Category Archives: Weight Loss

Does Cold Exposure Help With Weight Loss?

Well below room temp here

Probably well below room temp here

David Mendosa found a 2016 research report suggesting that cool temperatures may help with weight management by activating our brown fat, which burns more calories. Heat generated by brown fat is derived from glucose and triglycerides. Keep in mind as you read further that a comfortable environment temperature for a clothed human is about 23°C or 73°F. Those temps don’t stress our bodies by requiring us to either generate or dissipate extra body heat.

David writes:

Researchers have discovered that when we get mildly cold, which they define as being cool without shivering, our bodies burn more calories. As a result, managing our weight can be easier.
This is the conclusion of a recent review that two researchers at Maastricht University Medical Center in the Netherlands published in the November 2016 issue of the professional journal Diabetologia. The title of their article, “Combatting type 2 diabetes by turning up the heat,” puzzled me at first.

The title confused me because the study is about turning down the heat in the room we’re in. But then our bodies compensate by turning up their internal heat production.

When our body does this, its energy expenditure increases, ratcheting up our metabolism. Being mildly cold revs up our bodies’ brown fat, which unlike white fat, burns calories instead of storing them.

It’s not quite clear how much cold exposure it takes to turn on your brown fat. From the link above:

Cold acclimation by intermittent exposure to a cool (14–17°C) [57–63°F], or cold (10°C) [50°F] environment resulted in significant increases in NST [non-shivering thermogenesis or heat production] capacity. A 10 day cold acclimation study with 6 hour exposure to 14–15°C [57–59°F] per day was enough to significantly increase NST by 65% on average. A 6 week mild cold acclimation study (daily 2 hour cold exposure at 17°C [63°F]) also resulted in an increase in NST together with a concomitant decrease in body fat mass. The latter two studies also revealed significant increases in BAT [brown adipose tissue] presence and activation. All in all, cold-induced BAT activity is significant in adults and parallels NST. The actual quantitative contributions of BAT and of other tissues (e.g. skeletal muscle) to whole-body NST are, however, not elucidated and await further studies. Furthermore, more information is needed on the duration, timing and temperatures to find out which treatments are most effective with respect to increasing NST.

Furthermore, cold exposure over the course of 10 days increased insulin sensitivity in T2 diabetics by 43%. Eight study subjects, probably in the Netherlands, were exposed to temps of 14–15°C [57–59°F] but I don’t know for how many hours a day. Increased insulin sensitivity should help keep a lid on blood sugar levels and reduce the need for diabetes drugs.

In case you’re elderly, obese, or have type 2 diabetes, be aware that the activation of brown fat by cold exposure is not as robust as in others.

On the other hand, I found evidence that higher ambient temperatures (above 23°C) [73°F] may also help with weight management, regardless of what brown fat is doing. Science is hard.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: Check out my books for more ideas on weight management.

 

Paleo Diet Reduced Low-Grade Inflammation In Obese Postmenopausal Women

I haven’t read the entire article, so probably can’t answer any of your questions. When you read “android fat” below, think “belly fat,” which is linked to poor health outcomes compared to non-belly fat.

OBJECTIVE: Abdominal fat accumulation after menopause is associated with low-grade inflammation and increased risk of metabolic disorders. Effective long-term lifestyle treatment is therefore needed.

METHODS: Seventy healthy postmenopausal women (age 60 ± 5.6 years) with BMI 32.5 ± 5.5 were randomized to a Paleolithic-type diet (PD) or a prudent control diet (CD) for 24 months. Blood samples and fat biopsies were collected at baseline, 6 months, and 24 months to analyze inflammation-related parameters.

RESULTS: Android fat decreased significantly more in the PD group (P = 0.009) during the first 6 months with weight maintenance at 24 months in both groups. Long-term significant effects (P < 0.001) on adipose gene expression were found for toll-like receptor 4 (decreased at 24 months) and macrophage migration inhibitory factor (increased at 24 months) in both groups. Serum interleukin 6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor α levels were decreased at 24 months in both groups (P < 0.001) with a significant diet-by-time interaction for serum IL-6 (P = 0.022). High-sensitivity C-reactive protein was decreased in the PD group at 24 months (P = 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS: A reduction of abdominal obesity in postmenopausal women is linked to specific changes in inflammation-related adipose gene expression.

Source: Attenuated Low-Grade Inflammation Following Long-Term Dietary Intervention in Postmenopausal Women with Obesity. – PubMed – NCBI

Can You Activate Your Brown Fat, and What If You Did?

The Joslin diabetes blog has an interesting article on brown fat and its effect on metabolic rate and insulin sensitivity. Brown fat is just a type of body type different from the more plentiful white fat (which is actually more pale yellow). If there are other colors of body fat, I don’t know.

If you can “activate” your brown fat, it helps you burn more calories, which could be helpful if you’re trying to lose weight. It also improves insulin sensitivity: beneficial if you have type 2 diabetes or are prone to it.

From Joslin:

“When brown fat is fully activated, it can burn between 200 and 300 extra calories per day. It is most successfully activated through cold exposure. A recent study of people with type 2 diabetes had volunteers sit in a 50 degree room for a couple of hours a day for 10 days in shorts and short-sleeved shirts.

“When I say cold, it’s not icy cold, it’s not like the winter in Boston,” she says. “It’s more or less like the temperature we have here in autumn. After this mild cold exposure, all ten volunteers with type 2 diabetes, as shown in that study, displayed increased brown fat activity and improved insulin sensitivity. This is very exciting.”

Dr. Tseng is working on understanding exactly what is happening on a cellular level to activate brown fat in the cold to see if she can create a drug that will mimic the effects. “Although cold works, it’s just not pleasant,” she says. “If you had to sit in a cold room for a few hours every day, perhaps not everybody could accept that.”

Source: How Your Body Temperature Can Affect Your Metabolism | Speaking of Diabetes | The Joslin Blog

Another way to activate brown fat is exercise (at least if you’re a man or a mouse).

Steve Parker, M.D.

Paleolithic Diet Beat Standard Healthy Diet in Overweight Australian Women

She doesn't need to lose weight

She doesn’t need to lose weight

By “beat the other diet,” I mean it in terms of weight loss. Over four weeks, the paleo dieters lost an extra 2 kg (4.4 lb) compared to the other group. Click the link at bottom for full text of the study. Here’s the abstract:

Background: The Paleolithic diet is popular in Australia, however, limited literature surrounds the dietary pattern. Our primary aim was to compare the Paleolithic diet with the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating (AGHE) in terms of anthropometric, metabolic and cardiovascular risk factors, with a secondary aim to examine the macro and micronutrient composition of both dietary patterns.

Methods: 39 healthy women (mean ± SD age 47 ± 13 years, BMI 27 ± 4 kg/m2) were randomised to either the Paleolithic (n = 22) or AGHE diet (n = 17) for four weeks. Three-day weighed food records, body composition and biochemistry data were collected pre and post intervention.

Results: Significantly greater weight loss occurred in the Paleolithic group (−1.99 kg, 95% CI −2.9, −1.0), p < 0.001). There were no differences in cardiovascular and metabolic markers between groups. The Paleolithic group had lower intakes of carbohydrate (−14.63% of energy (E), 95% CI −19.5, −9.7), sodium (−1055 mg/day, 95% CI −1593, −518), calcium (−292 mg/day 95% CI −486.0, −99.0) and iodine (−47.9 μg/day, 95% CI −79.2, −16.5) and higher intakes of fat (9.39% of E, 95% CI 3.7, 15.1) and β-carotene (6777 μg/day 95% CI 2144, 11410) (all p < 0.01).

Conclusions: The Paleolithic diet induced greater changes in body composition over the short-term intervention, however, larger studies are recommended to assess the impact of the Paleolithic vs. AGHE diets on metabolic and cardiovascular risk factors in healthy populations.

Source: Nutrients | Free Full-Text | Cardiovascular, Metabolic Effects and Dietary Composition of Ad-Libitum Paleolithic vs. Australian Guide to Healthy Eating Diets: A 4-Week Randomised Trial | HTML

Excessive Loose Skin After Massive Weight Loss Is a Problem 

None of my patients has ever lost 650 lb (295 kg), but I’ve no doubt that skin that has been stretched out for decades doesn’t spring back into place.

NYT has an interesting article on it:

“It has been more than six years since Paul Mason, who once weighed 980 pounds and could not move from his bed, pulled himself back to life with gastric bypass surgery and his own strength of will. But he still carries his past with him.

On Wednesday, Mr. Mason, who is 55 and now lives in rural Athol, Mass., took another important step in a process that has been long and uneven, marked by small triumphs and unexpected setbacks. He had the second of two surgeries to eliminate the excess skin that enveloped his body like a shroud. Fifty pounds of it was removed from his abdomen last year; this time, about 10 pounds’ worth was excised from his arms and hip in a multihour operation in Manhattan.”

Source: Hundreds of Pounds Lighter, and Now Shedding Another Burden of the Past – The New York Times

What About the Newcastle Diet?

Some of these are Newcastle-compliant

Some of these are Newcastle-compliant

In 2011, Prof. Roy Taylor and colleagues found they could “reverse” type 2 diabetes with a very low-calorie diet. How low? 600–800 per day for eight weeks. His program—often called the Newcastle diet—has achieved some prominence in the United Kingdom but I don’t hear about it much over here across the pond. The clinical study in support of the program was very small—only 11 participants: 9 men and 2 women (with an average BMI of 33.6). I’m sure hundreds, if not thousands, have tried it since then.

I’m not endorsing or recommending the Newcastle diet at this time. I haven’t studied it in detail. It probably requires careful medical and dietitian supervision. Prof. Taylor says:

Our research subjects found the diet challenging to stick to. Motivated people were selected, and support from the team was given frequently. Support from the families of the research volunteers was very important in helping them comply with the diet. Hunger was not a particular problem after the first few days, but the complete change in social activities (not going to the pub, not joining in the family meals etc.) was a challenge over the eight weeks.

The purpose of this post is simply to collect a few informational links for my own records and for my readers who want to know more.

Links:

The original program utilizes Optifast liquid meals (600 calories/day) plus vegetables for another 200 calories. Prof. Taylor notes that products equivalent to Optifast may be more readily available and just as effective, but I don’t know what those are. Ensure? Carnation Instant Breakfast? Boost? Jevity?

Very low calorie diets like this are often referred to as starvation diets or crash diets. Starvation diets can cause weakness and easy fatigue, headaches, dizziness, hair loss, gallstones, electrolyte (blood mineral) disturbances, palpitations, nutritional deficiencies, skin problems, gout, kidney failure, or worse.

Even if successful, transitioning away from the eight-week Newcastle diet better be done carefully or the diabetes will return. Prevention of weight regain is harder than losing weight.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Do Diet Beverages Hinder Weight Loss?

ppp

That looks more like a beer than a diet soda bottle

Overweight and obese women who habitually drank diet beverages lost more weight if they substituted water for the diet beverage. Over the course of 24 weeks on a reduced calorie diet, the water drinkers lost an extra 1.2 kg (2.6 lb) compared to those who continued their diet beverage habit.

Furthermore, the researchers found that the water drinkers had healthier values on insulin levels, HOMA-IR (a measure of insulin resistance), and after-meal blood sugar levels.

I wonder if the sweet taste of diet drinks triggers an insulin release that inhibits fat-burning.

This was a small study with only about 30 in each experimental group. Whether similar results would be seen in men is unknown to me.

In the past, I’ve advised dieters it’s OK to drink diet drinks in moderation while trying to weight. I may have to revise my recommendations. On the other hand, if diet drinks help keep you happy and on a successful weight-loss journey, they may be helpful. The diet beverage consumers still lost 7.6 kg (16.7 lb) compared with 8.8 kg (19.4 lb) in the abstainers. But diets don’t work, right?

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: I haven’t read the full text of the article; just the abstract.

PPS: Steven Novella at Science-Based Medicine blog concludes that low energy sweeteners probably help with weight control.

8 Tips for Overcoming a Weight-Loss Stall

It’s common on any weight-loss program to be cruising along losing weight as promised, then suddenly the weight loss stops although you’re still far from goal weight. This is the mysterious and infamous stall.

Once you know the cause for the stall, the way to break it becomes obvious. The most common reasons are:

  • you’re not really following the full program any more; you’ve drifted off the path, often unconsciously
  • instead of eating just until you’re full or satisfied on a very-low-carb diet, you’re stuffing yourself
  • you need to start or intensify an exercise program
  • you’ve developed an interfering medical problem such as adrenal insufficiency (rare) or an underactive thyroid; see your doctor
  • you’re taking interfering medication such as a steroid; see your doctor
  • your strength training program is building new muscle that masks ongoing loss of fat (not a problem!).

If you still can’t figure out what’s causing your stall, do a nutritional analysis of one weeks’ worth of eating, with a focus on daily digestible carbs (net carbs) and calorie totals. You can do this analysis online at places like FitDay or Calorie Count .

How Does That Help?

What you do with your data depends on whether you’re losing weight through portion control (usually reflecting calorie restriction) or carb counting. Most people lose weight with one of these two methods. (Exercise alone is hardly ever effective for significant amounts of body fat loss.)

If you’re a carb counter, you may find you’ve been sabotaged by “carb creep”: excessive dietary carbs have insidiously invaded you. You need to cut back. Even if you’re eating very-low-carb, it’s still possible to have excess body fat, even gain new fat, if you eat too many calories from protein and fat. It’s not easy, but it’s possible.

Those who have followed a calorie-restriction weight loss model for awhile may have become lax in their record-keeping. The stall is a result of simply eating too much. Call it “portion creep.” You need to re-commit to observing portion sizes.

“Doc, I’m Doing Everything You Say and It’s Still Not Working. Help!”

A final possible cause for a weight loss stall is that you just don’t need as many calories as you once did. Think about this. Someone who weighs 300 lb (136 kg) is eating perhaps 3300 calories a day just to maintain a steady weight. He goes on a calorie-restricted diet (2800/day) and loses a pound (0.4 kg) a week. Eventually he’s down to 210 lb (95.5 kg) but stalled, aiming for 180 lb (82 kg). The 210-lb body (95.5 kg) doesn’t need 3300 calories a day to keep it alive and steady-state; it only needs 2800 and that’s what it’s getting. To restart the weight loss process, he has to reduce calories further, say down to 2300/day. This is not the “slowed down metabolism” we see with starvation or very-low-calorie diets. It’s simply the result of getting rid of 90 pounds of fat (41 kg) that he no longer needs to feed.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Easy and Not-So-Easy Weight-Loss Tips

 

Left, right, or straight ahead (the road less travelled)?

Left, right, or straight ahead (the road less travelled)?

Record-keeping is often the key to success. Depending on the weight loss program you choose, you might need to track: carbohydrate grams, calories, daily weight, all food consumption, blood sugars, etc. For example, I provide daily logs for all of my diets: Paleobetic Diet, Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet, Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet, and Advanced Mediterranean Diet.

Accountability is another key to success. Consider documenting your program and progress on a free website such as FitDay, SparkPeople, 3FatChicks, Calorie Count (http://caloriecount.about.com), or others. Consider blogging about your adventure on a free platform such as WordPress or Blogger. Such a public commitment may be just what you need to keep you motivated. Do you have a friend or spouse who wants to lose weight? Start the same program at the same time and support each other. That’s built-in accountability.

If you tend to over-eat, floss and brush your teeth after you’re full. You’ll be less likely to go back for more anytime soon.

Eat at least two or three meals daily. Skipping meals may lead to uncontrollable overeating later on. On the other hand, ignore the diet gurus who say you must eat every two or three hours. That’s BS.

Eat meals at a leisurely pace, chewing and enjoying each bite thoroughly before swallowing.

Savor every bite

Savor every bite

Plan to give yourself a specific reward for every 10 pounds (4.5 kg) of weight lost. You know what you like. Consider a weekend get-away, a trip to the beauty salon, jewelry, an evening at the theater, a professional massage, home entertainment equipment, new clothes, etc.

Carefully consider when would be a good time to start your new lifestyle. It should be a period of low or usual stress. Bad times would be Thanksgiving day, Christmas/New Years’ holiday, the first day of a Caribbean cruise, and during a divorce.

If you know you’ve eaten enough at a meal to satisfy your nutritional requirements yet you still feel hungry, drink a large glass of water and wait a while.

Limit television to a maximum of a few hours a day.

shutterstock_67484833

Maintain a consistent eating pattern throughout the week and year.

Eat breakfast routinely.

Control emotional eating.

Weigh frequently: daily during active weight-loss efforts and during the first two months of your maintenance-of-weight-loss phase. After that, cut back to weekly weights if you want. Daily weights will remind you how hard you worked to achieve your goal.

Be aware that you might regain five or 10 pounds (2–4 kg) of fat now and then. You probably will. Don’t freak out. It’s human nature. You’re not a failure; you’re human. But draw the line and get back on the old weight-loss program for one or two months. Analyze and learn from the episode. Why did it happen? Slipping back into your old ways? Slacking off on exercise? Too many special occasion feasts or cheat days? Allowing junk food back into the house?

Learn which food item is your nemesis—the food that consistently torpedoes your resolve to eat right. For example, mine is anything sweet. Remember an old ad campaign for a potato chip: “Betcha can’t eat just one!”? Well, I can’t eat just one cookie. So I don’t get started. I might eat one if it’s the last one available. Or I satisfy my sweet craving with a diet soda, small piece of dark chocolate, or sugar-free gelatin. Just as a recovering alcoholic can’t drink any alcohol, perhaps you should totally abstain from…? You know your own personal gastronomic Achilles heel. Or heels. Experiment with various strategies for vanquishing your nemesis.

If you’re not losing excess weight as expected (about a pound or half a kilogram per week), you may benefit from eating just two meals a day. This will often turn on your cellular weight-loss machinery even when total calorie consumption doesn’t seem much less than usual. The two meals to eat would be breakfast and a mid-afternoon meal (call it what you wish). The key is to not eat within six hours of bedtime. Of course, this trick could cause dangerous hypoglycemia if you’re taking drugs with potential to cause low blood sugars, like insulin and sulfonylureas; talk to your dietitian or physician before instituting a semi-radical diet change like this.

One of the bloggers I follow is James Fell. He says, “If you want to lose weight you need to cook. Period.” James blogs at http://www.sixpackabs.com, with a focus on exercise and fitness.

Regular exercise is much more important for prevention of weight regain rather than for actually losing weight.

Steve Parker, M.D.

 

Diabetes Drug Liraglutide Going Mainstream, for Weight Loss

Just before Christmas last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a new weight-loss drug: Saxenda. It’s the same drug—liraglutide or Victoza—they approved for treatment of diabetes in 2010.

Click for my brief review of the drug class for diabetics.

Click for the CBS News report on Saxenda. A snippet:

One clinical trial that involved patients without diabetes found that patients taking Saxenda had an average weight loss of 4.5 percent after one year. Of the people treated with the drug, 62 percent lost at least 5 percent of their body weight. Meanwhile, only 34 percent of those given an inactive placebo had the same result.

Another clinical trial that included patients with type 2 diabetes found that patients had an average weight loss of almost 4 percent after one year. Of those given Saxenda, 49 percent lost at least 5 percent of their body weight, compared to 16 percent of those who were given a placebo treatment.

Click for the FDA’s press release.

Oh, by the way. You have to inject it daily under the skin (subcutaneous). And if you were hoping for a shortcut to weight loss, this ain’t it. You’re still supposed to follow a reduced-calorie diet and exercise regularly.

I’d try the Paleobetic Diet first if I had diabetes. Lose excess weight and control blood sugars.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: Full prescribing information.