Our Bodies Are Starving For More Nutrients
68% of all Americans are overweight, and obesity has almost doubled in the last couple of decades worldwide.
While everyone assumes that overweight people eat too much, we will demonstrate that the real problem is that their bodies are starving for more food … of the right kind.
We’re Not Eating Enough: Vitamins and Minerals
Studies show that people with metabolic syndrome – associated with obesity – have significantly lower concentrations of vitamins C and E, and molecules associated with vitamin A. And see this and this.
Arizona State University reports that the amount of vitamin C in the blood stream is directly related to fat oxidation – the body’s ability to use fat as a fuel source – during both exercise and at rest.
Vitamin D levels are a good predictor for obesity: the lower the level of vitamin D, the more likely is obesity.
Scientists from Bastyr University found that vitamins B-6 and B-12 and chromium may slow down middle-aged weight gain.
Low levels of magnesium – which appear to increase oxidation – are associated with obesity.
We’re Not Drinking Enough: Water
Believe it or not, failing to drink enough water can also increase obesity. Specifically, your body needs water to metabolize your food. If you drink too little water, it will slow your metabolism … and you’ll pack away the pounds instead of burning them off. See this, this and this:
Researchers in Germany report that water consumption increases the rate at which people burn calories.
Michael Boschmann, MD, and colleagues from Berlin’s Franz-Volhard Clinical Research Center tracked energy expenditures among seven men and seven women who were healthy and not overweight.
After drinking approximately 17 ounces of water, the subjects’ metabolic rates — or the rate at which calories are burned — increased by 30% for both men and women. The increases occurred within 10 minutes of water consumption and reached a maximum after about 30 to 40 minutes.
The researchers estimate that over the course of a year, a person who increases his water consumption by 1.5 liters a day would burn an extra 17,400 calories, for a weight loss of approximately five pounds.
Other studies show that drinking water increases cell metabolism rats, increases the body’s production of heat (which speeds up the metabolism), and that hydration increases the burning of fat.
We’re Not Eating Enough: Fat
Believe it or not, eating too little fat can also cause us to gain weight.
For example, the British Journal of Nutrition reported in 1986 that the essential fatty acid EFA (one of the main omega 3s) decreased weight gain in genetically obese mice. The International Journal of Obesity reported in 1997 that omega 3 fish oil increases metabolism and burns more body fat. The same journal reported in 2001 that conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) decreases belly fat. CLA is mainly fed in grass-fed meats. And the reported in that CLA and n-3 PUFA (a type of omega 3 fatty acid) reduce belly fat.
A 2009 study from Brigham Young University and Women’s Hospital shows that a low-carb or Mediterranean diets – rich in vegetable fats like olive oil – are better for weight control than a low-fat diet.
As the Harvard School of Public Health notes – contrary to medical dogma – fats are not bad … they are essential for maintaining a health cholesterol level and good health. We just have to eat more good fats. See this and this.
On the other hand, Wake Forest University School of Medicine found in 2006 that trans fats increase obesity – even on the exact same calorie regimen:
“Diets rich in trans fat cause a redistribution of fat tissue into the abdomen and lead to a higher body weight even when the total dietary calories are controlled,” said Lawrence L. Rudel, Ph.D., professor of pathology and biochemistry and head of the Lipid Sciences Research Program.
“What it says is that trans fat is worse than anticipated,” Rudel said. “I was surprised.”
CBS News reported this week:
[Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of California] treats sick, obese children, who he believes are primarily sick because of the amount of sugar they ingest. He says this sugar not only leads to obesity, but to “Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and heart disease itself.”
A government commission in the 1970s mandated that we lower our fat consumption. “When you take the fat out of food, it tastes like cardboard,” says Dr. Lustig. “And the food industry knew that, so they replaced it with sugar…and guess what? Heart disease, metabolic syndrome [associated with obesity], diabetes and death are skyrocketing,” he tells Gupta.
Similarly, the Harvard School of Public Health notes:
One problem with a generic lower fat diet is that it prompts most people to stop eating fats that are good for the heart along with those that are bad for it. Another problem is that when people cut back on fat, they often switch to foods full of easily digested carbohydrates—white bread, white rice, potatoes, sugary drinks, and the like—or to fat-free products that replace healthful fats with sugar and refined carbohydrates. The body digests these carbohydrates very quickly, causing blood sugar and insulin levels to spike. Over time, eating lots of “fast carbs” can raise the risk of heart disease and diabetes as much as—or more than—eating too much saturated fat.
Indeed, eating too much sugar and too little nutritious food can induce leptin-resistance, which causes the body to go into fat-hoarding reaction such as exist in starvation conditions. (Leptin is the chemical produced by the body during famines, which signals us to hoard fat). Our bodies are literally starving for more nutrients. By eating too little healthy fat, for example, we are driven to eat more sugar, which then actually causes are body to hoard fat.
We’re Not Eating Enough: Antioxidants
Low levels of antioxidants are correlated with obesity. For example, low antioxidant levels in the bloods are associated with metabolic syndrome. Low levels of beta-carotene are associated with higher body mass index. And see this.
Vanderbilt University researchers note:
In recent years oxidative stress has been recognized as important in the pathogenesis [i.e. the mechanism by which the disease is caused] of many disease conditions, including obesity and the metabolic syndrome.
And see this. Increased oxidative stress precedes the onset of insulin resistance and obesity.
Antioxidants appear to regulate metabolism. And see this.
The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology notes:
Antioxidant vitamins have been shown to reduce the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Moreover, antioxidants reduce oxidative stress which influences endothelial function and might play a crucial role in the pathogenesis of obesity-related disorders.
Therefore, positive effects on subclinical inflammation … and metabolic risk factors in obese children during weight loss may be enhanced by supplementation with antioxidants.
CBS News reports that a new study shows that the antioxidants in chocolate may help people lose weight:
The study [published in the March 26 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine] found that people who frequently ate chocolate had a lower body mass index (BMI) than people who didn’t.
What explains the effect? Even though chocolate can be loaded with calories, it’s full of antioxidants and other ingredients that may promote weight loss, the researchers said.
“I was pretty happy with this news myself,” study author Dr. Beatrice Golomb, associate professor of medicine at the University of California-San Diego, told USA Today. “Findings show the composition of calories, not just the number of them, matters for determining ultimate weight.”
USA Today explains:
Cocoa is rich in antioxidants called flavonoids, which help fight inflammation, lower blood pressure and improve overall vascular function.
The antioxidants also affect metabolism and improve insulin sensitivity, Golomb says. Insulin resistance contributes to hypertension and obesity. “The chocolate provided better metabolism for all calories, not just the chocolate calories.”
University of Florida researchers say that the antioxidants in phytochemical-rich the foods reduce oxidative stress … which in turn reduces obesity:
A new University of Florida study [here’s the study] shows [that] eating more plant-based foods, which are rich in substances called phytochemicals, seems to prevent oxidative stress in the body, a process associated with obesity and the onset of disease, according to findings published online in advance of the print edition of the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics.
To get enough of these protective phytochemicals, researchers suggest eating plant-based foods such as leafy greens, fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes at the start of a meal.
‘We need to find a way to encourage people to pull back on fat and eat more foods rich in micronutrients and trace minerals from fruits, vegetables, whole grains and soy,’ said Vincent, an assistant professor in the UF Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine Institute. ‘
The researchers studied a group of 54 young adults, analysing their dietary patterns over a three-day period, repeating the same measurement eight weeks later. The participants were broken into two groups: normal weight and overweight-obese.
Although the adults in the two groups consumed about the same amount of calories, overweight-obese adults consumed fewer plant-based foods and subsequently fewer protective trace minerals and phytochemicals and more saturated fats. They also had higher levels of oxidative stress and inflammation than their normal-weight peers, Vincent said. These processes are related to the onset of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and joint disease, she added.
‘Diets low in plant-based foods affect health over the course of a long period of time,’ Vincent said. ‘This is related to annual weight gain, low levels of inflammation and oxidative stress. Those are the onset processes of disease that debilitate people later in life.’
Oxidative stress occurs when the body produces too many damaging free radicals and lacks enough antioxidants or phytochemicals to counteract them. Because of excess fat tissue and certain enzymes that are more active in overweight people, being obese can actually trigger the production of more free radicals, too.
Because many phytochemicals have antioxidant properties, they can help combat free radicals, Vincent said. Phytochemicals include substances such as allin from garlic, lycopene from tomatoes, isoflavones from soy, beta carotene from orange squashes and anythocyanins from red wine, among others.
‘People who are obese need more fruits, vegetables, legumes and wholesome unrefined grains,’ she said. ‘In comparison to a normal-weight person, an obese person is always going to be behind the eight ball because there are so many adverse metabolic processes going on.’
Instead of making drastic changes, people could substitute one or two choices a day with phytochemical-rich foods to make a difference in their diets, Vincent said. For example, substituting a cup of steeped plain tea instead of coffee or reaching for an orange instead of a granola bar could increase a person’s phytochemical intake for the day without even changing the feeling of fullness. Over time, replacing more pre-packaged snacks with fresh produce or low-sugar grains could become a habit that fights obesity and disease, Vincent said.
‘We always want to encourage people to go back to the whole sources of food, the non-processed foods if we can help it,’ Vincent said. ‘That would be the bottom line for anyone, regardless of age and body size, keep going back to the purer plant-based foods. Remember to eat the good quality food first.’
Currently, there are no recommendations for how much of these plant compounds people should be getting each day, says Susanne Talcott, Ph.D., an assistant professor of food science and nutrition at Texas A and M University. Using the phytochemical index could be a good way to come up with these recommendations, she said.
Like Vincent, Talcott also cautions people to try and stick to the whole sources of foods and be wary of processed foods that promise benefits from added plant compounds.
‘Consumers should stick with what we have known for decades and eat fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables,’ she said. ‘Stick with those kinds of foods rather than reaching out for a tropical wonder pill or juice.’
You may be surprised by the cheapest and most abundant sources of antioxidants. Find them here.
We’re Not Eating Enough: Food with Fiber
Studies show that most people eat about the same weight of food each day, says Barbara Rolls, PhD, author of The Volumetrics Eating Plan. If you choose high-fiber, water-rich foods — such as broth-based vegetable soups, salads, fruits, and vegetables — instead of foods without fiber and water, you can eat the same weight of food but feel full on fewer calories.
Everyone eats around the same amount, and everyone wants to feel satisfied after they eat. So instead of eating less, we should eat more food with natural fiber in it, like raw fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. That way, we’ll feel full without having to eat super high-calorie foods.
We’re Not Eating Enough: Metabolism-Boosting Foods
Black tea increases metabolism.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition studies in 1980, 1981 and 1989 show that coffee speeds up the metabolism.
Green tea is better. For example, Harry Preuss, M.D. (a tenured professor at Georgetown Medical Center, research fellow at the National Institutes of Health and a certified nutritional specialist with more than 300 medical papers to his credit)- says that Epigallocatechin gallate – a potent antioxidant found in green tea – burns calories by boosting metabolism, and that it can actually kill fat cells and stop the creation of new fat cells. And see this.
Oolong tea may also greatly help with weight loss. As highly-respected doctors Michael Roizen and Mehmet Oz note:
Oolong tea, a Chinese tea somewhere between green tea and black tea … contains polyphenols, which have been shown to control body fat by improving the metabolism of nutritional fat. One study showed that those who drank two cups of it a day had had two and a half times the calorie-burning rate of those who drank traditional green tea.
Cinnamon helps stabilize blood sugar levels. For people with certain types of diabetes, it may reduce serum glucose, triglyceride, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol. See this, this, this, this, this, this, this and this.
The resveratrol in red wine also helps stabilize blood sugar levels.
The Journal “Circulation” reported in 2008 that quercetin – found in the red outer skin of red apples and red grapes – suppresses the increase of body weight induced by a high-sucrose diet, as well as decreased levels of leptin, a compound in your body that is linked to obesity. The “Biochemistry Journal” reported in 2005 discovered that quercetin blocks the uptake of glucose from blood, depriving fat cells of the material needed to manufacture and accumulate fat molecules. In 2008, scientists at the University of Georgia found that a combination of quercetin and resveratrol dramatically decreased lipid accumulation in cultured fat cells and increased fat cell death.
Capsicim – the “hot” compound in chili peppers – substantially speeds up our metabolism. In 1982, the Journal of Human Nutrition Clinical Nutrition reported that red pepper and mustard can give a 25% boost in metabolism.
Curcumin – the active ingredient in curry – also appears to speed metabolism and help in weight loss.
In 1988, the Proceedings of Experimental Biology and Medicine reported that ginger might boost the metabolism.
(And adding spices like hot pepper, curry and ginger gives more flavor to foods, so we don’t feel like we’re sacrificing by eating something bland.)
Ginseng combats obesity. See this, this and this.
Ingesting too many antibiotics has also been linked to obesity, as it kills helpful intestinal bacteria. See this and this. Probiotics – which replace healthy intestinal bacteria – can promote weight loss, at least in people who don’t have a thriving community of natural intestinal flora.
CoQ10 is a compound found in every cell of our body. CoQ10 boosts metabolism.
Finally, the amino acid Carnitine burns fat. See this and this.
The Bottom Line: We’re Hungry for Real Food
The bottom line is that our bodies are starving for real food. Real food, that hasn’t been processed into oblivion and stripped of its nutrients, contains vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other compounds which keep our metabolism humming and our weight healthy.
It is also important to reduce our exposure to genetically modified foods and toxic chemicals, as both contribute to the obesity epidemic. See this, this and this.