Calories Are Not All That Matter: Hormones Matter Too
“The ‘classical theory’ that fat is deposited in the adipose tissue [body fat] only when given in excess of the caloric requirement is finally disproved.”– E. Wertheimer, in Physiological Reviews
Calorie quality (SANEity) influences the hormones which control our set-point weight which controls the amount of fat we store. More simply, hormones play a critical role in our long-term body fat levels.
Calories Are Not All That Matter
The critical effect hormones have on body fat has been well known in scientific circles for a long time. Especially the hormone insulin. Most of us know insulin only in reference to diabetics. They need insulin shots. Yet a true understanding of how hormones generally—and insulin specifically—work in relation to body fat reveals the cause of, and solution to, weight gain and related diseases such as diabetes.
At the risk of being gross, one way scientists discovered the important relationship between hormones and weight is through the procedure known as parabiosis. Parabiosis occurs when researchers cut two live animals open and then join them so they share the same blood supply and hormones. In other words, researchers create Siamese twins.
Why would researchers create a Franken-rat with one set of hormones but twice as much of everything else? Because it allows them to conduct studies showing the impact hormones have on body fat. For example, when researchers join an obese rat to a lean rat, the lean rat gets leaner regardless of the quantity of calories it eats. How is that possible? Think back to how the set-point works.
The obese rat’s metabolism is producing a massive amount of body-fat-burning hormones in an effort to get the obese rat back to normal automatically. But because the obese rat is clogged and cannot respond to the body-fat-burning hormones effectively, it stays heavy. However, the lean rat is not clogged. The clog-free rat is able to respond to all of those body-fat-burning hormones. Lots of body-fat-burning hormones plus the ability to respond to them equals burning body fat despite eating the same quantity of calories.
In a similar manner, when researchers stitch a normal rat and a starved rat together, the starved rat’s body-fat-storing hormones make the normal rat get fatter regardless of the quantity of calories the normal rat eats. The starved rat is producing body-fat-storing hormones in an effort to get back to its set-point. These body-fat-storing hormones enter the normal rat, and its unclogged metabolism does exactly what the hormones tell it to do: the normal rat stores body fat without eating any more or exercising any less.
Besides the horror of joining living animals together, these and hundreds of other experiments clearly show that hormone levels strongly influence weight gain or loss. In the journal Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, J. Le Magnen captures the importance of healing our hormones before we are free of body fat: “Humans that become obese gain weight because they are no longer able to lose weight.” Le Magnen’s statement is brilliant.
Gaining body fat because we lost the ability to burn body fat thanks to a hormonal clog is totally different than gaining body fat because we eat too much or exercise too little.
If we are gaining body fat because our body has lost the ability to burn fat, then what good is pushing harder to eat less and to exercise more? That’s like pushing harder on the gas pedal of a car with no wheels. The solution is not to push harder. The solution is to restore the car’s ability to burn rubber…and to restore our body’s ability to burn fat. Once we give our body “wheels” and get rolling with high-quality food and exercise, we’ll be surprised and delighted with how little we have to push and how far that gets us. We’ll be working smarter instead of harder and we’ll be slimmer and healthier because of it.
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