Food for Thought: WHAT are the CAUSES of OBESITY?
Obesity has been a problem in the United States for quite some time now. Most health care practitioners view obesity as a prelude to a variety of conditions that range from osteoarthritis to cardiovascular disease. An increasingly serious health issue involves obesity being associated with insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. However, it’s not clear if obesity or diabetes develops first, and this question has been a focus of considerable debate and research in recent years.
A simplistic and sometimes convincing explanation of weight gain involves looking at calories consumed versus calories expended. The calorie in/calorie out concept readily explains weight gain when factors that seem to define the American lifestyle are considered. These factors include consuming large portions of high-fat and high-carbohydrate food coupled with a sedentary lifestyle. An estimated 68 percent of American adults qualify as overweight or obese because they eat more calories than they burn. Although this assessment of weight gain appears logical, there may be several other factors that contribute to the preponderance of obesity in the United States.
Research has shown that a lack of sufficient sleep (sleep debt) adversely affects the balance of at least two important hormone-like substances in the body. Prolonged periods of less than seven hours of sleep each night usually result in elevated levels of the appetite-stimulating ghrelin and reduced levels of the satiety-inducing leptin (1, 2). Exposure to excessive levels of BPA (bisphenol A is a known endocrine disruptor from certain types of plastics) has been shown to contribute directly to obesity in humans (3). Infections with adenovirus (there are 52 types of this DNA virus that can invade human cells) cause obesity in laboratory animals, and this may correlate with similar infections in humans (4).
In my opinion, the most fascinating new research on body weight variation shows that the intestinal flora (gut microbiota) can determine the efficiency of calorie extraction from the food that we eat (5). The microbes in the colon extract energy from the indigestible food passed on from the small intestine. These microbes ferment food that we cannot digest, and they keep most of the resulting energy for themselves. However, our gut microbiota do share some of the extracted energy with us, but the amount varies from almost nothing to nearly 10% of our daily calories. A good analogy here is to look at obese individuals like fuel-efficient cars. Their gut microbes are much better at extracting energy from food which, in turn, can contribute to weight gain. The intestinal flora from a lean person could be viewed as gas guzzlers because of reduced energy extraction efficiency from food material in the colon. Further research has shown that obese volunteers had more Firmicutes
species and fewer Bacteroidetes
species in their guts than did lean volunteers. When the obese volunteers lost weight, their gut microbiota populations shifted with an increase in the gas-guzzling microbes (Bacteroidetes
) and a decrease in the fuel-efficient microbes (Firmicutes
). A number of food companies and ingredient vendors are currently investigating the link between probiotic composition and weight control.
Keep in mind that diet and exercise are the cornerstones of any successful weight-loss program. I believe that dietary supplements for weight loss can offer meaningful help in weight loss efforts. Certain supplements for weight loss can provide benefit to the vast majority of consumers who seek to lose weight and strive for healthy living . To reach your weight-loss goals and to keep the weight off, it is imperative to change your diet, improve exercise habits and make sound lifestyle choices. And don’t forget determination. If you have the determination to stick with a supplement program together with diet, exercise and a healthy lifestyle, you will succeed.
Created by Dr. William J. Keller References
1. Sharma, S., Kavuru, M. Sleep and metabolism: an overview. International Journal of Endocrinology. 2010: 270832. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2929498/
2. Body Weight and Sleep. Available at http://www.sleepdex.org/weight.htm
3. Hugo, ER, et al. Bisphenol A at Environmentally Relevant Doses Inhibits Adiponectin Release from Human Adipose Tissue Explants and Adipocytes. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2008; 116(12): 1642-1647. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2599757/?tool=pubmed
4. Whigham, LD, et. al. Adipogenic potential of multiple human adenoviruses in vivo and in vitro in animals. American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology. 2006; 290(1):R190-4. Available at: http://ajpregu.physiology.org/content/290/1/R190.long
5. Ley RE, et. al. Microbial ecology: human gut microbes associated with obesity. Nature. 2006; 444(7122): 1022-3. Abstract available at: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v444/n7122/full/4441022a.html
The nervous system is a complex system that regulates and coordinates body functions, including the coordination of muscles, the senses, speech, memory, thought and emotion. Nervous system health, especially brain health, becomes a common concern as we age. As we get older, physical changes occur in the brain that can lead to cognitive decline, including a decrease in levels of neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine, which plays a large role in memory and learning.1 Other factors that can adversely affect cognitive health include alcohol abuse, chronic inflammation, vascular diseases and stress.1
It is estimated that up to one-third of adults will suffer from mild cognitive impairment, a gradual decline in cognitive function characterized by slow thinking and a reduced ability to learn as they age.1 Dementia is a type of cognitive impairment that decreases the ability to carry out everyday activities. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia among people age 65 and older.2 It is characterized by a progressive impairment of memory that results in serious loss of memory, thinking and language skills and behavioral changes that can prevent a person from living independently.2 It is believed that Alzheimer’s is caused by an accumulation of beta-amyloid protein in the brain, which damages nerve cells.3
Memory loss and forgetfulness can be a normal part of aging. However, scientists have discovered that healthy older people can do as well as younger people on memory and learning tests.4 Studies show that a lack of certain dietary nutrients can contribute to the development of mental disorders.5 Good nutrition and dietary supplements can support mental and nervous system health.
Lecithin is a rich source of phospholipids, including phosphatidylserine, phosphatidylcholine, phsphatidylethanolamine and phosphatidylinositol.6 Phospholipids help maintain healthy nerve cell membranes.7 Research has found that people with Alzheimer’s and age-related memory impairment have altered phospholipid compositions in the brain, and that the changes in neurotransmitter functioning in people with cognitive dysfunction may be attributed to these low levels of brain phosphlipids.6,7,8 Phosphatidylserine is the most abundant phospholipid in the human brain.6 Research indicates that phosphatidylserine levels in the brain may decrease with age.6 Studies show that supplementing with phosphatidylserine can improve cognitive function.6
Essential fatty acids such as those found in fish oil, krill oil, flaxseed oil (omega-3 fatty acids) and in evening primrose oil and borage oil (omega-6 fatty acids) play a key role in nervous system health and normal brain function.9 DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), an essential omega-3 fatty acid found in fish oil is highly concentrated in the brain (30% of brain gray matter is DHA).6 DHA also appears to promote the accumulation of phosphatidylserine in cell membranes.6 Alzheimer’s patients have lower cellular levels of DHA than control groups.10 Overall, lower levels of brain DHA is associated with cognitive impairment.10
Studies indicate that huperzine A (derived from Chinese club moss) may be beneficial for cognitive dysfunction and memory impairment.6 Huperzine A has been found to inhibit the enzyme acetylcholinesterase (AChE, which is responsible for breaking down acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that is believed to be involved in learning, memory and mood. Alzheimer’s disease has been associated with low levels of acetylcholine in the brain.11 By inhibiting AChE, huperzine A increases levels of acetylcholine in the brain.12
B vitamins are important for healthy nervous system function. For example, vitamin B6 is required for the body to make neurotransmitters including dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine.9 Vitamin B12 is vital for maintaining healthy nerve cells.13 Deficiencies of B vitamins can cause dementia if not corrected.14 Elevated levels of homocysteine have been associated with increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.15 It has been discovered that folic acid, vitamin B12 and B6 help to lower homocysteine levels.6
Animal studies have suggested that diets high in antioxidants can delay age-related memory loss.16 Alpha lipoic acid is a potent antioxidant and has been found to protect nerve cells.12 It has been approved in Germany for the treatment of neuropathy.12 Alpha lipoic acid is fat-soluble and can cross the blood–brain barrier.12 There is some evidence that alpha lipoic acid may be helpful for certain neurodegenerative conditions.12
According to many studies, supplementing with ginkgo biloba may improve cognitive function and memory.6 Ginkgo flavonoids have antioxidant actions and have been found in studies to protect nerve cells from oxidative damage.6 Ginkgo’s positive effects on cognitive function may also be attributed to ginkgo’s ability to improve circulation throughout the body, including in the central nervous system.6
See Nervous System NSP products
1. Life Extension Foundation. Mild Cognitive Impairment. 1995-2010. Available at: http://www.lef.org/protocols/neurological/mild_cognitive_impairment_01.htm
2. Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. About Alzheimer’s. 2010. Available at: http://www.alzfdn.org/AboutAlzheimers/definition.html
3. MedicineNet.com. Alzheimer’s Disease. 1996-2010. Available at: http://www.medicinenet.com/alzheimers_disease/article.htm
4. National Institute on Aging. Forgetfulness: Knowing When to Ask For Help. 2010. Available at: http://www.nia.nih.gov/HealthInformation/Publications/forgetfulness.htm
5. Lakhan S.E., Vieira K.F. Nutrition Journal. Nutritional Therapies for Mental Disorders. 2008. Available at: http://www.nutritionj.com/content/7/1/2 Accessed October 26, 2009.
6. Jellin JM, Gregory PJ, Batz F, Hitchens K, et al. Pharmacist’s Letter/Prescriber’s Letter Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. Stockton, CA: Therapeutic Research Faculty; 2010. [Online Database)
7. Wells K, Farooqui AA, Liss L, Horrocks LA. Neural membrane phospholipids in Alzheimer’s disease. Neurochem Res. 1995 Nov;20(11):1329-33. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8786819
8. Prasad MR, Lovell MA, Yatin M, Dhillon H, Markesbery WR. Regional membrane phospholipid alterations in Alzheimer's disease. Neurochem Res. 1998 Jan;23(1):81-8. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9482271
9. University of Maryland Medical Center. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. 2009. Available at: http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/attention-deficit-000017.htm Accessed October 14, 2009.
10. Lipids. 2000 Dec;35(12):1305-12.
11. Linus Pauling Institute. Micronutrient Information Center: Choline. 2000-2010. Available at: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/othernuts/choline/
12. Hendler SS Ph.D., M.D., Rorvik D M.S. PDR for Nutritional Supplements. 1st ed. New Jersey: Medical Economics Company, Inc.; 2001.
13. University of Maryland Medical Center. Vitamin B12 (cobalamin). 2009. Available at: http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/vitamin-b12-000332.htm Accessed October 14, 2009.
14. WebMD:EMedicineHealth. Dementia Overview. 2010. Available at: http://www.emedicinehealth.com/dementia_overview/page2_em.htm
15. MedicineNet.com. Dementia. 1996-2010. Available at: http://www.medicinenet.com/dementia/page9.htm
16. Nutrition, brain aging, and neurodegeneration. Joseph J, Cole G, Head E, Ingram D. J Neurosci. 2009 Oct 14;29(41):12795-801. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19828791 and http://www.jneurosci.org/cgi/content/full/29/41/12795
The human intestinal tract consists of the small and large intestines. The small intestine is approximately 23 feet in length, has a vast amount of surface area, and is where the majority of digestion and absorption of nutrients occurs. The large intestine is only about five feet in length but is significantly wider in diameter than the small intestine. The large intestine contains microbes that perform a small amount of digestion. Some absorption does occur there, but it primarily serves as a waste elimination organ. Although foods you have eaten have already undergone a significant amount of physical and chemical digestion during about three hours in the mouth and stomach, it will take 20 or more hours to finish the processing in the intestines. This very complex process is amazingly efficient, but at times can have a few flaws.
Digestive enzymes are proteins found in the digestive tract that help break down foods into small enough particles that can be absorbed and used in the body. In the small intestine, several types of digestive enzymes are secreted that act upon fats, carbohydrates and proteins. You can usually tell an enzyme and its function by its name’s root and –ase ending. For example, sucrase breaks down the sugar sucrose and protease breaks down proteins. Aging, genetics and other factors can contribute to a reduced production of one or more enzymes in the digestive tract. Lactose intolerance is a good example of a condition where the milk sugar-digesting enzyme lactase is lacking, and ingestion of dairy products can cause gastrointestinal upset. Undigested lactose travels to the large intestine and is broken down by colonic bacteria, resulting in gas and bloating. Fortunately, lactase and other digestive enzymes can be supplemented by those with certain food intolerances due to lack of enzymes. Dietary supplements containing specific digestive enzymes—or even a broad range of them—are available and should be taken prior to meals if needed.
The intestinal tract is a long muscular tube that propels ingested foods along by contracting its walls in segments. This is known as peristalsis. This occurs almost continually in the small intestines, but slows to just a few times per day in the large intestine. The large intestine prepares the digested mass for elimination by removing water and solidifying it. If that mass stays in the large intestine too long, too much water can be removed, making waste hard, dry and difficult to eliminate. It is important that the large intestine function properly and move waste toward elimination to prevent constipation. Prescription medication use, stress, travel and lack of exercise can each cause or exacerbate constipation. However, the most common cause of constipation is a diet high in fat and low in fiber, which slows the elimination process. Limiting unhealthy fat intake and increasing fiber intake from foods and dietary supplements (especially those containing psyllium, oat bran and other fibers) is an easy way to maintain regularity. Herbal products that contain natural laxatives such as cascara sagrada bark or senna leaves can help provide relief as well.
Maintaining a healthy intestinal tract involves keeping friendly residents. Several hundred species of bacteria live in the intestines. Probiotics are friendly bacteria that produce health benefits for their host such as improving digestion and immune function. Probiotics in the gut can be increased by eating fermented milk products like yogurt or kefir, taking a probiotic dietary supplement, or consuming foods or dietary supplements containing prebiotics. Prebiotics are fibers and other substances metabolized by colonic bacteria that increase colony growth. Inulin and fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) are examples of these.
Insel P, Turner RE, Ross D. Discovering Nutrition. Mississauga, ON: Jones and Bartlett Publishers Canada, ©2003.
Lewis R. Life: Third Edition. The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., ©1998.
National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Constipation. Updated July, 2007. Available at http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/constipation/. Accessed May 21, 2010.
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. Monographs on cascara sagrada, prebiotics, probiotics and senna. Updated May 19, 2010. Available at www.naturaldatabase.com. Accessed May 20, 2010.
May is National Arthritis Month. Spearheaded by the Arthritis Foundation, it’s a time to increase awareness of this leading cause of disability. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, arthritis is the most common cause of disability in the United States, limiting the activities of nearly 19 million adults. By the year 2030, 67 million (25%) adults aged 18 years and older will have doctor-diagnosed arthritis.
The word arthritisactually means joint inflammation. Arthritis comprises more than 100 different rheumatic diseases and conditions, the most common of which is osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease caused by the breakdown of joint cartilage, the connective tissue that cushions the joints. Other frequently occurring forms of arthritis include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, fibromyalgia and gout. Although arthritis is more common among adults aged 65 years or older, people of all ages (including children) can be affected.
Joint supporting nutrients such as glucosamine, MSM, chondroitin, hyaluronic acid, and devil’s claw help support optimal structural health. Joint support products.
Glucosamineis an amino sugar required for the synthesis of glycosaminoglycans, carbohydrate-containing compounds that are the major structural components of cartilage.1 Studies demonstrate that glucosamine is also capable of protecting connective tissues, relieving pain and reversing the progression of joint degeneration.1,2
MSM is a naturally occurring sulfur compound. Sulfur is required for the production and repair of cartilage.3 MSM is also thought to have soothing and pain-reducing properties.4 Although MSM is found in many fresh foods, it is easily destroyed in cooking and processing. Thus, it makes sense to supplement the diet with MSM to ensure an adequate supply in the body.
Chondroitin is a sulfated glycosaminoglycan that is important in maintaining the structural integrity of connective tissue. Chondroitin sulfate is produced by chondrocytes and performs the important function of attracting fluid into the cartilage.1 This gives cartilage its spongy-like form, making it a good shock absorber. Evidence suggests that chondroitin sulfate protects cartilage and helps prevent cartilage breakdown.1,5
Hyaluronic acid (also known as HA or hyaluronan) is a non-sulfated glycosaminoglycan that occurs naturally throughout the body.6 It is found most abundantly in the skin, cartilage, synovial fluid, and eyes.1 Hyaluronic acid plays a major role in joint lubrication and is critical in maintaining joint health. Research indicates that hyaluronic acid may prevent joint inflammation and the breakdown of cartilage.7,8
Devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) is named for the tiny hooks that cover its fruit. Devil’s claw root has been used for thousands of years in Africa for pain reduction.9 Devils claw root contains phytochemicals known as iridoid glycosides, including harpagoside, that have soothing and anti-inflammatory effects.1 Studies show that taking devil’s claw root significantly reduces pain and improves physical functioning in people with joint pain.9
- Jellin JM, Gregory PJ, Batz F, Hitchens K, et al. Pharmacist’s Letter/Prescriber’s Letter Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. 9th ed. Stockton, CA: Therapeutic Research Faculty; 2007.
- Reginster JY, Deroisy R, Rovati LC, Lee RL, Lejeune E, Bruyere O, Giacovelli G, Henrotin Y, Dacre JE, Gossett C. Long-term effects of glucosamine sulphate on osteoarthritis progression: a randomised, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Lancet. 2001 Jan 27;357(9252):251-6.
- University of Maryland Medical Center. Sulfur. 2007. Available at: http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/sulfur-000328.htm Accessed April 20, 2010.
- Kim LS, Axelrod LJ, Howard P, Buratovich N, Waters RF. Efficacy of methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) in osteoarthritis pain of the knee: a pilot clinical trial. Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2006 Mar;14(3):286-94. Epub 2005 Nov 23.
- Baici A, Bradamante P. Interaction between human leukocyte elastase and chondroitin sulfate. Chem Biol Interact. 1984 Sep 1;51(1):1-11.
- Laurent TC, Laurent UB, and Fraser JR. The structure and function of hyaluronan: an overview. Immunol Cell Biol 74:A1-A7, 1996.
- Balazs E: The physical properties of synovial fluid and the specific role of hyaluronic acid. Disorders of the Knee. Edited by Helfet AJ. Philadelphia: J B Lippincott; 61-74, 1982.
- Dougados M. Sodium hyaluronate therapy in osteoarthritis: arguments for a potential beneficial structural effect. Semin Arthritis Rheum. 2000 Oct;30(2 Suppl 1):19-25.
- University of Maryland Medical Center. Devil’s Claw. 2007. Available at: http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/devils-claw-000237.htm Accessed April 20, 2010
Is your child a picky eater? The body develops most rapidly in the first 18 years of life, so it’s vital for children to receive all of the vitamins and minerals they need to grow into healthy adults. And because children solely rely on their parents to nourish their bodies, the burden of supplying kids with essential nutrients falls on adults.
Some children are good eaters, but more likely than not, your child gets picky when meal time rolls around. If your child consistently rejects nutritious foods (or even if he/she doesn’t), it never hurts to give them a vitamin supplement. Doing so will only boost your confidence that your child has the nourishment required to grow up “big and strong.”
Without some of the most fundamental vitamins, the body cannot properly perform tasks that regulate normal development. For example, insufficient amounts of calcium, vitamin C and vitamin D can greatly increase the potential risk of osteoporosis and bone brittleness. More severe deficiencies of these vitamins may even result in stunted growth or skeletal deformities. Vitamins A and C make children far less susceptible to the common cold or winter flu. And necessary amounts of vitamins and nutrients like omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin D can even help prevent some of the deadliest types of cancer.
Even if it seems inconvenient to make the extra effort, giving your children these essential nutrients, whether through a well-balanced diet, vitamin supplements or both, will benefit their health for the rest of their lives. To learn more about essential vitamins for children, browse www.boostherbs.com.