Recent Studies Shed Light on the Metabolism's Role in Obesity and Weight Loss
Once upon a time, it was widely believed that the prospect of weight loss was as simple as calories in, calories out. In other words, if you wanted to lose weight and keep it off, all you had to do was decrease the number of calories you were taking in and/or increase the number of calories you were burning through exercise, and you would eventually begin to shed those excess pounds.
Although this basic model of weight loss still holds some truth, most researchers now believe that the process of achieving and sustaining weight loss is much more complicated than a simple caloric equation. There are many different factors that can interfere with the way that calories are treated within the body. Existing or past illnesses, vitamin deficiencies, hormonal fluctuations, and many other variables can all serve to impede weight loss.
Perhaps the single most significant factor that can complicate the weight loss process is the metabolism. This term refers to the complex interplay of bodily systems, organs, and functions that determine the rate at which energy is burned. Although calories still count, it is often the metabolism that has the final say in determining whether and at what rate calories will be burned or stored as body fat.
Although the metabolism's role in weight loss is now widely acknowledged by most researchers, this complex mechanism is only beginning to be systematically explored in scientific investigations. This week, we'll review a few of the most pertinent recent research findings that have begun to shed light on the metabolism and its role in obesity and weight loss.
Liver Hormone Found to Play Key Role in Fat Metabolism
The seemingly paradoxical success of low-carb dieters has confounded researchers for years. The fact that men and women consuming high-calorie, high-fat diets often lost weight at rates that surpassed their low-fat, calorie-controlled counterparts seemed to fly in the face of decades of research.
For years, the answer underlying the success of low-carb diets continued to elude many researchers. However, the findings of a recent study conducted by scientists at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center may provide an important clue to the anecdotal success rates attributed to popular low-carb diet plans such as the Atkins diet, the South Beach Diet, Protein Power, and many others.
According to the researchers, mice that were fed low-carb diets had significantly increased levels of the liver hormone FGF21. Upon further analysis, the researchers determined that this substance plays a central role in the metabolization of dietary fat. When FGF21 levels are increased, body weight is diminished or maintained, regardless of the fat or calorie content of the diet. When FGF21 levels are suppressed, obesity often occurs. Although the researchers emphasize the need for further study, they acknowledged that this finding may prove to be a crucial turning point in the development of effective treatments for obesity.
New Virtual Model of Human Metabolism Used to Uncover Better Treatments for Obesity
The mysteries of the human metabolic system have long confounded scientists working on the developments of treatments for obesity and new weight loss methods. Researchers at the University of California-San Diego have come up with a novel solution to this problem, developing a highly sophisticated computer model of the human metabolism that they say can be used to better understand the system and development more targeted, effective treatments for obesity.
Although every person's metabolism is unique, the researchers used the vast database of human genome information to develop a highly accurate model that includes hundreds of thousands of interlocking mechanism and functions. The model is already being used in a number of studies on subjects ranging from the creation and distribution of body fats to the regulation of cholesterol. While the final results of these studies have not yet been tabulated, the researchers involved in the project are confident that they will advance the state of the art in obesity research when ultimately published.
Researchers Use Advanced Imaging Techniques to Better Understand Metabolic Irregularities
The skyrocketing rate of obesity in the United States and other developed nations has been partially blamed on the widespread prevalence of metabolic syndrome. This term refers to the confluence of a number of conditions that put sufferers at much greater risk for obesity, while also rendering the challenge of weight loss even more difficult. Resistance to insulin is one of the most significant symptoms of metabolic syndrome.
Hoping to gain a better understanding of metabolic syndrome, scientists at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute of the Yale University School of Medicine recently put advanced medical imaging technology to work to analyze the abdominal fat cells of healthy, non-obese patients.
Stubborn belly fat is strongly associated with metabolic syndrome, and some researchers have even hypothesized that it may be the chief cause of the disorder. However, the team's findings indicate that abdominal fat may actually be the outcome, rather than the cause, of the insulin resistance that is linked with metabolic syndrome. The abnormalities in fat processing and storage that are referred to as metabolic syndrome were observed even in individuals with no significant accumulation of belly fat, prompting the researchers to conclude that the root causes of insulin resistance may lie elsewhere.
If you want more insight into the way that your metabolism works and how its function may be impacting your weight loss efforts, consult with your doctor. Be sure to check back each week for more of the diet and weight loss news you need to succeed.
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