Speak to almost any anthropologist and he/she will tell you that 99.9% of human physiology developed in the wild, thousands of years ago. As some Paleolithic experts have said in the past, “We are in a sense living with Fred Flintstone bodies, but we’re in a George Jetson world” During those thousands of years, the human body developed countless adaptations to mold human physiology to the environment around them. Don’t forget, as the science of Epigenetics has shown us, we are a product of our environment,[i] which is not always a good thing, as a junk-food diet often breads a junk-food body.
Let’s not lose sight of the fact that agriculture is a very recent phenomenon in human history —and even more so, the introduction of “so-called’ diet foods! Needless to say, our rapid 30 year switch to highly refined, sugary, starchy lite crap flies in the face of millennia-old physiology — especially the signals that regulate how our bodies use fat or store it.
Unless you are part of a ‘weight loss’ club, your goal should never be just lose weight, but to lose fat and gain muscle, as this is your insurance policy towards metabolic success. Calories may have an impact on body fat accumulation and loss (to some degree) — but much less than most people think.[ii] Most nutritionists/dieticians believe that if you keep stuff your face with more calories than your body requires every day, fat is going to pile on, no matter what those extra calories look like. However, research shows that the macronutrient (fat, carbs, and protein) compositions of the meals you eat are ultimately what decide your metabolic fate.[iii] That’s because the macronutrient ratio of a meal has a tremendous impact on hormones that regulate fat storage and burning.
Deciding Whether to Store or Burn?
When it comes to fat metabolism, a handful of hormones work in concert as a silent orchestra telling the body to either store or release fat. The problem is that most diets designed for ‘weight loss’ end up stimulating the wrong hormonal messages.
The hormone that has the greatest impact on body fat is insulin. If you’re like most people, you first heard about insulin because you knew someone who had diabetes, however everyone needs insulin to live. That’s because insulin’s chief role in the body is to bring glucose into cells, thus giving them the energy they need to survive. Without insulin you don’t last long, which was the case for type 1 diabetes patients in the years before insulin therapy was discovered. Lucky for most of us, special cells in the pancreas called beta cells produce the insulin we need to get nutrients from our blood into the cells where they belong.
But insulin’s role in the body doesn’t end there. When it’s not shuttling glucose into cells, it’s telling the body to store food as fat, stop using fat as energy, and start expanding the fat cells.
Next month in Part 2 of Eat like a Flintstone, Brad will discuss the enzymes of fat storage and fat release and how to influence them towards fat burning around the clock!
Brad King, MS, MFS
[i] Spector T. Identically Different: Why You Can Change Your Genes. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, Sep 18 2012
[ii] Arner, P. 1996. Regulation of lipolysis in fat cells. Diabetes Rev. 4:450-463.
[iii] Meckling, K. A., O’Sullivan, C. & Saari, D. (2004) Comparison of a low-fat diet to a low-carbohydrate diet on weight loss, body composition, and risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease in free-living, overweight men and women. J. Clin. Endocrinol. Metab. 89:2717-2723.