Obesity Solutions
Dr. L. Lee Coyne
Dr. L. Lee Coyne

Obesity Solutions – More than Exercise and Calories

By L. Lee Coyne Ph.D.

Talking about obesity has many similarities to talking about the weather. “Everybody talks about it – nobody does anything about” is how the old saying goes. The media has reported an endless stream of depressing negative statistics on the subject leading many people with “information over-load” and a level of desensitization to the gravity of the problem.

Many groups in our society have well-meaning intentions in their approaches to the solution for obesity, but most fall short for many reasons. The reasons for the short fall can range from extreme simplicity in recommendations, to not understanding the science, to persistent adoption of old thinking.

The first step to a solution is to make it a priority. A child psychologist was once asked “how do you get children to eat properly” and his answer was – “exactly the same way to insist that they look both ways before crossing the street”. In other words – make it a priority.

The second step is to realize that  fat must be metabolized – it will not evaporate nor dissolve. So engaging in more physical activity is part of the solution. There are 3500 calories in a pound of fat and you will metabolize 80 to 130 calories in each mile that you travel (on foot of course). So adding 27 - 44 miles to your activity habits will reduce your fat stores by 1 pound. We also know that the more muscular burn more fat so exercise does play a role. However, there is no exercise program that will compensate for Stupid Nutrition.

Dr. David Allison from the University of Alabama wrote in the June 2006 issue of The International Journal of Obesity, “Undue attention has been devoted to reduced physical activity and food marketing practices” at the expense of considering other contributing factors to the equation.

Some the these “other factors” include sleep deprivation, environmental toxins, pharmaceuticals (both prescription and non-prescription), food additives like MSG.

Simplistic Recommendations are often centered around the two assumptions

  • a calorie is a calorie is a calorie and
  • weight management is a simple matter of the balance between calories eaten and calories burned.

Calorie is a calorie when we burn food samples in a calorimeter (laboratory instrument for measuring calories in food) but a Calorimeter is not burdened with sensitive hormones that affect hunger, satiety, choice of food type to be burned, variable rates of food burning, fat storage and fat mobilization.

Some of the Science starts with the understanding that most fat storage is the result of chronically elevated insulin. Insulin is the fat-storage hormone that removes sugar from the blood (to prevent you from developing diabetes) and helps to convert the surplus sugar into fat and transport it to fat stores. Elevated insulin also inhibits the release of the “fat mobilizing” hormone glucagon from the pancreas. Chronically elevated insulin occurs in a diet of excess carbohydrate. Consequently, optimum fat burning metabolism occurs when these two hormones are in balance and that occurs when the macro-nutrients of carbohydrate, protein and fat are well balanced. The 40- 30 – 30 eating plan I have promoted for many years is designed to maintain such a balance.

The other hormone-balancing act controlled by diet involves Leptin and Ghrelin. Leptin  is a protein hormone, discovered in 1994  at Rockefeller University, that contributes to appetite regulation. Leptin is produced by adipose tissue and signals the Hypothalamus (where the satiety centre is located ) that the body has had enough to eat.

Obese people have an unusually high circulating concentration of leptin. These people are said to be resistant to the effects of leptin, in much the same way that people with type 2 diabetes are resistant to the effects of insulin.

Thus, obesity develops when people take in more energy than they use over a prolonged period of time, and this excess food intake is not driven by hunger signals, occurring in spite of the anti-appetite signals from circulating leptin. The high sustained concentrations of leptin from the enlarged fat stores result in the cells that respond to leptin becoming desensitized.

Ghrelin is another protein hormone produced by adipose cells and is responsible for stimulating appetite. Leptin should inhibit appetite and Ghrelin stimulates appetite.

Studies reported in Metabolism in 1998, The American Journal of Physiology 1996 and the Journal of Clinical  Endocrinology 1997 have shown that fasting or following a VLCD (Very low calorie diets) diet lowers leptin levels.

Sleep Deprivation: Cappuccio of the University of Warwick has recently discovered that lack of sleep produces Ghrelin which, among other effects, stimulates appetite and creates less leptin. Short sleep duration may lead to obesity, through an increase of appetite via hormonal changes.

Pharmaceutical causes: Dr. Appleton of Healthnotes Newswire reported that many of the prescription drugs induce weight gain. These include antipsychotics, antidepressants antidiabetics, antihypertensives, as well as antihistamines, protease inhibitors, mood stabilizers, anticonvulsants, steroid hormones, and contraceptives.

Environmental toxins: Appleton also reported that the presence of hormone-disrupting environmental chemicals in the food chain PCBs, accumulate in human fat tissue and disrupt normal endocrine activity in the body. These hormone disruptions include interfering with the activity of estrogens, androgens, and other hormones that regulate fat metabolism in the body.

Food Additives like MSG are used in obesity research to create strains of obese and hyperinsulinemic rats. Dr. John Erb from the University of Waterloo wrote in his book “The Slow Poisoning of America” that “MSG triples the amount of insulin the pancreas creates”. MSG is very pervasive in our food chain and can appear on food labels under other names like “Hydrolyzed vegetable protein”.

Calories do count and to lose fat you do have to create a negative calorie balance. Exercise is a contributor to this balance but many other issues are at play that affect how the body responds and complies with the attempted lifestyle changes. There is evidence to support a way of eating (WOE) that encourages hormonal control and repairs metabolic damage and that WOE involves clean eating and controlling insulin levels with a reduction in carbohydrates and an increase in protein calories.


Lee Coyne, Ph.D. is a nutritional consultant, lecturer and author of Fat Won't Make You Fat and the Lean Seekers coaching program. He may be reached at 1-800-668-4042 or by e-mail dr.coyne@leanseekers.com

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