These days there are countless fad diets and weight loss trends. It makes it difficult to really know whether something will really work. Some supplement providers offering weight-loss products have been involved with fines, lawsuits and recalls over marketing and quality-control issues. The good news is that research results are continuing to provide positive outcomes in various areas of the weight loss category.
Maintaining a Healthy Weight
Reaching and/or maintaining a healthy weight has become the new craze, although taste and convenience of food is still a big hurdle to cross. Being overweight or underweight both pose problems – staying healthy involves far more than just reaching a weight goal. Many factors play into a person’s state of health; family medical history, socio-economic status, preferred foods, whether a person smokes cigarettes, how much alcohol one drinks and daily exercise. Maintaining a healthy weight and keeping it in balance with the typical American lifestyle can be difficult, but with the right knowledge and some good support from family and friends, it can be achieved.
Read more about the benefits of fitness
Age-Related Weight Gain
The fact is that as we age, the body’s metabolism slows down (becomes less efficient at burning calories) and the ability to maintain the youthful energy that was once so abundant becomes difficult. This should be the driving force behind eating healthy, having some sort of fitness regimen and understanding how the body works – throughout every life stage. Each and every person is different, and maintaining a healthy weight will call for various plans of action, but knowing the basic facts will assist in the process. After the age of 45, most Americans will lose around 10% of their muscle mass per decade. Improving fitness level and increasing muscle mass will contribute to an increase in calories burned. Muscle mass burns a substantial amount of calories compared to fat. Certain foods and/or herbs can be useful in maintaining a healthy weight, as well.
Increased Satiety: Satiety is the feeling of fullness after a meal; neither too full nor unsatisfied. Following a low glycemic diet and eating more soluble and insoluble fiber will contribute towards increased satiety. Also, research has shown herbs such as green tea and extracts from Garcinia cambogia and Hoodia gardonii contribute to a feeling of fullness.
Appetite Suppressants: One of the toughest things while trying to lose weight is resisting cravings and ignoring a growling stomach. Taking appetite suppressant supplements will help get through times such as these. Many extracts/herbs alleviate hunger and suppress appetite such as Hoodia gardonii and Gymnema sylvestre.
Carbohydrate Management: There are different types and structures of carbohydrates and this affects what function they have within the body. There are simple and complex carbohydrates along with different forms of fiber. Fibers are very beneficial as well as some complex carbohydrates, but as excess carbohydrates are consumed, the body must store this as fat for later use as energy. Starches are complex carbohydrates that first must be broken down by digestive enzymes before being absorbed. Concentrated extracts of white kidney bean have been shown to inhibit alpha-amylase, the enzyme which breaks down starch. Inhibiting this enzyme decreases the amount of sugars/carbohydrates (calories) available to be absorbed. This, in turn, will trigger the body to use another sources, such as fat, for energy.
Increased Thermogenesis: The end product of thermogenesis, the process by which humans produce body heat, is the burning of fatty acids. Norepinephrine (NE), which functions as both a hormone and a neurotransmitter, initiates and sustains thermogenesis. A powerful ingredient which increases thermogenesis is Advantra Z® (Citrus aurantium). It is the only patented thermogenic ingredient for weight loss. There is also research on green tea that shows, of its many talents, it can inhibit the enzyme responsible for inactivating NE, thereby prolonging the process of thermogenesis.
Blood Glucose Control
Maintaining metabolic homeostasis is pivotal to blood glucose regulation. Fuel available vs. tissue needs balance on the blood level of nutrients, hormone levels and nerve impulse. Energy needs of the body rely on uptake of glucose. Glucose is essential for the proper functioning of the brain and other cells in the body. Glucose is also stored in the liver and skeletal muscle (as glycogen) for later energy use. In a fed state, insulin is released to facilitate the uptake of glucose. Insulin drives the process of storage and fuel production. In a fasting state, when the body needs to use stored energy, counter-regulatory hormones to insulin such as glucagon, cortisol and epinephrine are released to breakdown stored glycogen (polyglucose) into glucose (gluconeogenesis).
About 23 million Americans, or around 8% of the population, have some form of diabetes. People either have insufficient production of insulin by the pancreas or they become resistant to the actions of insulin. This causes blood glucose levels to be raised and must be corrected by insulin injections, medication and/or diet and exercise.
Before people develop type II diabetes, they almost always have pre-diabetes. This affects around 57 million people and is characterized by higher than normal blood glucose levels. Pre-diabetes can be treated through a diet change and/or addition of a fitness regiment.
Introduction of specific supplements can also help control and regulate blood glucose levels. Two ingredients already mentioned (Gymnema sylvestre and fiber) contribute to blood glucose control.
Fiber works to slow gastric emptying and promote gradual absorption of glucose from the intestine.
Gymnema sylvestre is native to India, and its leaves have been used for centuries to fight of ‘sugar cravings’. It helps to maintain normal insulin activity and has been shown to reduce blood sugar levels when used for a prolonged period.
Chromium is an essential trace mineral that assists in maintaining normal insulin levels and glucose metabolism. It is also known as the glucose tolerance factor.
Hormones and Enzymes Involved
Leptin: Leptin is one of the strongest and most understood ‘hunger’ hormones. It helps metabolize and burn stored fat as fuel and participates in the regulation of energy expenditure (metabolism) through the release of stored fat (from adipocyte – fat cell) and energy intake (appetite). Essentially, it is the command signal that tells the brain the stomach is full and the person needs to stop eating.
Adiponectin: This hormone is inversely related to body fat percentage. Lower levels of adiponectin relate to higher levels of body fat. When there are low levels of this hormone circulating in the body, it increases fat storage in the adipocyte and inhibits insulin sensitivity.
Grehlin: Grehlin is a hormone found to be important in appetite regulation and maintaining the body’s energy balance. While leptin tells your body when it has eaten enough, grehlin signals the body when it needs more energy and therefore needs to eat. When grehlin signals are working properly, levels of this hormone should rise before eating and fall after eating.
Serotonin: Serotonin, a neurotransmitter, is mainly found in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and central nervous system (CNS). It is involved with feelings of content and well being, therefore has been coined the ‘happiness hormone’. Some of the other functions of serotonin include regulation of mood, appetite, sleep and are also involved with some cognitive functions of memory and learning. Serotonin can be affected by diet in humans. Extracts from the herb Rhodiola rosea help to promote healthy neurotransmitter levels such as serotonin.
Cortisol: Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal gland in times of stress. Its primary function is to increase blood glucose through gluconeogenesis. Caffeine, sleep deprivation and chronic stress can all increase cortisol levels. Extracts from eleuthero root (Eleutherococcus senticosus) and holy basil, just to name a couple, have adaptogenic properties and have been used as anti-stress agents. Although the mechanism is unknown, research shows that holy basil works to normalize blood glucose levels.
Amylase: This is an enzyme necessary to facilitate in the breakdown of starches (complex carbohydrates) into sugars (simple carbohydrates).
Lipase: Most lipase enzymes catalyze the breakdown of triglycerides (dietary fats) into lipid substrates (fatty acids and monoacylglycerol). They hydrolyze the ester bond located between the glycerol backbone and fatty acids to free the fatty acids for further breakdown and digestion.
Keys to Weight Loss
Weight gain is caused by more than one factor, so when trying to maintain the proper healthy lifestyle why only focus on one underlying cause of weight gain? There are several major contributors.
Inflammation: There is a direct relationship between weight gain and inflammation. Weight gain promotes inflammation, and inflammation increases with weight gain. C-Reactive Protein (CRP) is a marker of inflammation and is at increased amounts in individuals with moderate to extreme amounts of excess fat.
Leptin sensitivity: Research has shown elevated levels of leptin in the overweight and obese. These elevated levels of leptin seem to occur due to increased CRP. CRP binds to leptin blocking its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier. This inhibition of leptin to reach the brain triggers the body to synthesize more leptin, causing higher blood leptin levels and inhibiting leptin’s ability to regulate hunger and satiety (leptin resistance).
Calorie Intake: Calories in vs. calories out – this phrase is commonly used in weight loss. Calories consumed through food minus what the body naturally burns per day along with the extra calories expended through exercise and digestion. It is a very simplified version of the calorie equation. There are many ways to adjust the number of calories going in, and even more ways to adjust the calories going out. Try supplements such as green tea extract, ginseng and fiber to reduce the amount of calories consumed.
Sleep: Sleep is more involved with weight control than most people think. Typically, during regular sleep cycles, hormone activity associated with appetite is normalized. Leptin and grehlin are two hormones that can be affected with too little sleep. Also, during sleepless nights people are more likely to eat extra calories that regularly would not be consumed – adding to weight gain.
Also, the timing of eating has a lot to do with calorie burning. It is better to eat all of the day’s calories during the day and not wait until close to bedtime.