It is also in our contemporary world that we often focus on being thin and losing weight as opposed to being healthy. Much of this concept goes back to our influences in the media from the turn of the century to the present time period. It used to be that simply being thin was considered unattractive as advertisements for supplements to gain weight and develop curves were widespread in the 1930s-1950s.
Food shortages were common, and local stores often took orders for what people wanted because many items were not in stock. It was during this era when the founder of Walmart came up with a plan to develop the modern supermarket, to always have items in stock, all year round. However, as food became widespread and plentiful, thin came back into fashion again during the 1980s and compounded with the rising rates of obesity in Western nations, the pathologically thin look that was maligned during the Depression Era soon became the symbol of attractiveness in the Vogue era of fashion magazines.
As our media became inundated with fad diets, diet pills and the obsession of counting calories, women and men alike strove to be thin, rather than focusing on their health. Being healthy is one of the greatest assets we can possess and which we often take for granted. People may often focus on time, money and material possessions, but they might ignore their health for decades until it becomes a cause for great concern; however, it is never too late to start making small changes in one’s life to become healthier.
REGULATION OF HORMONES BY VITAMINS D, K2, B12 and FATTY ACIDS
One of the conundrums of the modern diet are the addition of additives that can interfere with insulin sensitivity. Substances such as high-fructose corn syrup, a synthetic sweetener that is added to many sodas and foods, can lead to impaired dopamine function and metabolic syndrome, often referred to as “diabesity” which is the common concurrence of diabetes with obesity.
Vitamin D also regulates hormones that increase the release of hunger hormones, called ghrelin in the body. When the body is full, it releases leptin, however, what is interesting is that in obesity, the leptin released in the body is often much higher than in other people, but that people with obesity suffer from leptin resistance or an inability to metabolize leptin.
One reason for leptin resistance, researchers found, is due to the high levels of fatty acids in the bloodstream, which is correlated to obesity. In studies, fish oil and olive oil were effective in releasing hunger hormones. However, too much of omega 3 fatty acids in the bloodstream lead to inhibited leptin metabolism through decreased adiponectin levels. Although fatty acids are essential for various functions, it appears that high levels of fatty acids in the bloodstream, in particular, omega 3 and 6 could be one of the compounding causes of obesity.
Whereas Vitamin D and Omega fatty acids are responsible for increasing levels of hunger hormones, Vitamin K2 has been found to increase insulin sensitivity and promotes weight loss by its effect on energy metabolism. K2 activates the hormone osteocalcin that redirects calcium in the bloodstream to bones and inhibits estrogen production that could lead to weight loss through glucose metabolism in the liver.
In humans, we often retain taurine in all of our tissues, and taurine is a necessary amino acid that regulates our heart, eyes, and brain. Animals such as cats, foxes, tigers, wolves and lions cannot produce taurine on their own, hence why these animals often hunt other animals that carry a high volume of taurine and meat becomes their primary source of dietary taurine. Without taurine, these animals slowly die, often become blind, diabetic, and eventually suffer from heart and kidney failure and other degenerative and cardiovascular diseases. Luckily in our modern age, taurine can be produced synthetically and is abundant through supplementation without having to depend on a meat-heavy diet.
Taurine is also abundant in human breast milk as taurine activates the human growth hormone necessary for babies to develop. Without a high volume of taurine, babies do not develop normally and often suffer from osteoporosis and other mental and physiological defects. Vitamin B12 is a precursor for taurine production in humans, and it has been hypothesized that an inhibition present in pancreatic function to produce taurine could be one of the underlying causes of diabetes in which there is a B12 deficiency.
These interesting studies above show that specific intake of calories have little to do with weight loss and obesity, but that the collaborative functions of various vitamins and fatty acids which regulate hormones can immediately affect weight loss or weight gain, insulin sensitivity, leptin resistance and taurine production through its effect on energy metabolism.
FAT CELL REMOVAL vs. FAT CELL SHRINKAGE
We often have a misconception in our society to “burn off fat cells” or remove fat cells in order to become lean. However, for optimal health, fat cells should not be removed from our bodies, but we should engage in activity that reduces their size.
Fat cells play a vital role in our bodies. Fat cells release hormones, but also is a storage area for toxins, so that they do not affect other vital organs and tissues. When fat cells are surgically removed, through cosmetic procedures such as liposuction, the body signals the fat cells to replicate to produce the same amount of fat cells that there had been in the body previously, hence a long-term common side effect of these cosmetic procedures is reverse adipose syndrome, in which more fat deposits eventually develop around other areas of the body to make up for the lost fat cells that had been removed through surgery. In addition, a significant consequence of when too many fat cells are surgically removed from the body, the result is often death of the patient.
A more optimal and healthier way to become lean is to induce fat cell shrinkage. Fat cell shrinkage occurs through processes in which toxins are released from the fat cells, leading to a slimmer appearance. Fat cells also become used for energy when the body is engaged in physical activity that is 40-50% of one’s maximum heart rate. Engaging in exercise releases toxins from the body through perspiration and use of fat cells as energy. Activities such as taking a brisk walk, walking upstairs or cycling enhance fat cell shrinkage. For endurance athletes who utilise 75-85% of their maximum heart rate, energy is switched from using fat cells for energy to glucose metabolism, so that weight loss does not necessarily occur in these high level aerobic activity, but rather leads to the strengthening of muscles and other cardiovascular functions which are beneficial for the brain.
Whereas television shows such as The Biggest Loser support extreme weight loss during a short time frame, the best way to lose weight is doing so slowly, over an extended period of time, so that toxins released from fat cells do not overload processes by the kidney and liver. When procedures such as lipodissolve injections, which breaks down fat cells through lipolysis, are utilised in multiple regions in the body, it could lead to an emergency situation that could lead to kidney and liver failure.
Another way to shrink fat cells is through wearing compression garments that improve muscle metabolism and increase blood flow. Although athletes often use lower body compression garments or whole body compression garments in order to improve athletic performance, other compression garments such as waist trainers may induce abdominal fat cell shrinkage by its effect on hemodynamics (blood-flow redistribution). Increase in venous return (blood to the heart) drains intra-abdominal adipose tissue more effectively, hence leading to a shrinkage of abdominal fat cells and the appearance of a slimmer waistline.
MODULATION OF GENE EXPRESSION BY SUPERFOODS
AMBROSIA or ROYAL JELLY
There have been some foods which have been shown to modulate gene expression in both animal and human models. Although we possess millions of genes, many genes can be switched on and off by the foods and drinks we imbibe.
In Ancient Greek mythology, a substance called ambrosia was eaten or drunk by the Gods in order to achieve immortality. Although this makes little sense to us now, and seems to be rather a fantastical tale, we can make an analogy of another substance, called royal jelly in order to study the possible effects of how this longevity could be achieved.
Royal jelly is a substance that is secreted by bees, in which the Queen Bee exclusively eats, and she is able to grow in size and become fertile for life, producing thousands of offspring a day. Many people have hypothesized that the ambrosia in Greek mythology could actually be referring to what we call royal jelly, due to its similar descriptions in being a type of “sweet nectar”.
Researchers have studied the effects of royal jelly for many decades and have determined that there was no genetic difference between a chosen Queen bee and other worker drone bees, but that royal jelly was able to switch off genes which were responsible for suppressing fertility. In both animals and humans, fertility decreases with age due to various metabolic processes, but royal jelly was able to switch the genes off that induced this ageing process by inhibiting an enzyme called cytosine methyltransferase.
Cytosine methyltransferase is an enzyme that catalyzes the transfer of methyl groups to CpG structures in DNA leading to DNA methylation. In humans, this enzyme is encoded in humans by the DNMT3A gene. There are certain DNA methylation processes that occur in the ageing process. Royal jelly could possibly suppress this methylation process, leading to enhanced genetic expression of longevity. Therefore, if we were to examine the ambrosia in Greek mythology through this process, it could entirely be possible that a substance such as royal jelly could suppress certain ageing factors through epigenetic modulation of gene expression.
If you are an athlete or simply interested in exercise, you might have noticed that drinking beetroot juice before a workout significantly enhances athletic performance. The nitrates present in beetroot not only improve blood flow, but it also induces leukocyte (white blood cell) activation and oxidative metabolism. However, beetroot was also recently found to induce metabolic gene expression and mitochondrial biogenesis. Although much of longevity research may be focused on telomere length and activation in order to prevent cell death, another more effective aspect of longevity research could be to study mitochondrial biogenesis. Mitochondrial biogenesis can be defined as the growth and division of pre-existing mitochondria. Beetroot juice also stimulates bone marrow to produce new red blood cells. The continual regeneration of existing cells could lead to enhanced immunity, decrease in healing time and potentially lead to interesting outcomes in longevity research.
The age old adage to eat all your vegetables and fruit comes from generations of experiential wisdom, yet in our modern lifestyles, which is often filled with pre-made, packaged and convenience foods, we often forget to pay attention to our bodies. Through contemporary trends in fasting, engaging in fad diets, pill popping and polypharmacy, we are depriving our bodies of essential nutrients and vitamins that are necessary for longevity. Instead of solely focusing on our external appearance, we should pay attention to our internal processes and strive to be more healthy at any age, because health is ultimately one of our most valuable assets with a long-term return on investment.
By Sierra Choi
Disclaimer: This article is for educational purposes only and to stimulate discussion and not intended to serve as medical advice nor medical diagnosis.