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Improper weight usually means overweight or obesity. The problem is in balance – we deliver more energy to our body than we eat. It is the characteristic feature of highly developed countries.
What is important in the theory of calorie balance?
- We gain energy from food. Carbohydrates and fat are the most efficient sources of energy. Their molecules are divided into smaller ones during digestive processes. In case of carbohydrates, these smaller particles are glucose (dextrose) or fructose and galactose (parts of lactose – the milk sugar). Sugars can be converted into themselves mutually, to finally arrive in one of billion body cells, where they are processed to energy.
- Production of energy happens with the highest efficiency in mitochondria. Their basic role of mitochondria, as the cell organ, is to produce energy in the cell. Those small energy cells have 0.0000787402 – 0.0001968504 inch (2 – 5 micrometers) of length and 0.000019685 – 0.0000787402 inch (0.5 – 2 micrometers) in diameter. The more energy an organ needs, the more mitochondria it has. In the single cell, there might be only a few mitochondria (like in platelets), tens of thousands (like in nerve cells), or even hundreds of thousands (as in ova). An adult person, consuming even over 2 – 4lbs (1-2kg) or food during a day, simultaneously produces the energy which uses compounds like ATP, AMP, and ADP of the weight of one’s body! In cases of peak physical stress, the number of used compounds to produce energy may be equal to 220lbs (100kg). Our weight does not increase, as produces compounds are immediately used to maintain the functionality of various organs. The supply of energy-producing compounds in an organism (AMP, ADP, ATP in the majority) equals just 3.53oz (100g).
- The processes of RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate) and those for physical and mental effort take place thanks to energy produces in mitochondria. The whole process is similar to refueling, thanks to which in the engine we have energy which moves our vehicles. When we eat, we consume “fuel” to be used in mitochondria. Those “fuel” calories make us live, think and make an effort.
- What calorie is? The energy unit that is defined as the amount of energy needed to increase the temperature of 1g of water by 1 degree Celsius at atmospheric pressure.
- What metabolism is? According to medterms.com, it is: “Whole range of biochemical processes that occur in our bodies (or in any living organism). Metabolism is made of anabolism and catabolism (accordingly: collection and distribution of substance). The terms are commonly used for food digesting and processing it for energy.”
- The important calories measurements
- 1g of protein has four calories,
- 1g of carbohydrates has four calories,
- 1g of fat has nine calories
- 1kg / 1000g / 2.2lbs. of fat has 7700 calories,
- 1kg / 1000g / 2.2 lbs. of muscle tissue have ~1320 calories if we acquire the energy in gluconeogenesis process from muscles, in case there is a glucose deficiency (cell fuel). However, due to the complexity of the process, we need 5500 calories to build 1kg / 1000g / 2.2 lbs. of muscle.
- Resting Metabolic Rate is the major factor of our daily calorie usage. These are calories one burn doing nothing (not literally, as it is used to keep the temperature, heart rate, blood circulation, brain activity, etc.). Every time one performs a physical activity or intentionally use your brain, you burn calories above the RMR. Resting Metabolic Rate for adult people who lead a sedentary lifestyle is a 60-70% of daily calorie burn.
Hundreds of years ago Isaac Newton proved that all the energy in entire Universe is maintained – it is the first law of thermodynamics. In our case, it means that if you eat the same number of calories you burn, your weight stays the same. Analogical, when we eat more than we burn, we gain weight, or when we eat less – we lose it. It is very logical, but only if your metabolism works in ideal conditions. It applies both to anabolism and catabolism
The ideal conditions, in case of metabolism, are hard to get. Food you eat is absorbed at different rates, and they have various amounts of fiber, carbohydrates, proteins, fat, and other nutrients. All of that results in diverse, complex metabolic signals, which control body weight. Additionally, these are only a few factors which affect your weight.
- One of the most critical weight-gaining factors is the thyroid condition. The thyroid controls the metabolism of the human organism, and hormones produced by this gland are critical as they regulate metabolic processes such as anabolism and catabolism. Moreover, they have an impact on heart rate, temperature, blood pressure, etc. Hypothyroidism causes to lack of hormone and can slow metabolism which results in weight gain. It is the opposite when we have hyperthyroidism as the excess of the hormone may result in the loss of weight.
- It is not common knowledge, but damaged mitochondria have a significant impact on weight gain. If they are damaged, the process of energy production may be slowed down. If the body has limited possibilities of burning the energy gained from food, the amount of fat tissue may increase.
The more important cause of mitochondria damage is the aging process of an organism. The antibiotics given to children may also cause it because they damage mitochondria. Why? Evolutionarily, mitochondria originate from bacteria, and antibiotics affect bacteria and mitochondria heavily fracturing their genome.
- If we have increased level of fat issue, especially in abdomen areas, it can release inflammatory proteins – cytokines. And afterward, it causes the synthesis of nitric oxide NO. Then, it leads to nitrosative stress which causes the vitamin B12 depletion. In such a situation the quick development of symmetrical peripheral polyneuropathy may occur. Polyneuropathy means the disturbance of many peripheral nerves, those which transmit information between the brain and organs.
Increased level of nitric oxide (nitrosative stress) inhibits the metabolism of carbohydrates. If we overeat of them in a short time, we will not be able to process it to energy, and it is going to be stored as fat tissue, primarily as the dangerous visceral adipose tissue. In this way, we fall into the vicious circle of weight gain, as our existing fat tissue is a flywheel to its growth.
- The other factor is the so-called hunger syndrome. What do the most of nowadays popular diets advice? Limit food calories, and you will lose weight. This method usually fails. The reason? Your body “thinks” that it dies of hunger and starts chemical processes to force you to eat more. The hunger syndrome works like that. World Health Organization classifies diets that consist of less than 2100 calories for an average man and 1800 calories for average woman as the starvation diet. Therefore, for example, a woman who is dieting and tries to eat less than 1800 daily calories, starts to live with hunger syndrome.
- The excess of consumed fat may be the cause of overweight and obesity. There is no problem if the fat does not exceed the 40% (⅖) of consumed calories, as long as they are not trans-fats.
- Glycemic index (GI) classifies food in the scale from 0 to 100. It means how quickly and for how long the blood sugar level increases after the consumption of specific food. Products with the high GI are digested fast and absorbed directly from bowel, which results in the rapid increase of blood sugar levels.
- The glycemic load of consumed carbohydrates (GL) states what glycemic value has the portion of food and what amount of glucose it delivers. GL takes into account the weight of carbohydrates in a portion of food (W) and glycemic index (GI) of these carbohydrates. It is calculated according to the formula:
Food with a high glycemic index and significant glycemic load activate several genes in an organism, which impair mitochondrial metabolism causing nitrosative stress (increased level of nitric oxide). That, in turn, inhibits the metabolism of carbohydrates, which in result leads to the formation of fat tissue.
- Type one and two diabetes operates viciously and may be considered as pandemic nowadays. When we do not control this disease, especially the sugar and insulin levels in the bloodstream, it may result in overweight and obesity.
- Insulin resistance of fat cells results that we gain fat tissue in certain places. Then the problem is not overweight, but the change in body proportion. Sometimes it is the deformation of silhouette when fat tissue is deposited only in particular places. The cause is the resistance to insulin of specific fat cell, in which case they are not capable of storing fat, so it is deposited in cells, which are susceptible to insulin. For example, for women, these are usually fat cells located in the hips, glutes and thighs area.
- The mechanism of compensation makes the diet calories reduction to cause limited energy spending of our organism, together with the slowdown in metabolism, and tiredness. It also may result in the reluctance to physical activity as it is the way of storing the energy by the organism, which supply was decreased. Whereas, physical activity – under compensation mechanism – will increase the demand for food. In 1940 Hugo Rony, the researcher from the University of Northwestern, written in his book Obesity and Leanness that the intensive physical exercises cause immediate demand for food. Moreover, the high or low spending of energy results in high or low appetite. Consequently, the men who work physically eat more than those who work in an office.
- One of the possible causes of overweight and obesity may be the nitrosative stress. It hampers the metabolism of carbohydrates. If we deliver too many carbohydrates, especially the fructose, our organism is not able to process it for energy. Therefore, they are stored as abdominal fat tissue and blood lipid (triglycerides, cholesterol). Disturbance of carbohydrates metabolism, which originates from nitrosative stress, may lead to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. Secondary effects of the disturbance are insulin resistance, hyperinsulinemia, high blood pressure, and other cardiovascular diseases. It is essential to know that long-lasting mental stress may also cause above mentioned conditions because it increases the level of nitric oxide in the bloodstream. Stress may cause insulin resistance which in consequence may lead to type two diabetes.
So, there is a vicious circle, as type two diabetes may cause nitrosative stress and problems with metabolism of carbohydrates.
- A lot is happening as regards to researches to find a way to stop the obesity “outbreak.” Some of them focus on finding the gene and even have found the one which might be responsible for problems of some people to keep the proper weight if the gene has a defect. So-called obesity gene makes the brain to be less sensitive for hormones. It “thinks” that our organism has a less fat tissue, and that we have eaten less than it really was. Remember, that it is enough to eat only 5% more daily than a body needs to cause obesity.
- Other studies are concentrated on the mysterious world of bowel microbial flora. In our intestine, there are around 100 billion (100 000 000 000 000) bacteria of a different kind. According to the latest studies, these bacteria are responsible for our health and weight. The most important spot is the linking between large and small intestine, as this is where hunger and satiety hormones are produced. The food that supports the intestinal microbial flora is the traditional Mediterranean diet. The essential ingredients are olives, olive oil, dark chocolate, yogurt, globe artichokes, tomatoes, fruit, fish. To cut it short, the diet rich in fiber.
- There is the theory, confirmed by several studies, which states that not calories, but fat tissue hormones may prevent dieting. In particular the leptin and ghrelin, discovered in the 1990s.
Leptin is produced in fat cells. It is a hormone flowing in the bloodstream, and it informs the brain about “fuel” level in an organism, and whether the “fuel” has enough energy for current needs or not. In other words, leptin is the regulator of a fat level. When we eat, leptin increases, and appetite decreases, and we feel full. After that, the leptin level decreases, and at the same time it informs the brain that the energy was delivered, and metabolism should “accelerate.” It all happens, of course, if our diet is balanced, and the energy we deliver is appropriate. Whereas, when we are dieting – we lose fat, and organism produces fewer of leptin. The shortage of hormone causes the growth of appetite because the brain does not receive the strong satiety signal, so we eat more to restore energy balance.
Leptin also regulates the pace of fat deterioration (when leptin level increase, the fat metabolism increases as well). When we are dieting, leptin level decreases together with the metabolism of fat, which leads to the slowdown of physiological processes to optimally use the remaining energy.
Ghrelin is the leptin’s opponent. This peptide stimulates the excretion of growth hormone and increases the fat level in an organism. It is produced by stomach epithelial cells, and when it increases, we feel hungry. Its peak level occurs before eating, and it decreases right after. In conclusion, the role both of leptin and ghrelin is to regulate appetite and the fat tissue level.
There are other factors responsible for body weight. Perhaps, the nutritional science has not recognized some of them yet.