Fat Tissue Deregulates Normal Metabolism
Being even a little overweight can set up a chain reaction in the body which leads to obesity despite average exercise and a diet perceived as balanced and healthy. Fat tissue does a lot more than simply keep us warm and the consequences of excess stretch further than our wardrobe. Fat cells which comprise adipose tissue, if in excess, have the power to deregulate normal metabolism leading to further weight gain and disease states. This is due to an altered release of chemical messengers called adipocytokines secreted by fat cells.
Link between Fat Tissue and Inflammation
Included among the group of adipocytokines are adiponectin, leptin and visfatin. They are involved in the process of inflammation and immunity. Apart from its normal role in defence against infection, inflammation can also lead to insulin resistance which is the major cause of increased weight gain as well as inability to lose weight. Visfatin has been shown to bind to the insulin receptor and mimics the effects of insulin. Leptin also correlates with insulin resistance which is seen to be reversed with weight loss.
Insulin Resistance and Weight Gain
Insulin resistance means that the body becomes unable to respond to its own insulin and consequently blood glucose levels rise. As a result the body continues producing even higher levels of insulin in response to the increase in blood glucose. The problem with high levels of insulin is that this hormone converts all dietary carbohydrates into fat tissue at the same time reducing the levels of fat burning hormones. Insulin goes on to stimulate the appetite thereby exacerbating the problem. With all carbohydrates converted into fat tissue there is little left over to meet energy requirements and the body experiences fatigue. Once in this cycle the condition is referred to as Syndrome X.
Reversing Insulin Resistance
Weight loss can reverse insulin resistance, but how can someone with insulin resistance lose weight? It seems like a paradox yet the deregulated metabolism can be reset. The answer initially seems to be a low carbohydrate, low fat, and high protein diet. By eliminating carbohydrates and fats the body is forced to use the stored fat for fuel, while regular high protein consumption prevents loss from muscle tissue. This is the principle behind the popular Dukan diet devised by Frenchman Dr Pierre Dukan. If you follow this diet, you will see an immediate reduction in fat stores. From here on insulin resistance can be reversed and weight loss can become permanent.
Preventing Insulin Resistance by Reducing Inflammation
Now that the link between inflammation and insulin resistance has been established we know that insulin resistance can be prevented by reducing inflammation. Once a healthy weight has been reached it can be maintained by adhering to an anti-inflammatory diet. This includes a high load of fresh fruit and vegetables (avoid the ones which are pro-inflammatory), wholegrains, beans, lentils, oily fish like salmon, canola and olive oils, walnuts, macadamia nuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, olives, avocados, and spices such as chilli, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon. Glucosamine/chondroitin supplements also have anti-inflammatory properties. Of course regular exercise is always important in resetting and regulating the body’s metabolism.
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Rabe K, Lehrke M, Parhofer KG, Broedl UC, 2008, Adipokines and Insulin Resistance, Molecular Medicine, viewed 20 October 2010, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2582855/?tool=pubmed
Rasouli N, Kern PA, 2008, Adipocytokines and the Metabolic Complications of Obesity, J Clin Endocrinol Metab, viewed 20 October 2010, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2585759/?tool=pubmed