A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine done by a group of Australian researchers says “YES!”
The basis for this conclusion comes from the changes in hormones that occurred after a 10% weight loss that did not return to normal after even a year on a maintenance diet. This was a small study on obese participants with some imperfections but it shows a new side to why people rebound and gain back part of their initial weight loss.
After the initial weight loss, decreases were seen in leptin, peptide YY, cholecystokinin, insulin, and amylin, all of which play either a large or small role in appetite control and suppression. Since the levels decreased after weight loss, but did not come back up to normal, the study participants were left feeling hungrier on their maintenance diets even though their body was provided with sufficient calories. Also levels of ghrelin, gastric inhibitory polypeptide, and pancreatic polypeptide were increased and never corrected with time. Ghrelin is especially significant here because it acts to increase appetite and prepare the digestive system for food consumption. Again, a link that shows increased appetite with weight loss that does not correct itself after a year.
Sound pretty depressing? Why even try to lose weight? For starters, this was a study on obese individuals, not someone with only a small amount to lose. Adipose tissue (aka fat) is an active participant in metabolism and appetite control by playing a role in the production and regulation of some hormones, including a few listed in the study. Why does this matter? When the body stores fat, it first fills up the fat cells(adipocytes) it already has to a critical size, this is known as hypertrophic growth. Once this critical size is reached, pre-cursor cells are stimulated to divide and multiply, thus increasing the number of adipocytes an individual has, known as hyperplastic growth. These new adipocytes never go away, they can only be emptied or filled. So, an obese individual potentially has more adipocytes than someone who is only moderately overweight. This difference may not seem like much, but it should be clear that the more adipocytes you have the more potential you have for a warped metabolism and appetite. This could potentially have a link into why the hormonal changes did not revert to normal conditions. Also, the weight loss was achieved over a relatively short period of time with severe calorie restriction. I don’t believe that accurately reflects a normal individual’s diet and weight loss. And there was no exercise component included, when exercise also plays a role in metabolism and appetite control.
Ok, so if you only have a small to moderate amount to lose, hope is returning but what if you are obese? I think one of the most important conclusions to take from this study is to realize how changes in your hormone levels are effecting you. The level of hormones did not stay exactly the same as they were after the initial weight loss, they did improve to some extent just not back to normal. Also, this was only a year after initial weight loss, but keep in mind it took more than a year to gain the weight and it will take more than a year to lose and maintain it at comfortable levels. However, it comes down to trusting the process. This study gives evidence to why you may still feel hungry or dissatisfied even while following a reasonable diet, it’s not the diet, it’s your metabolism that is still confused.
Either way, this is yet another great reason to reduce the chemicals and processed crap in your diet and lifestyle, as much as possible, because they too wreak havoc on your endocrine system. A few tips to do this are:
- Make as much as possible from scratch at home so you control the ingredients
- Eat whole real foods not low-cal low-fat low-sugar aka highly-processed diet food substances
- Go organic as much as possible, especially where it counts
- Rethink what you view as “healthy”, meaning consider with scrutiny a product that the food industry has tried to portray as healthier than the real thing. For example, “Eggbeaters” are not as healthy as an actual egg. So, don’t try to re-do God’s own recipes, people mess it up every time.
- Reconsider cleaning products with a “do not ingest” warning label- trust me there are safer and cheaper alternatives out there, google it!