Losing Weight in the 21st Century

Losing weight today is not the same proposition as it was when American’s first began packing on the pounds after World War II. Most current weight loss programs continue to rely on old methods of weight loss that have been around since Jack Lalanne’s days. Unfortunately, as many people have found out, what once worked well, now no longer does. That’s because the reasons for weight gain are not the same as they once were. A new paradigm in thinking is therefore needed to account for the reasons people now gain weight.

Old school methods that continue to dominate, promote weight loss as a primary goal. “Lose weight to improve your health” is the mantra they promote. In fact, proper thinking would reverse the slogan. “Improve your health first which will then cause you to lose body fat as a consequence”. Note that there is a significant difference between losing body fat and weight, which may include loss of lean muscle mass; something totally unhealthy. In the 21st Century, the primary goal should be to improve your health, by lifestyle and dietary changes and by correcting biochemical deficiencies of essential nutrients. The result of this will be loss of body fat, in those individuals who have excess fat.

Many programs that promote weight loss, especially those that promise rapid weight loss do not, in fact, promote health. They encourage weight loss at the expense of health! There is no plan (including the hCG diet I discussed in the last issue of the Vacaville Magazine), that will cause you to safely “lose 30 pounds in 30 days” just like the celebrities all do, according to those highly regarded grocery stand rags. These plans may lead to weight loss, but not the type you want. Inappropriate weight loss will most assuredly cause you to lose lean muscle mass in addition to body fat. What the typical person trying desperately to lose pounds does not know is that when the body perceives that it is in starvation mode, it will preferentially use expendable skeletal muscle as an energy source over fat. The body will preserve fat at the expense of muscle! You will lose weight, but when you discontinue the unsustainable diet, guess what? You now have a lower amount of highly metabolically active muscle to burn calories, so you will now rebound and put on even more pounds of fat than before.

In our parent’s day, most people who were overweight were that way simply due to consumption of too many calories. The difference was that back then, most calories were of higher quality than today. Sure they had sugar and sodas, but their consumption didn’t begin to match the 120 pounds of sugar the average American now eats each year. Even more importantly, they did not have high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which is in almost every packaged food today. Studies have shown that HFCS is by far more damaging than sugar in causing blood sugar dysregulation, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and Advanced Fructation End-products (AFE’s). When glucose, and even worse, fructose are present, they become attached to protein molecules. This is considered as one cause of aging, as these proteins, whether they are structural or enzymes, now no longer function properly. This is clearly evidenced by the significant increased rates of cardiovascular disease and cancer seen in diabetics. It is also one of the major underlying causes of adult onset or type II diabetes (DMII) in the first place. This is evidenced by the dramatic increase in the rate of DMII in this country that parallels the introduction and increased use of HFCS.

Here are some sobering statistics that may give you pause to think:
1) There are about 26 million DMII now in this country as well as 54 million people with metabolic syndrome, the precursor of DMII. It is estimated that by 2030, one-third of Americans will be DMII. 85% of DMII are overweight.
2) The USA is the world leader in: diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
3) We rank 29th in infant mortality and 121st in adult mortality rate.
4) We have by far the highest health care costs per capita in the world. (Our health care system is working well isn’t it?).
5) Diabetes is the fifth leading cause of death in the USA (when accidents are omitted). It didn’t appear at all in 1900 as a top 10 leading cause.
6) Being either overweight or obese are independent risk factors of either developing or dying from: diabetes, heart disease, stroke, some cancers, Alzheimer’s, and metabolic syndrome.
7) Every one percent increase in your Body Mass Index (BMI) above 25% leads to a five to seven percent increased risk of heart failure. For every five percent increase in BMI above 25% there is a 30% increased risk of premature death from all causes. The obese die on average 10 years earlier than the non-obese.
8) In the U.S., 64% of the population is overweight, with 27% being obese. Obesity is responsible for 325,000 deaths at a cost of $75 billion (in 2003). Americans spent $61 billion on the weight loss market in 2008 (it’s not working too well is it?). It is estimated that 80% of the population will be overweight by 2018.

So what are the leading causes of weight gain in the 21st Century, in addition to excess consumption of sugar and HFCS? Here is my top 10 list:
1) Hormones affect weight! Stress and what you eat affect hormones. The most critical are: insulin, cortisol, thyroid, estrogen, progesterone, DHEA, thyroid, testosterone, leptin, and adiponectin. In turn, each of these hormones interacts with the others!
2) Skipping meals, reducing calories, becoming hungry. Any of these initiate hormonal changes that preserve body fat.
3) Eating refined sugars and grains. In addition to creating the damaging AGE’s and AFE’s mentioned above, eating refined carbohydrates is the quickest way to store energy as fat. In addition, they initiate a cascade of changes to the hormone levels noted in reason #1.

4) Overeating (duh), and consumption of “empty calories” (fast foods and #3 above). These foods are calorie rich and nutrient poor, leading to nutritional deficiencies. The body compensates for lack of essential nutrients by increasing hunger so you eat more to get the essential nutrients that you require to continue living.
5) Consuming alcohol (bummer), which consists solely of empty calories. Each gram of alcohol contains almost twice as many calories as carbohydrates and protein!
6) Consuming caffeinated beverages and sodas. Once again you consume empty calories, sugar or HFCS, as well as ingesting compounds that stimulate the hormone changes noted above, not to mention the consumption of potentially toxic preservatives and other ingredients.
7) No exercise or the wrong type of exercise. If you think those hours of “aerobic” exercise is the way to go, you would be dead wrong (no pun intended). The correct way to exercise to lose weight will be the topic of a future article. It only requires at most 20 minutes, three times per week and has the research to back it!
8) Too much stress. This causes alterations in cortisol levels, which affect insulin levels, fat storage and usage, among other hormonal changes.
9) Poor sleeping habits, once again affecting hormonal levels.
10) Perhaps the most critical factor affecting the ability to lose weight is poor liver function. Why? The liver processes a large portion of what we eat. What you absorb goes directly to the liver before entering the general circulation. Some of the factors that reduce the ability of the liver to function are: toxins in air, food and water, heavy metal toxicity, sugar, dysbiosis (overgrowth of unfriendly bacteria in the intestines), hidden infections, hormonal imbalances, immune system imbalances, oxidative damage caused by free radicals, and inflammatory chemicals produced by the body (cytokines and interleukins).

Implicit in the Top 10 List, but not formally stated are deficiencies of any of the forty or more essential nutrients that humans cannot produce but must consume to remain healthy and alive (vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, essential amino acids and conditionally essential nutrients).

Due to one or more of the above factors a vicious cycle of inflammation, toxicity and weight gain occurs. We can summarize by stating that essentially all factors that cause or contribute to weight gain, do so either directly or indirectly by causing inflammation. Obesity is an inflammatory disorder, like all other chronic, degenerative diseases’ including all those mentioned in this article. It does not exist in isolation. If you are obese it is highly probable that, to one degree or another, you are suffering from one or more additional chronic inflammatory conditions. There are multiple mechanisms by which inflammation either promotes weight gain or reduces the ability to lose weight. Here are two of them:
1) Cytokines (compounds produced by the body that are one of the primary causes of an inflammatory response), suppress an enzyme called hormone sensitive lipase. This enzyme, found inside cells, does two things: it initiates the production of steroid hormones from cholesterol and in fat cells, among others, it breaks down stored fat (triglycerides) into free fatty acids that can then be used in the mitochondria for energy.
2) Cytokines uncouple mitochondrial function. These are the cellular power plants. If they no longer run efficiently, you don’t produce adequate energy.

Going on the latest, greatest weight loss diet is not going to break this cycle. In fact, odds are, you will be in worse shape after you finish the newest fad because you have aggravated essential nutrient deficiencies, increased inflammatory processes, further altered normal hormone balance, and increased essential nutrient deficiencies.

So what should you do? First, get healthy; second, lose weight naturally as a consequence. Sounds easy, right? But how does one achieve this goal? For every complex problem there is a simple answer. Unfortunately, it’s the wrong one! Multiple factors led you to this point. To expect a single solution would be equivalent to betting your financial future on winning the lottery. It may happen, but it’s unlikely. A multi-factorial problem requires a multi-faceted solution. We can fortunately solve complex issues by breaking them down into their components. The components we want to evaluate are: ingestion, digestion, absorption, elimination, hormone balance, food sensitivities, oxidative damage, inflammatory status, essential nutrient deficiencies and mitochondrial efficiency.

In the second decade of the 21st century, we possess the technological means to accomplish this through the use of sophisticated laboratory tests that are capable of evaluating multiple parameters of each component noted above. We also need to establish a baseline of body fat percentage, maximum heart rate, lung volume, and how many calories you burn at rest, so we can objectively measure your progress. We want to provide the appropriate type of exercise to increase lean muscle mass and your metabolic rate; not inappropriate exercise that will reduce lean muscle mass, cause a stress response with increased cortisol levels, cause oxidative damage and thus inflammation, increase the risk of joint damage while not significantly improving heart or lung capacity. We want to use other technology when and where appropriate to help you with certain problem areas. We now have non-invasive, pain-free, low intensity lasers that research has established as effective in promoting spot weight reduction. We have other tools such as whole body vibration and infrared blankets to enhance the effect of the laser. We can employ research-proven targeted Nutriceuticals to reduce hunger, decrease the rate of absorption of carbohydrates and fat, reduce fat in the liver and increase the efficiency and number of mitochondria (the organelles that provide the majority of energy to every cell in the body. We can provide you with the belief you can succeed, the knowledge of how to succeed, an effective system to allow you to succeed, and can help you implement the entire plan.

The definition of insanity is to continue to do the same thing over and over and expect different results. If this sounds like you- quit making your primary goal to lose weight. Change it instead to trying to get healthy- and see what happens. You will be glad you did.