Weight Loss Myths and Facts
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When it comes to weight loss there’s a lot of conflicting content on the internet. So we dissect 3 of the biggest weight loss myths and look at the facts.
All calories sources are equal
Calories from protein, carbohydrates and fats give us energy but they differ in how quickly they give us energy and how they’re metabolized in the body. When these 3 sources are digested, they break down into their most basic units - carbohydrates into sugars, proteins to amino acids and fats into fatty acids and glycerol.
Carbohydrates supply energy the fastest and fats the slowest. Carbohydrates are further classified into simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates like glucose are broken down by the body and are the quickest source of energy. Complex carbohydrates are further broken down into simple carbohydrates thus providing energy at a much slower rate than simple carbohydrates do.
However, if a person is consuming more carbohydrates than they need, the body stores some of these unused carbohydrates into glycogen and some into fats.
Protein provides energy slower and longer but they’re not normally used for energy, instead, they maintain the health of tissues in the body. If the body is not getting enough calories, protein is used for energy. This is why people who are trying to lose weight are warned of muscle loss and encouraged to exercise in order to offset muscle loss as they lose weight.
Fats are the slowest source to provide energy but they’re efficient and the body stores excess energy as fat for later use. Unfortunately, this fat storage can build up as in abdominal fat, subcutaneous fat or in other areas of the body.
In terms of their effects on health and weight, protein, fat and carbs are different. In a 2014 study, diets high in protein were found to more beneficial to satiety and weight control that those high in carbs; however, a high-protein diet is not without its disadvantages. Alternatively, carbs are also not the enemy as plenty of whole, unrefined and unprocessed carbohydrates are healthy.
Weight loss is all about will power
Certain things can affect weight loss. Age, certain diseases (hypothyroidism, polycystic ovarian syndrome and others) as well as your own genetic predisposition are all factors that can influence weight gain or affect weight loss.
As we age, several hormones decrease as well as muscle mass. Less muscle mass means we burn fewer calories and in turn the excess is converted to fat.
Certain autoimmune diseases have been known to affect weight. The Thyroid gland regulates our metabolism and in people with thyroid disease, the immune system messes with your thyroid. In people with hyperthyroid disease, the thyroid is overactive which causes symptoms such as weight loss, hair loss, mood swings and other symptoms. In hypothyroid disease, the thyroid is underactive so patients gain weight, have unexplained fatigue, hair loss and other symptoms.
Genetics is also a factor why some of us are heavier. As cited by a 2010 review on the genetics of obesity; “genetic factors are estimated to account for 40–90% of the population variation in BMI”. In 2007 the FTO gene was identified (there has since been more than 97 genetic regions to account for the variation among people’s BMI). This gene was identified to regulate how the body burns calories either heat or converts them to fat.
The good news is, based on a 2016 study being a carrier of the FTO gene doesn’t affect how much weight you can lose and most of the patient carriers were able to counteract their genetic predisposition with dietary changes, exercise and medical weight loss interventions.
Obesity is a complex subject and there’s even a new controversial theory of metabolically healthy obesity. Basically people who are classified as obese but do not have the diseases linked with obesity.
Gluten is bad
Gluten is a combination of proteins found in wheat, barley and other grains. It’s what gives bread that fluffy or spongy texture. However in people with Celiac disease (a type of sensitivity to gluten), it can be toxic and even a tiny amount of it can cause symptoms like bloating, diarrhea and damages to the lining of the intestine. Thankfully, symptoms can be reversed by adapting a gluten-free diet.
A growing number of professionals and holistic health advocates claim that gluten equally damages the intestines even in people without Celiac disease. They theorize that it causes and triggers a slew of autoimmune diseases. Proponents of the anti-gluten movement point to something called Leaky Gut Syndrome.
Normally, the walls of our intestines act as barriers preventing any harmful substances from entering our bloodstreams while allowing nutrients to be absorbed from the foods we eat. Leaky Gut syndrome advocates point to gluten as the culprit for this “intestinal wall permeability” (meaning harmful substances can easily pass from the gut to the bloodstream).
A team led by Alessio Fasano discovered that gluten was responsible for releasing high amounts of a protein called Zonulin, a modulator of intestinal permeability.
Unfortunately, Leaky Gut is not widely accepted by mainstream medicine. It’s controversial and studies focused on it are few. The problem lies in the fact that intestinal permeability is present in many of these diseases including Celiac and Crohn’s disease. And the community is not sure if leaky gut is merely a symptom associated with these diseases or if it’s causing them. Plus, it’s equally hard to prove because there are no current tests available to validate the claim. To add to the issue further it might not be gluten that’s causing the symptoms in non-Celiac patients.
Certain proteins and carbohydrates in wheat and other grains may be causing these symptoms. Right now most of the benefits of a gluten-free diet are anecdotal and further research is needed to really make the scientific connection.
“Carbohydrates, Proteins, and Fats - Disorders of Nutrition.” - MSD Manual Consumer Version
“A high-Protein diet for reducing body fat: mechanisms and possible caveats.” - PMC, November 19, 2014
“The genetics of obesity: FTOleads the way.” - PMC, June 26, 2010
“FTO genotype and weight loss: systematic review and meta-Analysis of 9563 individual participant data from eight randomised controlled trials.” The BMJ, September 20, 2016
“Top 12 Biggest Myths About Weight Loss.” - Healthline, October 14, 2015
“5 Weight Loss Myths.” - WebMD
“6 Worst Myths You've Ever Heard About Weight Loss.”- Cleveland Clinic, January 24, 2017
“Obesity Genes: DNA Doesn't Matter When it Comes to Losing Weight.” - Time, September 20, 2016
“New Genetic Clues to Obesity Linked to BMI and Fat Distribution.” - Time, February 11, 2015
“Is Leaky Gut Syndrome a Real Thing?” - Healthline: Authority Nutrition, May 11, 2017
“Gluten: A Gut Feeling” - ABCTVCatalyst, November 24, 2015
“Zonulin, regulation of tight junctions, and autoimmune diseases.” - PMC, July 1, 2012
“6 Autoimmune Diseases That Mess With Your Weight.” - Prevention, March 20, 2017
“Metabolically healthy obesity.” - Wikipedia, April 24, 2017