissue has a strong circadian rhythm (1). One hormone that is exclusively released by the fat cells is leptin. Both leptin and ghrelin (the hunger hormone released from the gut) are also under circadian control (2).

The bottom line is that as our light/dark cycles are becoming more distorted, the hormones that affect our appetite are also being adversely affected. It is known that sleep-deprived individuals are more inflamed (3) as well as have abnormalities in glucose metabolism (4).

New research indicates that increased light during the normal sleeping cycle for mice increases their weight and their fat mass (5). Most disturbing is that you only need a very dim light on during their normal sleep cycle to increase weight gain in the animals. The more intense the light during their normal sleep cycle, the greater the weight gain.

This is also true for humans, as discussed in an online pre-publication release that will be published in the March 2011 issue of the Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism (6). In this study, subjects were exposed to dim lighting (about one-half the intensity of a typical office light) for eight hours prior to bedtime; then the release of melatonin would be completely suppressed for about 90 minutes after they started sleeping. Just like the mice, if the light was on, even dimly, while they were sleeping, their melatonin levels were depressed by about 50 percent. The less melatonin you release during sleep, the more body fat you accumulate.

This leads to an interesting thought. It is known that increased television viewing and prolonged computer use leads to increased weight gain. It has always been assumed that this was because the person was not exercising. This new data strongly suggests it is not a lack of physical activity that is the problem, but the disturbances in circadian rhythms that may be the underlying problem. It’s hard to exercise in the dark, but you sure can sleep better and get thinner in the process if you keep the lights off.

References

1. Bray MS and Young ME. “Circadian rhythms in the development of obesity: potential role for the circadian clock within the adipocyte.” Obesity Rev 8: 169-181 (2006)

2. Karla SP, Bagnasco M, Otukonyong EE, Dube MG, and Kalra PS. Rhythmic, reciprocal ghrelin and leptin signaling: new insight in the development of obesity.” Regulatory Peptides 111: 1-11 (2003)

3. Vgontzas AN, Papanicolaou DA, Bixler EO, Kales A, Tyson K, and Chrousos GP. “Elevation of plasma cytokines in disorders of excessive daytime sleepiness.” J Clin Endocrinol Metab 82: 1313-1316 (1997)

4. Spiegel K, Leproult R, and Van Cauter E. “Impact of sleep debt on metabolic and endocrine function.” Lancet 354: 1435-1439 (1999)

5. Fonken LK, Workman, JL, Walton JC, Weil ZM, Morris JS, Haim A, and Nelson RJ. “Light at night increases body mass by shifting the time of food intake.” Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 107: 18664-18669 (2010)

6. Gooley JJ, Chamberlain K, Smith KA, Shalsa SBS, Rajaatnam SMW, van Reen E, Zeitzer JM, Czeisler CA, and Lockley SW. “Exposure to room light before bedtime suppresses melatonin onset and shortens melatonin duration in humans.” J Clin Endocrino Metabol doi:10.1210/jc.2010-2098

Nothing contained in this blog is intended to be instructional for medial diagnosis or treatment. If you have a medical concern or issue, please consult your personal physician immediately.

Increased satiety: The real secret to weight loss

Satiety is defined as lack of hunger. If you aren’t hungry, then cutting back calories is easy. Unfortunately, Americans seem to be hungrier than ever. This is not caused by a lack of willpower but due to hormonal imbalances in the hypothalamus that tell the brain to either seek more food or spend time on more productive activities. So the real question is not what is the best diet for weight loss, but what is the best diet for satiety?

the anti inflammatory diet has been clinically shown to burn fat faster than standard, recommended diets (1-3) as well as decreasing hunger compared to standard, recommended diets (4,5). But then whoever said that standard, recommended diets (like the USDA Food Pyramid) are good? A better comparison might be the anti inflammatory diet versus a Mediterranean diet.

I have often said that the anti inflammatory diet should be considered as the evolution of the Mediterranean diet because of its enhanced hormonal control. So where is the data for my contention?

The first randomized controlled research appeared in 2007 using patients with existing heart disease (6). In this study, while both groups lost weight, it was only the group on a Paleolithic diet that had any benefits in glucose reduction. So what’s a Paleolithic diet? In this study it was one that supplied 40 percent of the calories as low-glycemic-load carbohydrates, 28 percent of the calories as low-fat protein, and 28 percent from fat (the remaining calories came from alcohol, which didn’t exist in Paleolithic times). That sounds exactly like the anti inflammatory diet to me, so I will simply call it that. On the other hand, the Mediterranean diet was lower in protein (20 percent) and higher in carbohydrates (50 percent) as well as containing far more cereals and dairy products than the anti inflammatory diet.

The interesting thing that came out of this initial study was that patients on the anti inflammatory diet were apparently eating fewer calories, but with greater satiety. So they repeated the study again with another set of cardiovascular patients, except they measured leptin levels this time. The results were exactly the same (7), that is the anti inflammatory diet was more satiating per calorie, and there was also a greater reduction in leptin levels. This makes perfect sense since improved glycemic control seen in the first comparison study (6) would have been a consequence of reducing insulin resistance. The decrease in the leptin levels in the second study (7) would have been a consequence of the reduction of leptin resistance. The most likely cause of this hormone resistance would be the anti-inflammatory benefits of the anti inflammatory diet because it decreases cellular inflammation. It’s cellular inflammation that disrupts hormonal signaling efficiency and causes hormone resistance.

So here we have two randomized controlled studies (6,7) that indicate the superiority of the anti inflammatory diet compared to Mediterranean diet relative to reducing hormone resistance as well providing greater satiety with fewer calories, just as demonstrated in earlier studies when the anti inflammatory diet was compared to standard recommended diets (4,5). It is increased satiety that is ultimately how you lose weight and keep it off. The anti inflammatory diet appears the easiest way to reach that goal.

References

1. Layman DK, Boileau RA, Erickson DJ, Painter JE, Shiue H, Sather C, and Christou DD. “A reduced ratio of dietary carbohydrate to protein improves body composition and blood lipid profiles during weight loss in adult women.” J Nutr 133: 411-417 (2003)

2. Lasker DA, Evans EM, and Layman DK, “Moderate-carbohydrate, moderate-protein weight-loss diet reduces cardiovascular disease risk compared to high-carbohydrate, low-protein diet in obese adults. A randomized clinical trial.” Nutrition and Metabolism 5: 30 (2008)

3. Fontani G, Corradeschi F, Felici A, Alfatti F, Bugarini R, Fiaschi AI, Cerretani D, Montorfano G, Rizzo AM and Berra B. “Blood profiles, body fat and mood state in healthy subjects on different diets supplemented with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.” Eur J Clin Invest 35: 499-507 (2005)

4. Ludwig DS, Majzoub JA, Al-Zahrani A, Dallal GE, Blanco I, and Roberts SB. “High glycemic-index foods, overeating, and obesity.” Pediatrics 103:e26 (1999)

5. Agus MSD, Swain JF, Larson CL, Eckert E, and Ludwig DS. “Dietary composition and physiological adaptations to energy restriction.” Am J Clin Nutr 71: 901-907 (2000)

6. Lindberg S, Jonsson T, Granfeldt Y, Borgstrand E, Soffman J, Sjostrom K and Ahren B. “A Paleolithic diet improves glucose tolerance more than a Mediterrean-like diet in individuals with ischaemic heart disease.” Diabetologia 50: 1795-1807 (2007)

7. Jonsson T, Granfeldt Y, Erlanson-Albertsson, Ahren B, and Lindeber S. “A Paleolithic diet is more satiating per calorie than a Mediterrean-like diet in individuals with ischemic heart disease.” Nutrition & Metabolism 7:85 (2010)

Nothing contained in this blog is intended to be instructional for medial diagnosis or treatment. If you have a medical concern or issue, please consult your personal physician immediately.

Why the Atkins diet doesn’t work and never will

The goal of any diet is to help you lose excess weight and keep it off. The first part is relatively easy to achieve; the second part is incredibly difficult to maintain. Any diet that restricts calories will do the first part, but invariably the lost weight returns. This is definitely the situation for the Atkins diet. I knew Bob Atkins well, and the only answer he had as to why people regain weight on his diet was that they are addicted to carbohydrates. Frankly, I never bought into that explanation from Bob any more than I believed the reasoning of the advocates for low-fat diets saying the failure to maintain weight loss is because people are addicted to fat. To paraphrase former President Clinton, “It’s the hormones, stupid.”

In most cases what really causes weight regain is cellular inflammation induced by hormonal imbalance. This is why any diet that uses the word “low” or “high” to describe itself will induce hormonal imbalance, and therefore ultimately fail. Low-fat diets are generally high-carbohydrate diets. High levels of carbohydrates will increase the production of insulin, which is the hormone that makes you fat and keeps you fat. This increase in insulin will generate increased cellular inflammation that increases the likelihood for weight regain (1). On the other hand, the Atkins diet is a low-carbohydrate diet that is also a high-fat diet. If those fats on the Atkins diet are rich in saturated and omega-6 fats (which they usually are), then their presence will also increase cellular inflammation (1). This increase in cellular inflammation (by either type of diet) disrupts hormonal signaling patterns (especially for insulin signaling) that generate increased insulin resistance. This was shown in one of my earlier research articles that demonstrated that under carefully controlled clinical conditions, following the Atkins diet shows significant increases in cellular inflammation compared to those subjects following the Zone Diet (2). In addition, there was decreased endurance capacity of the subjects on the Atkins diet compared to those on the Zone Diet (3).

The differences are probably due to the fact that the  anti inflammatory diet is a diet that is moderate in protein, carbohydrate and fat. It’s this type of dietary moderation of macronutrients that generates hormonal balance.Now new data from Yale Medical School indicates that a ketogenic (i.e. Atkins) diet may even have worse health implications than simply weight regain (4). In this study, it was demonstrated that although indicators of insulin resistance in the blood may be decreased on a ketogenic diet, insulin resistance in the liver was dramatically increased. Since the liver is the central processing organ for controlling metabolism, this would suggest that long-term use of the Atkins diet would cause metabolic problems leading to accumulation of excess fat. Adding even more fuel to this hormonal fire is another study that demonstrated that a ketogenic diet leads to increased production of cortisol (another hormone that makes you fat and keeps you fat) in the fat cells (5). Any increase in cortisol increases insulin resistance in that particular organ.

So it appears that ketogenic diets (like the Atkins diet) may initially reduce insulin levels in the blood, but increase insulin resistance in organs, such as the liver and the adipose tissue. The bottom line: Any initial weight loss with the Atkins diet is a false hope since it causes insulin resistance in various organs that ultimately cause the regain of any lost weight as excess fat. That’s a very bad prescription.

References:
1. Sears B. “Toxic Fat.” Thomas Nelson. Nashville, TN (2008)
2. Johnston CS, Tjonn SL, Swan PD, White A, Hutchins H, and Sears B. “Ketogenic low-carbohydrate diets have no metabolic advantage over nonketogenic low-carbohydrate diets.” Am J Clin Nutr 83: 1055-1061 (2006)
3. White AM, Johnston CS, Swan PD, Tjonn SL, and Sears B. “Blood ketones are directly related to fatigue and perceived effort during exercise in overweight adults adhering to low-carbohydrate diets for weight loss: a pilot study.” J Am Diet Assoc 107: 1792-1796 (2007)

4. Jornayvaz FR, Jurczak MJ, Lee HY, Birkenfeld AL, Frederick DW, Zhang D, Zhang XM, Samuel VT, and Shulman GI. “A high-fat, ketogenic diet causes hepatic insulin resistance in mice, despite increasing energy expenditure and preventing weight gain.” Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 299: E808-815 (2010)
5. Stimson RH, Johnstone AM, Homer NZ, Wake DJ, Morton NM, Andrew R, Lobley GE, and Walker BR. “Dietary macronutrient content alters cortisol metabolism independently of body weight changes in obese men.” J Clin Endocrinol Metab 92: 4480-4484 (2007)

Nothing contained in this blog is intended to be instructional for medial diagnosis or treatment. If you have a medical concern or issue, please consult your personal physician immediately.

Want to lose Weight? Eat like our Paleolithic ancestors

A recent article appeared in the British Journal of Nutrition that gives an updated estimate of what diet (i.e. Paleolithic) our ancestors may have eaten during the time from their first appearance in Africa some 200,000 years ago until they started leaving Africa 100,000 years later (1). This is important because this type of diet until 10,000 years ago (with the advent of agriculture) was the nutritional foundation through which our genes evolved. Since our diet and gene expression are intimately tied together (2), understanding the dietary forces that molded how our genes respond to diet is important. This is particularly true since nutritional science has many conflicting interactions that make the study of a single nutrient often result in conflicting data. One such example is the study of insulin responses induced by the diet without studying the impact of fatty acid composition on insulin secretion and vice versa. This is why the study of Paleolithic nutrition provides a template to ask questions to optimize our current diet. In fact, I actually I stated this on page 99 of my first book, “The Zone” (3).

So what are the newest updates on the composition of the Paleolithic diet of our African ancestors? It appears the protein content was between 25 and 29 percent, the carbohydrates were about 40 percent and the total fat was about 30-36 percent. If that sounds familiar to the 30 percent protein, 40 percent carbohydrate, and 30 percent fat ratio in the anti inflammatory diet, it should. Essentially the newest estimate of the Paleolithic diet of our human ancestors in Africa is the anti inflammatory diet.

Equally important, it was estimated that the intake of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) was about 6 grams per day. This is similar to my recommendations in “The OmegaRx Zone,” published in 2002 (4). The dietary ratio of arachidonic acid (AA) to EPA was also estimated in this article and was found to be about 2. Since the dietary intake of these fatty acids would be reflected in the blood, then we can assume the AA/EPA ratio in Paleolithic man was about 2. This AA/EPA ratio is again strikingly similar to the recommendations in my various books about what the best AA/EPA ratio should be for optimal control of the cellular inflammation, which leads to the acceleration of chronic disease (4-6).

When you follow the Paleolithic diet (a.k.a. the anti inflammatory diet), you find almost instantaneous changes in hormonal responses (7, 8) and improved glycemic control (8,9) before there is any weight loss. And if you continue to follow it, you not only lose weight, but also burn fat faster (11-14).

Was I just taking lucky guesses on my recommendations for the anti inflammatory diet over the past 15 years? I would like to think they were not lucky guesses, but based on insight coming from my background in drug delivery technology that strives for a therapeutic zone for optimal results. The lucky part was having the perseverance to stay true to those insights. On the other hand, it is always nice to get validation even 15 years after the fact.

References
1. Kuipers RS, Luxwolda MF, Dijck-Brouwer DJA, Eaton SB, Crawford, MA, Cordain L, and Muskiet FAJ. “Estimate macronutrient and fatty acid intakes from an East African paleolithic diet.” British J Nutr 104: 1666-1687 (2010)
2. Sears B and Ricordi C. “Anti-Inflammatory nutrition as a pharmacological approach to treat obesity.” J Obesity published online September 30, 2010. doi: 10.1155/2011/431985. (2010)
3. Sears B. “The Zone.” Regan Books. New York, NY (1995)
4. Sears B. “The OmegaRx Zone.” Regan Books. New York, NY (2002)
5. Sears B. “The Anti-Inflammation Zone.” Regan Books. New York, NY (2005)
6. Sears B. “Toxic Fat.” Nelson Publishing. Nashville, TN (2008)
7. Ludwig DS, Majzoub JA, Al-Zahrani A, Dallal GE, Blanco I, and Roberts SB. “High-glycemic-index foods, overeating, and obesity.” Pediatrics 103: E26 (1999)
8. Markovic TP, Jenkins AB, Campbell LV, Furler SM, Kragen EW, and Chisholm DJ. “The determinants of glycemic responses to diet restriction and weight loss in obesity and NIDDM.” Diabetes Care 21: 687-694 (1998)
9. Lindberg S, Jonsson T, Granfeldt Y, Borgstrand E, Soffman J, Sjorstrom K, and Ahren B. “A Paleolithic diet improves glucose tolerance more than a Mediterranean-like diet in individuals with ischaemic heart disease.” Diabetologia 50: 1795-1807 (2007)
10. Frassetto LA, Schloetter M, Mietus-Synder M, Morris RC, and Sebastian A. “Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a Paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet.” Eur J Clin Nutr 63: 947-955 (2009)
11. Osterdahl M. Kocturk T. Koochek A, and Wandell PE. “Effects of a short-term intervention with a Paleolithic diet in healthy volunteers.” Eur J Clin Nutr 62: 682-685 (2008)
12. Layman DK, Boileau RA, Erickson DJ, Painter JE, Shiue H, Sather C, and Christou DD. “A reduced ratio of dietary carbohydrate to protein improves body composition and blood lipid profiles during weight loss in adult women.” J Nutr 133: 411-417 (2003)
13. Lasker DA, Evans EM, and Layman DK, “Moderate carbohydrate, moderate protein weight loss diet reduces cardiovascular disease risk compared to high-carbohydrate, low-protein diet in obese adults. A randomized clinical trial.” Nutrition and Metabolism 5: 30 (2008)
14. Fontani G, Corradeschi F, Felici A, Alfatti F, Bugarini R, Fiaschi AI, Cerretani D, Montorfano G, Rizzo AM and Berra B. “Blood profiles, body fat and mood state in healthy subjects on different diets supplemented with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.” Eur J Clin Invest 35: 499-507 (2005)

Nothing contained in this blog is intended to be instructional for medial diagnosis or treatment. If you have a medical concern or issue, please consult your personal physician immediately.

Weight loss or fat loss? It makes a difference

With the New Year comes the guaranteed resolution for most people to lose weight. Invariably that resolution is usually abandoned some time in February. Part of the reason is that we really don’t know what we are talking about when it comes to weight loss. Weight loss is composed of three separate components: water loss, muscle loss, and fat loss. If you restrict calories, you are going to lose weight. What that weight loss might consist of (water, muscle, or fat) is a very different question.

There are no health benefits to water loss (i.e. dehydration) or muscle loss (i.e. protein deprivation), but there is something magical about fat loss. If you can lose excess body fat, then you are virtually guaranteed to lower blood sugar levels, blood lipid levels, and blood pressure. Not surprisingly, drugs used to reduce blood sugar, blood lipids and blood pressure are the biggest sellers in the country.

Considering the continuing outcry to reverse our obesity epidemic, no one seems to bother to measure fat loss in any clinical trials. This is why you see a lot of research studies published stating it doesn’t matter what diet you follow because if you restrict calories, you will lose weight. I agree with that statement. But if you want better health (not to mention looking better in a swimsuit), then you want to make sure that you are losing fat at the fastest possible rate while conserving muscle mass at the same time. The published clinical studies that have looked at fat loss make it very clear that the anti inflammatory diet is the best dietary strategy to burn fat faster (1-3).

If the moderate-carbohydrate anti inflammatory diet is good, then shouldn’t an even lower-carbohydrate diet like the Atkins diet be better? Not so fast. The published studies comparing the anti inflammatory diet to the Atkins diet make it clear that there are no benefits to consuming a lower-carbohydrate diet that generates ketosis, but there are plenty of negative consequences, such as increased cellular inflammation and decreased capacity for exercise (4,5).

But losing weight is relatively easy compared to keeping it off. That’s why the recent DIOGENES study is so important (6). This study makes it very clear that if you want to keep lost weight off, then your best choice is maintaining a diet that has at least 25 percent of the calories coming from protein, and about 40 percent of the calories coming from low-glycemic carbohydrates. That’s the anti inflammatory diet.

So if your New Year’s resolution is to lose weight (and really lose fat) and keep it off, then the anti inflammatory diet should be your only choice.

References

1. Layman DK, Boileau RA, Erickson DJ, Painter JE, Shiue H, Sather C, and Christou DD. “A reduced ratio of dietary carbohydrate to protein improves body composition and blood lipid profiles during weight loss in adult women.” J Nutr 133: 411-417 (2003)
2. Lasker DA, Evans EM, and Layman DK, “Moderate-carbohydrate, moderate-protein weight-loss diet reduces cardiovascular disease risk compared to high-carbohydrate, low-protein diet in obese adults. A randomized clinical trial.” Nutrition and Metabolism 5: 30 (2008)
3. Fontani G, Corradeschi F, Felici A, Alfatti F, Bugarini R, Fiaschi AI, Cerretani D, Montorfano G, Rizzo AM and Berra B. “Blood profiles, body fat and mood state in healthy subjects on different diets supplemented with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.” Eur J Clin Invest 35: 499-507 (2005)
4. Johnston CS, Tjonn SL, Swan PD, White A, Hutchins H, and Sears B. “Ketogenic low-carbohydrate diets have no metabolic advantage over nonketogenic low-carbohydrate diets.” Am J Clin Nutr 83: 1055-1061 (2006)
5. White AM, Johnston CS, Swan PD, Tjonn SL, and Sears B. “Blood ketones are directly related to fatigue and perceived effort during exercise in overweight adults adhering to low-carbohydrate diets for weight loss: a pilot study.” J Am
Diet Assoc 107:1792-1796 (2007)
6. Larsen TM, Dalskov SM, van Baak M, Jebb SA, Papadaki A, Pfeiffer AF, Martinez JA, Handjieva-Darlenska T, Kunesova M, Pihlsgard M, Stender S, Holst C, Saris WH, and Astrup A. “Diets with high or low protein content and glycemic index for weight-loss maintenance.” N Engl J Med 363: 2102-2113 (2010)

Nothing contained in this blog is intended to be instructional for medial diagnosis or treatment. If you have a medical concern or issue, please consult your personal physician immediately.

Diet important in weight-loss maintenance

Losing weight is easy. The challenge lies in keeping the weight from coming back. Weight maintenance is difficult due to either psychological (motivation begins to decline over time) or physiological (an increase in hunger that often accompanies weight loss) reasons (1). But as virtually everyone knows, regain of lost weight is usually certain. Against this background of gloom comes new hope, according to a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine that demonstrates the superiority of a low-glycemic, moderate-protein diet as an effective strategy for maintenance of initial weight loss (2).

The study took place in eight European countries. The first phase of the trial involved participants who were placed on a low-calorie diet consisting of 800-1,000 calories for eight weeks through which they lost on average 22 pounds of body weight (and who knows how much muscle mass). After the weight-loss phase, the individuals were randomly assigned to one of five different diets and instructed to maintain their weight loss, although further weight reduction was allowed as well. Of the five groups, the one assigned to the low-protein and high glycemic-index diet regained their lost weight. This is the typical type of dietary advice that is usually recommended to everyone.

On the other hand, the higher-protein, low glycemic-index group lost an additional 5 percent of their body weight. In addition, they were less likely to drop out and had a higher rate of weight-loss maintenance. The other diets were between these extremes.

The authors’ conclusion was that the use of a higher-protein and lower glycemic-index diet was the most beneficial dietary strategy for both weight-loss maintenance and adherence. Furthermore, this type of diet may serve as an effective strategy for those whose barrier to weight-loss maintenance in the past has been physiological rather than psychological (2).

Maybe they just should have recommended the subjects read “The Zone,” which made the same dietary recommendations 15 years ago (3).

References
1. Ludwig DS and Ebbeling CB. “Weight-loss maintenance–mind over matter?” N Engl J Med. 363: 2159-2161 (2010)
2. Larsen TM, Dalskov SM, van Baak M, Jebb SA, Papadaki A, Pfeiffer AF, Martinez JA, Handjieva-Darlenska T, Kunešová M, Pihlsgård M, Stender S, Holst C, Saris WH, and Astrup A. “Diet, Obesity, and Genes (Diogenes) Project. Diets with high or low protein content and glycemic index for weight-loss maintenance.” N Engl J Med 363: 2102-2113 (2010)
3. Sears B. “The Zone.” Regan Books. New York, NY (1995)

Nothing contained in this blog is intended to be instructional for medial diagnosis or treatment. If you have a medical concern or issue, please consult your personal physician immediately.

Is there a link between inflammation, intelligence and death?

According to a recent study in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, there appears to be a connection.  The study was based on data from a two-day nationwide survey conducted on 50,000 Swedish males 18-20 years of age in 1969-70 before they went into military service.  Blood samples were taken at that time to test for a general marker of inflammation known as ESR (erythrocyte sedimentation rate).  Although ESR is a very crude marker of inflammation, it was one of only a few available in the late ‘60s.  Then the blood samples were taken again 35 years later.  In their statistical analyses, the authors took into account a wide number of other variables, which may have influenced the results (socio-economic status, height, weight, blood pressure, smoking, etc.) and concluded that as inflammation (as measured by ESR) increased, there was a decline in IQ.  In addition, a higher level of inflammation at age 18–20 was significantly associated with an increased risk of mortality during a 35-year follow-up (1).  The results of the study show that even at an early age low-grade inflammation can significantly impact intelligence and premature death.

The underlying cause of chronic disease (and therefore early mortality) is increased cellular inflammation.  Likewise a drop in intelligence is usually an indication of an increase in dementia at an earlier age.  Dementia is also driven by cellular inflammation in the brain.   The most sensitive marker of cellular inflammation is the AA/EPA ratio in the blood.  Therefore it is not surprising that five years ago it was demonstrated the higher the AA/EPA ratio in the blood of elderly age-matched individuals, the greater their degree of their cognitive deficits (2).

The anti inflammatory diet was developed to reduce cellular inflammation and has been clinically validated to do exactly that (3,4).  So if you have a wish to live a longer and better life, then life-long control of cellular inflammation through the anti inflammatory diet makes perfect sense.  That’s why the anti inflammatory diet is not a diet but a way of life.

References
1.    Karlsson H, Ahlborg B, Dalman C, and Hemmingsson T.   “Association between erythrocyte sedimentation rate and IQ in Swedish males aged 18–20.” Brain, Behavior, and Immunity 24: 868–873 (2010)
2.    Conquer JA, Tierney MC, Zecevic J, Bettger WJ, and Fisher RH. “Fatty acid analysis of blood plasma of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, other types of dementia, and cognitive impairment.” Lipids 35:1305-1312 (2005)
3.    Pereira MA, Swain J, Goldfine AB, Rifai N, and Ludwig DS.  “Effects of a low glycemic-load diet on resting energy expenditure and heart disease risk factors during weight loss.” JAMA 292: 2482-2490 (2004)
4.    Johnston CS, Tjonn SL, Swan PD, White A, Hutchins H, and Sears B.  “Ketogenic low-carbohydrate diets have no metabolic advantage over nonketogenic low-carbohydrate diets.” Am J Clin Nutr 83: 1055-1061 (2006)

Nothing contained in this blog is intended to be instructional for medial diagnosis or treatment. If you have a medical concern or issue, please consult your personal physician immediately.