Breaking Calorie Restriction

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

"You know the business. And I know the chemistry," Walt tells Jesse upon proposing a business partnership in meth. He isn't kidding either. After schooling his former student on the difference between a boiling flask and a volumetric one, Walt cooks up the most chemically pure, stable batch of crystal the Southwest has ever seen. "You're an artist," Jesse exclaims. Walt replies, it's just "basic chemistry."

If you have not seen the show Breaking Bad on AMC I highly encourage you to watch it from the beginning. For those uninterested in viewing, I will summarize. The plot revolves around a high school chemistry teacher named Walter White, who is recently diagnosed with cancer and starts making methamphetamine with an old student of his. He finds that the old way of making this addictive drug isn't nearly as potent as he makes the substance when combined with structured science and flawless chemistry. He soon finds himself in deep trouble with Mexican gangsters and west coast drug lords. His product is some of the best stuff seen on the streets and is known throughout the mid-west. Walter brought his expertise into a field with no structure or rules and changed the game. Which is what obesity researchers have been doing for the last 30 years. The discovery of new hormones and bio feedback mechanisms have now changed what we used to believe as the definite solution to overweight adults and diabetic children. New relationships with how we view food and utilize it in our bodies are starting to be examined.

New possibilities are everywhere but lets just go over what doesn't work for weight lose or just general wellness in most if not all circumstances. Forced calorie restriction is still one of the most if not the most popular ways of losing weight in United States. However, as we have seen over the decades few people can sustain on these diets without giving up from what most people describe as "lack of will power". The gluttony and sloth theory is a convincing aurgument that is shuffled into the weight lose deck as well. However it still does not explain every single case of overweight humans or normal weight humans for that matter. Weight lose is great in all, but it can come with a cost...sometimes it may be better to eat like crap then screw up your metabolism further.

"Prior research has demonstrated that dieting, or the restriction of caloric intake, is not effective in the long term. This dissertation hypothesizes that one reason dieting does not work is because it is a chronic stressor that increases perceived psychological stress and cortisol -- both known factors involved in weight gain." -

Now just what the heck is Cortisol???

Cortisol: Is a steroid hormone more notably know as a glucocorticoid and is produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress or a low level of glucocorticoid in the blood. It's main function are to increase blood sugar through gluconeogenesis, suppress the immune system and aid in macro-nutrient metabolism. Prolonged high levels of cortisol can lead to muscle wasting. Cortisol is notably higher around 8 AM and is at it lowest between 12 PM - 4AM. It makes sense when blood sugar is at it lowest, cortisol will be higher to breakdown storage forms of glucose when those early morning hours. Restricting glucose will notably increase cortisol in those with normal glucose metabolism.

The following excerpts are taken from Low Calorie Dieting Increases Cortisol A. Janet Tomiyama, Ph.D.a, Traci Mann, Ph.D.b, Danielle Vinas, B.A.c, Jeffrey M. Hunger,

B.A.b, Jill DeJager, MPH., RDd, and Shelley E. Taylor, Ph.D.c

"Nationally representative numbers from 2005 indicate that approximately 47% of adults in the United States are trying to lose weight at any given time. Despite the high prevalence of dieting, research finds that dieting leads to successful weight loss in the short-term but not the long-term. A recent review article found that 30–64% of diet study participants gain back more weight than they lost on the diet. Further, having dieted in the past was a predictor of weight gain, and the longer participants were followed up, the more weight they had regain."

Research suggests strong connections between stress and weight gain through elevations of cortisol regulated by the prolonged activation of the HPA axis and resulting insulin resistance

The present research tested the following two hypotheses:

1. The monitoring aspect of dieting causes increases in psychological stress and cortisol
2. The restricting aspect of dieting causes increases in psychological stress and cortisol.

Participants in the study were already thinking of going on diet regardless of the study. They ate 1200 calories a day consisting of 50% carbohydrates 30% Fat 20% Protein

"Results indicated a main effect of restricting (F(92,1) = 8.77, p = .004, partial η2 = .05), such that restricting increased the total output of cortisol (Figure 2). The effect size was medium, with a Cohen’s d of 0.63. There was no main effect of monitoring (F(92,1) = 3.71, p = .07) and no interaction (F(92,1) = 0.27, p = .60). The difference in cortisol output seems to have been driven by the evening cortisol level, as pictured in Figure 3."

" However, restricting caloric intake may be a biological stressor because one of the main functions of cortisol is to increase the availability of energy in the body. The stress resulting from restricting one’s caloric intake to a mere 1200 kilocalories, therefore, may have reduced the absolute amount of energy available to the body, therefore leading to increased cortisol output to release energy stores."

"In fact, dieters may not even realize that restricting their caloric intake produces a physiological stress response, as it does not lead to a perceived stress response. As a result, dieters may assume that their restriction is not harmful, and in fact persevere in what may be a physiologically stressful diet because they do not feel psychologically stressed."

"This study, however, did not assess actual dieting outcomes, and thus the full hypothesis remains to be tested."

Like I have said in the past, studies are flawed, sometimes inconclusive, and distracting at their worst. This study in particular just pointed out that increases in cortisol are in response to a stress perceived by the body. However, everyone is different in the respect that each individual handles stress in a different way. It may take an individual longer to feel the perceived stress another does in the same exact dietary situation as seen here. Some may have profound rises in cortisol in the beginning of a diet while others may not see rises until later stages or possibly never at all.

Cortisol is released in times of panic, a fight or flight situation. Chronically high cortisol levels can be seen in most instances of caloric restriction because of the perceived stress it brings on the body. I will now divulge as to what is my current understanding of the relationship between calorie restriction and weight lose from studies I have read, blogs I have combed through, and my own personal experience.

First and foremost I would like to point out that there is no known cure for obesity or a one size fits all model for any form of weight lose. Anyone spreading a message counter to that should be held as suspicious and their theorems heavily scrutinized. There is no one way to health and weight lose.

There could be a million and half reasons why you carry excess weight ( possibly the flying spaghetti monster even) but in all the studies that I have read on weight lose I have seen the following:

* The first couple weeks of losing weight on a low calorie or below what would be normal maintenance for an individual are very successful as it seems that the pounds just fly right off.
* Elevations in adrenaline and cortisol are common as the body responds to a perceived stress in the form of a famine.
* Eventually the individual then arrives at a plateau when the body has metabolically adjusted to that level of caloric deprivation. This inherited metabolic advantage was developed in humans long before civilization when food was perceived to be scarce in the environment during certain periods. A sort of hibernation mechanism if you will that allows us to move and process information at a lowered caloric intake for a period of time until food is found again.
* In the new metabolic state we see the lowering of resting energy expenditure(REE) which slows down the atomic systems in the body.
* Now with this all being said, some individuals see an increase in energy , lessening of certain symptoms in the beginning stages. This is seen as progress for most as the blood panels improve greatly in these beginning stages. Most common improvements on charts consist of lower LDL cholesterol, decreased fasting blood sugar, lower triglycerides etc **
* Thyroid hormones are generally found to be stable and within a normal range during these periods of caloric deprivation, presumably because they only test for THS and not free T4 or T3. In which case it has been observed that thyroid hormones generally adapt to the lowered weight by slowing down the conversion process and releasing less T3. The lowering of thyroid hormones as having a negative effect on the individual can be made on a clinical basis with symptoms of having a low body temperature, coarse or falling hair or an elevation in cholesterol.
* Thyroid hormones (hormones in general) are important substances for metabolic function. Metabolism is defined as the rate which we absorb, convert, release, and expend energy at the cellular level. Without proper caloric intake we have observed a gradual slowing of processes like digestion, muscle recovery and formation, brain activity, wound healing, and epithelial function in human subjects over time. ( Take note many of these negative symptoms do not appear at once and generally take time to emerge)
* We also see in most cases a gradual reduction in body temperature as noted above which in turn signifies the lowering of kinetic energy and cellular respiration in the body.
* The body will then proceed to burn lean tissue once all the glycogen reserves have been used up or not replenished
* In these cases we see weight lose but fat lose is not significant. As seen in many control trials where low carbohydrate diets have produced significant weight lose as compared to low fat diets but both diets had the same amount of total fat lose. The difference coming from water retention and lean tissue lost in the low carbohydrate group that lost the most weight.
* Once too much lean tissue and body fat are lost, problems will ensue as hormones like ghrelin and leptin will start to rise. This is the part where you start to give up on your diet and become frustrated. Psychological characteristics like anxiety, depression, irritability and just overall douch bagery begin to manifest.
* Ones willingness to exercise soon diminishes as the energy needed is no longer available in this restricted state. Fatigue is common and lethargy is generally noted more frequently the longer the study/diet goes on or even in the follow up phase.

**These prior marked improvements generally come back to normal levels or sometimes even worse the longer the restricted state persists. Quick turnarounds in blood charts should not be taken as just face value and instead be carefully monitored by you and your physician. It can be said that these short term initial gains may be a sign of adjustment rather then true remission or normalization of metabolic pathways.

This must sound vaguely familiar to anyone who has done any form of dieting whether it was forced or in my case accidental due to infection. The many negative side effects can be nagging or even life threatening. Once you are at this stage of a lowered REE comes the time to "give up" or show everyone your lack of "will power". Here is what ensues in the maintenance period and there after as seen by my many investigations into the medical literature:

* Binge eating on foods that were once forbidden is common as dieting does NOT change the behavior of individuals or establish healthy eating habits.
* The body will regain adipose fat very quickly. I saw this with myself as my waist increased from a low 27 back up to my normal 31 within a mater of weeks once the infection was gone and I could eat bigger portions of food without disturbance. The body does this on purpose to combat the perceived famine it just experienced. The fat stores are replenished first in most instances and sometimes in greater pre portions then prior to the inception of the diet.
* Lean mass is slow to return and REE also lags significantly behind adipose tissue reformation in almost all instances.
* Certain symptoms like fatigue and lethargy disappear very quickly but other symptoms like low body temperature, brain fog, cold hands and feet still persist even months or years after the diet was commenced.
* Typical feelings of overall failure and dis-satisfaction are experienced among the individuals as fat is regained.
* Muscle mass is typically the last thing to return as it is the most metabolic and caloric expensive tissue

Dieting in any form is a stress and with stress (as seen in the above study on cortisol) we see a weakening of the body when the stress is prolonged. To put it simply, diets weaken us.

Let this be the end of forced calorie restriction, this an outdated way of thought. Walter White from Breaking Bad knew that the conventional methamphetamine makers didn't have the slightest clue how to make a good product. It was poorly constructed and ended up wasting time and materials with too little reward for taking such a big risk. The new style of thought revolves around spontaneous weight regulation without forced psychological intervention. It can be thought that most of our overweight population is overweight from being stressed out about food and calorie counting. This Obesity epidemic could be a direct result of us manipulating our food system so drastically in order to get people to lose weight. The flames got bigger as we mistook the water canister for gasoline. It might just be that as soon as you start eating a balanced diet that you spontaneously start consuming less calories because your body is running more efficiently.

The studies done on humans for forced calorie restriction are very broad and use various techniques and differ in variables measured and control groups. Some show slowing of DNA Damage in those who practice while others show malnourishment and wasting away in human subjects. Also take into account that we consume different amounts of calories at different stages of life. Should children be practicing calorie restriction so as to not age quicker while sacrificing growth? Or how about an avid surfer whose performance and recovery time suffers as a result of not eating enough to support his lifestyle. If you wanted to prevent aging entirely, live in a bubble your entire life and meticulously monitor your food intake and exercise time. For the rest of us who live on planet earth, just eat good food and stop worrying about something that could be completely out of your control.

From what has been recorded only about 5% of dieters using a calorie restriction technique have been able to keep the weight off let alone stop the aging process. Guess we all can't be winners in this weight lose game.

"The Rockefeller University researchers found that when fat people lost a lot of weight, while they might look like a naturally thin person on the outside, by every metabolic and clinical measure, their bodies were starving"


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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Hey Nanna,

    It's interesting you note the heart attack and BMI correlation because I was reading the same material.

    Paul Campos The Obesisty Myth

    The Obesity Paradox by junk food Science

    As well as this long PDF

    I used to believe the same; that it was thin or nothing, but now I know better. I think there is too much concentration on adipose fat and not enough concentration on thyroid function and cellular metabolism which are much stronger factors in heart attack risk in my opinion.

    Keep the rants coming haha I'm happy to share my wealth of information and studies I have come across.

    2477 days ago
    I found it interesting to read one of this week's health discoveries, in which it was concluded that obese people usually survive heart attacks. My Father died at 52 of a massive heart attack, as did his sister and two brothers....all at the age of 52 and all very thin people. None of them ever went to a doctor because they thought they were healthy. (Of course they were all morticians, casket or vault salesmen, or chemists who invented methods of preserving corpses, so doctors weren't good for business).

    Working in a nursing home for 20 years alerted me to the fact that the heavier residents seemed to live longer. For one thing, they were happier, eating what and when they wanted. The thin residents were usually grouchy and demanding of staff. The heavier residents had been under a doctor's care for several years, realising their weaknesses, but choosing to follow their own plan. They knew their limitations, and we documented them as "non-compliant" The thin residents had no clue about nutritional restrictions, not ever having to follow a prescribed diet plan. When epidemic illnesses spread throughut the nursing home, the thin resident died, not having enough meat on their bones to survive a few days without eating. The heavier residents recovered quicker.

    I agree that dieting and even exercising greatly affects the mental status of the those involved.. Some are osessed by it, as evidenced by the blogs of some of our Sparkfriends here in this program. When I look at the men, especially, who have accomplished such large weight losses, I think they looked healthier when heavier. The runners are usually complaining about foot problems or bad knees. The dieters are bragging about cleansing and turning vegan.

    Then there are those poor souls who fail to have the discipline to survive all of the information provided in the Spark program. It is so sad to witness their depression developing as they document their daily efforts with no results. All of the 'YOU CAN DO IT" or "DON'T GIVE UP"
    posts are not effective in keeping them motivated.

    So much for my venting today. You bring out my babbling mood this afternoon. Sorry!

    2477 days ago
    I agree, and my over all take home message was that our bodies ability to monitor calories in and calories out has become more and more complex over the last couple decades. It's not as simple as we once thought. I think my stance on calorie intake has become misunderstood by spark people.

    I'm all for spontaneous calorie reduction instead of forced calorie restriction. One thing that changes when you switch to a whole food diet is the water content in your food shifts. Higher water content in whole foods lead to less consumption and you will stop consuming so many calories because your so full. Where as artificially manufactured food generally has a low water content and are higher in fats, sugars, salts, and calories.

    In addition to the above thesis I believe that people who diet too much need to go through a period of what I titled my spark page, metabolic rehab. In which case it may be preferable to eat a diet high in junk foods which had been restricted for so long. Restoring the sugar and salt content of the mitochondria and some cases the fat acid content for those restricting fats.

    Overall I think human physiology is too confusing and mysterious to hand out such basic recommendations as count calories and run alot for all contexts of weight management. There is much more we as humans have to learn about ourselves and the enviornment and myopic views need to be set aside for the bigger picture
    2477 days ago
  • OOLALA53
    Though traditional dieting hasn't had good results, it doesn't mean most people aren't capable of reducing their overeating = eating far beyond true hunger cues. I don't know if I've damaged myself by losing the weight I gained bingeing over the years. I just know I'm comfortable a lot more of the time not being so full. But I haven't counted calories for 2 1/2 years. Unless I had some particular health issue that demanded it, I can't imagine going back to counting, though I do strive not to overeat and have changed my habits so that most of my foods are not processed.. emoticon
    2490 days ago
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