Let’s talk about metabolic syndrome. It’s a question that I hear A LOT! Is it affecting you? Metabolic syndrome is very common. This was a diagnosis that came about over the past 30 years or so. I’ll talk about the history of it and what’s involved with the syndrome.
Metabolic Syndrome affects over 64 million people in the United States. That’s about 1/3 of all adults. It describes a collection of metabolic abnormalities. The metabolic abnormalities are what tend to lead to Type II Diabetes and/or Cardiac Disease. It’s important to recognize it and treat it.
It was first described in 1988 by Dr. Gerald Reaven. He noted that people with insulin resistance showed common metabolic disturbances that increase their risk for cardia disease. Originally it was called “Syndrome X, later “Insulin Resistance Syndrome (which is the more accurate name),” and finally “Metabolic Syndrome.” It really all back up to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a common theme for all the parameters that are here. It’s used as a diagnostic tool to identify risk of coronary vascular disease (heart disease). Dr. Reaven noted that a “low fat diet” (it was the diet being preached at the time), makes the syndrome worse.
Metabolic Syndrome is a cluster of different things if you have at least 3/5. The first is waist circumference: >40 inches for men and >35 inches for women will put you at risk. That’s abdominal obesity. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be obese. It’s just waist circumference. It looks at fasting triglycerides: >150 mg/dl. Is too high. Next is HDL (the good cholesterol) : <40 for men and <50 for women puts you at risk. Blood pressure should be >135/85. Lastly is fasting glucose which should not be >100mg/dl. Notice that only one of these has to do with weight. You could have a large belly but not be that much overweight.
Metabolic Syndrome really means insulin resistance.
How does a low carb diet improve the 5 metabolic abnormalities? It improves waist size. Insulin turns on fat storage. Carbohydrates stimulate insulin release. Low carb decreases insulin release. This improves fat mobilization (weight loss) leading to decreased waist size. Insulin is one of the hormones we have control over. Most hormones we have no control over. Insulin only goes up when we have carbohydrate.
A low carb diet improves fasting triglycerides. They are made from glycerol. Glycerol is made from sugar. Fatty acids come from both the fat you eat and the carbs. You can’t actually put together the triglycerides without the glycerol molecule which come from the carbohydrate. The fatty acids that are not made in triglycerides can be utilized as an energy source. If we get rid of the carbohydrates (sugar) we can’t make the glycerol molecule needed to make the triglycerides.
The HDL is the good cholesterol. When you restrict your carbohydrate intake, you automatically increase your fat intake. Calories have to come from somewhere. By taking in more fat, you’ll automatically improve your HDL. It’s one of the easiest ways to make your HDL go up. Contrary to popular belief, cholesterol is made from carbs and insulin stimulates the making of cholesterol. Insulin turns on the making of the cholesterol molecules. That will make your total cholesterol go up. You want your HDL to go up. The biggest thing that affects HDL is exercise.
Low carbohydrates improve blood sugar in many ways. Insulin causes sodium retention (salt), leading to water retention, leading to increased blood pressure. If you have a weekend where you eat a lot and gain 5 pounds, it’s not the food you ate, its water. The insulin causes sodium retention. Sodium retention means water retention. Water retention leads to increased blood pressure. Lower insulin levels are going to reverse this. Insulin also stimulates the release of a potent vascular constrictor (endothelin-1). This means the blood vessels themselves are tightening down. If they’re tightening down, that means your blood pressure is going to be higher. Insulin also inhibits the production of a vasodilator (nitric oxide). That means the vessels themselves would relax. The nitric oxide lowers blood pressure. Because insulin inhibits this, it works against lowering blood pressure.
Low carbohydrate decreases insulin levels reversing each of these. We want to manipulate insulin and lower it. We don’t want insulin at zero. It’s a hormone you can’t live without. Keep it as low as possible because insulin tends to cause these other problems.
In summation, Metabolic Syndrome is extremely common affecting >1/3 of the adult population.
It isn’t just people who are way overweight. It includes: abdominal obesity, increased triglycerides, low HDL, high B/P, and high blood sugar. If you have any 3 out of the 5, you have metabolic syndrome. Insulin resistance is the common denominator. If you have metabolic syndrome, you have a significant risk of developing heart disease. A low carb diet will improve each of these factors by improving insulin. This will decrease you risk of developing cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes.
Call or text to schedule a lab consultation to find out if you have metabolic syndrome or for more information on your weight loss options. 757-873-1880
We all make mistakes, especially when we’re trying new things like weight loss. With weight loss people have typically tried many things. These are going to be some of the more common mistakes. You need to see it as an opportunity to change, and hopefully for the better.
Mistake #1 is “kinda” working on weight loss. Kinda working on weight loss does not work! We often want that quick fix. We have to learn the skills over a period of time. If you’re just going to “kinda” work on it, it isn’t going to work. Skills have to be learned. Then, they have to be ingrained and become habit. They have to be practiced over and over and over again so they can become lifelong habits. Think about a serious athlete trying to make the Olympics. They can’t just “kinda” work on it. Commitment is absolutely essential. You can’t expect perfection. We’re going to make mistakes.
Mistake #2 is making weight loss too complicated. Yes, weight loss is hard, but you really need to stick to the basics. The basics are: dietary changes, behavior/habit modification, and increased activity and fitness. Those are the basic concepts. It sounds easy, but obviously it’s not so easy. I put together a webinar about a month ago that went over some really important concepts about controlling weight. It really boiled down to controlling insulin levels. It was about all the things you need to do to control insulin levels. Diet has to be the cornerstone of all that. Slowly work on all the basics and you will continue to make progress. With any type of change you need to ask yourself two questions: Can I do it? Is it worth it? If you can’t answer yes to those two questions you’re going to struggle and not make that long term change.
Mistake #3 is not exercising! Exercise does not make you lose weight faster. So many people come in and say they’d be losing weight faster if they were exercising. It’s probably not true, but it’s still very important. It’s absolutely essential to preserve lean body mass. The natural part of aging is losing lean body mass at a rate of 1% a year. LBM is what drives your overall metabolism. Simplistically speaking, a pound of muscle burns a lot more calories than a pound of fat. It’s actually a pound of well-trained muscle (think of the Olympic athlete) burns calories like crazy versus a pound of fat. You want to have a fuel-burning machine. Muscle does that. Our overall metabolism is dependent on how much lean body mass we have. The better trained the lean body mass, the higher the metabolism will be. You can increase your metabolism with better trained muscle. It burns a lot more calories than untrained muscle. So exercise is extremely important. It doesn’t make you lose weight faster. It makes you lose weight longer and makes it so much easier to keep that weight off.
Mistake #4 is avoiding the scale. I’ve said many times that the scale is the best monitor we have. Patients often say they don’t weight themselves routinely. They only weigh when they come into the office. Why would you think that’s a good idea??! I’ve said many times that you need to stand on the scale every day. The best time to weigh yourself is early in the morning. It’s the most accurate. If you forget to weigh yourself in the morning, just wait until the next day. Your weight will go up during the day. Make that part of your morning routine. The reason is to reflect on the previous 24 hours. What was different about that previous 24 hours? You’ll figure out the little things that matter. It may be as simple as you had to much salt or you didn’t have a bowel movement. Those little things that we typically eat really matter and will show up on the scale. Once a week doesn’t work. How many of us can look back on a week and figure out what we did differently during that week versus the previous week? Literally two days I can’t remember what I did differently. Looking back on 24 hours is relatively simple. What worked? What didn’t work? You’ll figure those little things out that affect day to day weight.
Mistake #5 is believing that genetics is responsible for your weight. Genetics does influence our weight. But if we are using genetics as a reason for our weight that’s just an excuse. When you really look closely at that thought process, weight is more likely contagious than it is inherited. We tend to do the things we surround ourselves with. If everyone in your family is overweight it is slightly genetics but it’s very likely what they’re eating and doing. It tends to be contagious. We do the things that the people we hang around do. That’s true in our family and social life. It’s going to be a very rare situation where genetics is truly the reason. Weight is more likely contagious rather than inherited.
Mistake #6 is giving in to saboteurs. Friends, family, and acquaintances will all try and sabotage you. They will say the following: “You deserve this.” “A little won’t hurt.” “It’s the holidays!” There will be saboteurs. Be prepared to say, “No thank you” in multiple different ways. Deflect the comments by changing the subject. Explain to them the importance of this and that you want to recruit them to help. Tell them you value their support. You want them to help you rather than hinder you. Sometimes they don’t realize they’re sabotaging your progress.
Mistake #7 is being inconsistent. It’s that mentality of, “I’ve been good all week. I’m going to take the weekend off.” “I deserve this vacation because I’ve been so good.” Consistency goes along with commitment. Ask yourself those questions: “Can I do it?” “Is it worth it?” A bad weekend can undo 2 weeks of hard work. You tell yourself that you can slide just a little bit. You’ll find that you’ll slide a lot. It’s really easy to gain weight. It’s incredibly easy to gain weight. Write down your motivations for weight loss and review them often. “Why am I doing this?” “Where do I want to go with this?” Hopefully you’ll realize being consistent is worth it.
Mistake #8 is not eating enough. The common thinking is less is better. The reality is starvation has never been a good weight loss plan. Starvation is cutting way back but history has shown that it isn’t successful for weight loss. Fifty to sixty years ago some semi-starvation experiments were done. Around WW II there were contentious objectors. These people refused to join the military so they were asked to help by being put on semi-starvation diets. They found that if you cut those calories in half of what someone normally would be eating, people didn’t actually lose weight. They lost weight for a while but their metabolism slowed way down to make up for the calorie deficit. Part of the problem with just decreasing calories, and to continue to decrease calories, is that it only tends to work for a short period of time. Your body adjusts fairly quickly and it will slow your metabolism way down. It can slow it down to almost 50%. That is your body’s survival mechanism which is good if there truly is a famine. However, most of us aren’t living in a famine. Part of the issue with the semi-starvation diets is they cut their protein way back. If you’re getting sufficient protein, typically your calories will be decent. Weight loss will become more difficult. It will also become really easy to regain weight.
I had written that mistake #9 was skipping meals. It’s actually not such a bad thing because intermittent fasting works really well. Intermittent fasting is just skipping meals. I do encourage people to eat breakfast for a couple of reasons. There are also reasons to skip breakfast. There isn’t a right and a wrong here. I’ve become convinced about that. Some of it depends on what you’re eating for breakfast. If you tend to eat a high carbohydrate breakfast, studies show you’re going to be eating 300-400 calories a day extra because you tend to be hungrier. If you’re going to eat a high protein breakfast you tend to stay full longer and you eat about 200 calories less a day. Most people don’t wake up starving. For certain individuals, skipping meals can actually work nicely. Skipping meals can actually be a good thing.
The NEW Mistake #9 is thinking that meal “timing” doesn’t matter. It DOES matter. The same meal late in the evening has a greater insulin response. If you eat that meal earlier it will have a different insulin response. This goes along with skipping meals. Some people do much better with eating 2 meals a day. We already talked about intermittent fasting. It works. There’s no doubt about it. Insulin is key to weight control. The longer time you can spend with lower insulin levels, the easier it is to lose weight. The concept of eating multiple small times throughout the day will never work well. If you’re sensitive to carbohydrates or somewhat insulin resistant, the small meals throughout the day will never work for you. The reason is that, no matter what, whatever we eat will raise insulin levels. Carbohydrate just does it the most. You want to spend as much time as possible with low insulin levels. Skipping meals will give you more time with lower insulin levels. Eating the same amount of calories but spreading it out throughout the day is asking your body to stimulate insulin levels multiple times throughout the day. That concept doesn’t have a whole lot to do with how many calories you’re eating. It’s just a pattern of eating. Timing matters. It’s a really rare person that controls their weight well by eating a little bit multiple times throughout the day. That’s just not my patient population. That’s not who I see. There are some individuals who aren’t that sensitive to carbohydrates. Those people will be fine eating small meals throughout the day.
Mistake #10 is having that “All or None” mentality. It’s feeling that you’re either doing everything great, but if you make a mistake you’re all done and throwing in the towel. This is a learning process. We’re human and we won’t be perfect every day. Accept the mistakes and move on. You didn’t gain the weight overnight. It didn’t happen with just one meal or one bad day. When you have that bad day, chalk it up to a learning experience. Figure out what you’re going to do differently when you’re in that same situation next time. Figure out those tools you can utilize to prevent you from falling off the deep end and get back on track for the next meal. Don’t beat yourself up.
In summary, to err is human but it does not define your destiny. Don’t let mistakes derail your weight loss plan. Dust yourself off and keep going. At CFWLS this is what we do. We’re here to help you. If you need some help just give us a yell. If you have any questions give us a yell here at CFWLS. Call, send an email, or walk in the door. You should be checking your body comp. Make sure you’re losing fat not lean body mass.
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I want to start out with some humor. It’s a cartoon. The doctor is talking to the patient and says, “The high carb diet I put you on 20 years ago gave you diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Oops.” How true is that?!
I have a graph that shows what’s happened over the last 20 years or so. It’s the year versus the number of diabetics. The number of diabetics was fairly stable in the early 80’s into the 90’s. As the population grew, it went up a little bit. It was stable at about 6-7 million. Then in 1992 the US Government endorsed a high-carb, low fat diet. The American Diabetic Association and the American Heart Association followed suit with similar recommendations in 1994. Then in 1994 the graph started going up. From the early 90’s at 6 million diabetics to the 2000’s and now it’s over 20 million. That’s a huge increase in a short period of time. Coincidence??? I don’t think so.
Gluten has been around for a long period of time. It’s a Latin word that means glue. It’s a large water soluble protein found mainly in grains. Wheat is the biggest culprit. It gives elasticity to dough. It helps it rise and keep its shape. There are a lot of disorders that can be related to gluten. We call them gluten related disorders. It’s an umbrella term of any disease that is triggered by gluten. This includes Celiac Disease (the one that you hear about most), gluten sensitivity, and wheat allergy. You sometimes hear the term gluten intolerance. The real term is gluten sensitivity. Intolerance means you don’t tolerate it well. All of these are immune related disorders. Your immune system is responding to the exposure of gluten. For some people it can be a life threatening problem. If they get even close to gluten they have all kinds of problems.
Celiac disease affects about 1-2% of the population. The prevalence of this is going up and up. We’ll talk about why later. There’s something different now about the wheat than there was years ago. Unfortunately it’s never been tested to see if it’s a safe thing. Some of the symptoms are chronic diarrhea, abdominal pain, and malabsorption. It’s a true anti-inflammatory response in the intestinal tract. The diagnosis is made by endoscopes. A biopsy is taken. The treatment is a gluten free diet. There’s no other treatment.
Non Celiac Gluten Sensitivity means you don’t have the full blown disease. These people feel there are certain problems that arise when they eat gluten. You may or may not have any intestinal complaints. Multiple symptoms are improved when gluten is removed. This is much more common (30-40% of the population).The percentage of the population continues to go up.
A true Wheat Allergy is like an anaphylaxis. It’s like someone allergic to peanuts eats one by mistake, they go into anaphylaxis. This is a very quick onset. The others have a slow onset. A wheat allergy is much rarer.
Gluten is made up of glutenin and gliadin. There’s also water which gives the dough its elasticity. It tends to be everywhere! That’s where the problems come in. Many grains and products have gluten in them. Where is it hidden? The obvious one is wheat. Anything that has wheat in it is going to have gluten. It’s also found in barley, bulgur, cous cous, matzo, rye, spelt, and more. There are grains that don’t have any gluten in them. Some of those grains are relatively rare. Some of them are common like potato, corn, rice and millet. I’ve made a list of things you wouldn’t guess have gluten in them: baked beans, beer, blue cheese, bouillon, most cereals, chocolate milk, energy bars, egg substitutes, hot dogs, fruit fillings, ice cream, imitation crab meat, ketchup, vinegar, mayonnaise and meat balls, Gluten is added to a lot of things you wouldn’t really expect. Oats may or may not have gluten. French fries are made out of potato. But before they’re frozen they are actually sprinkled with wheat flour so they don’t stick to each other. A lot of cosmetics have gluten. Medications, play dough, some shampoos, some vitamin supplements have gluten. There are a lot of things that are code words for gluten. Sometimes they’ll put it as the genus species of the actual plant. There will be hidden gluten. Keep in mind that gluten free does not mean low carb. It could actually mean high carb.
Gluten sensitivity can cause all kinds of symptoms. From a GI standpoint, they can be somewhat similar symptoms as true celiac disease but not quite as dramatic. The GI symptoms are: abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, GERD, gas, stomatitis, and mouth ulcers. There are also symptoms of gluten sensitivity that have nothing to do with the GI system such as: migraines, brain fog, fatigue, fibromyalgia, joint/muscle pain, numbness, eczema, skin rashes, depression, anxiety, anemia, folate deficiency, asthma, rhinitis, and eating disorders. There are neurologic symptoms. Gluten can set off schizophrenia. It could be a factor in autism, peripheral neuropathy, ataxia, ADD, and ADHD. We see this diagnosed all the time nowadays. It actually could be a gluten problem.
There are some antibody tests to diagnose for gluten sensitivity. However, they’re going to miss a lot of people. The only good way is a diagnosis of exclusion. You remove gluten from your diet for at least a month and then try and reintroduce it. If your symptoms come back, it’s probably due to gluten. It’s not the most scientific thing in the world to do but it actually works pretty well. It’s like an elimination diet. The treatment is a gluten free diet. Those with gluten sensitivity often have the false impression that “cutting back” is helpful, but really need to avoid all gluten. I want everyone to keep in mind that if you eliminate gluten, no nutritional deficiency will occur.
It’s really amazing some of the symptoms that can be related to gluten sensitivity. I already mentioned a lot of them. Some other symptoms are: autoimmune disorders (rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, Hashimoto’s), bone pain, cancer, heart disease, infertility, dental problems, skin problems, and more. Gluten sensitivity can have a lot of things to do with things you never expect. The only way to know is getting rid of the gluten. Obviously we think of gastrointestinal problems associated with gluten sensitivity.
Unfortunately there are no real standards for testing gluten intolerance. The simple way to do it is to get rid of the gluten. We can measure anti-gliadin antibody (IgA) in the blood or stool. If you measured everyone’s blood, 12% have antibodies to anti-gliadin. There are 30% in the stool. It can cause an immune reaction. If something causes an immune reaction there can be damage. The reaction is usually an inflammatory reaction. Cytokines develop and are released. The Gold Standard is gluten free for 1 month, then re-introduce. If symptoms pop up, then you are sensitive to gluten.
Gluten-free should not mean eating all the junk/processed food that is labeled as gluten free. It doesn’t correlate with low carb. The “Core Diet” is just 3 things: hydration (water), good protein sources, and salad stuff. That’s what you should eat. Get rid of most everything else. Do I agree with trying to keep a gluten-free diet??? Absolutely!
I have more to say about gluten and I’ll post another article next week. We’ll delve into this more and look at all the major body organs that can be affected by gluten sensitivity. I’ll go into a little more detail with that.
If you think of questions, don’t hesitate to call (757-873-1880), text or stop by. This is something that’s really common. I think this is something that’s going to become more and more important. Part of the problem is that the wheat that’s being grown now is not the same wheat that was grown 100 years ago. It was genetically modified (GMO’s). You hear about GMO’s all the time. The problem with GMO’s is whether they’ve been tested for safety.
Remember to stop by and get your body comp checked.
What do you know about growth hormone? You might hear about this in the media as anti-aging, this wonderful thing that could keep you young forever. It’s not quite like that. But there is some evidence that potentially can be helpful for certain things. We’re going to talk about those things.
If you look at the literature out there, it suggests a lot of wonderful things that growth hormone can do. There are some wide ranges of potential effects. It can: reduce body fat, increase muscle mass, enhance sexual performance, stronger bones, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, faster wound healing, higher energy levels, regrowth of vital organs, restore immune function, hair regrowth, sharper vision, elevated mood, and improved cognition. In theory, it sounds like this does all kinds of stuff. So, is this the Fountain of Youth?
Let’s talk about what this is, where it comes from, and what it can potentially do. Is there some way you can actually utilize this? Growth hormone is secreted by the pituitary gland in your brain. The pituitary gland is a tiny little thing separated into an anterior and posterior gland. There are two different lobes. It’s right there at the base of your brain. It’s controlled by the hypothalamus which sends signals down to the pituitary gland and what it should do. The pituitary gland secretes all kinds of different things. Many of them are hormones. We’re talking mainly about the anterior pituitary today. It helps control how your thyroid works, how your adrenal glands work, how the ovaries work (Follicle stimulating hormone), prolactin, and it secretes growth hormone. It also secretes some other endorphins, which are the feel-good hormones. The anterior pituitary secretes many hormones very important for overall health in addition to growth hormone.
Growth hormone is a peptide that stimulates growth. That means it’s made out of amino acids. It’s a protein. It’s made by the anterior pituitary gland. There are 190 amino acids and it’s a single chain. It’s folded in a particular fashion. A hormone is just a chemical messenger. Once a hormone is secreted (by whatever gland we’re talking about), it passes through the blood stream and sends messages to tissues that have receptors to that hormone. You have to have receptors on the tissue in order to receive the message. Different tissues may receive a slightly different message to do different things. Basically, this is what all hormones do. Growth hormone is abbreviated HGH. It stands for Human Growth Hormone. You’ll often hear about athletes abusing it to improve their athletic performance. It is a prescription drug and can be used legally for deficiency syndromes. If someone truly has a deficiency syndrome in growth hormone, then potentially they can utilize growth hormone to help fix that deficiency syndrome.
You’ll often hear about it in age management. Part of the reason is, as we get older, just like most hormones, we typically don’t get as much out of our hormones. Hormones are not secreted at the same rate and same amount. The theory is that as we get older and growth hormone decreases, we could possibly prevent some of these aging processes by supplementing growth hormone. This is a very controversial subject. Right now we can’t legally use it unless you have a proven deficiency syndrome. What is a proven deficiency syndrome? If you ask many different experts, you’ll get many different opinions. It is a very controversial medication.
How do you know if you have a deficiency syndrome? It’s not easy to measure. That’s where one of the problems comes in. Growth hormone is released in a pulsatile fashion during the early hours of the deepest sleep. The half-life of growth hormones is very short, so you’d have to catch it at the exact time to know whether you’ve got enough or not. It usually happens in your deep sleep. That’s when it’s released the most. Once it’s secreted by the anterior pituitary gland, it’s taken up by the liver. The liver converts it into growth factors. Growth hormone by itself is really difficult to measure. You have to catch it at the right time. The half-life is so short. How do you actually measure it? You can measure it in your urine. If you were to collect a 24-hour urine specimen you can look at how much is secreted into the urine. It can give you an idea of whether a person is secreted enough growth hormone. One of the most important growth factors it’s converted into is insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). We talk about insulin all the time. Insulin is the antithesis of weight loss. We want to keep insulin levels low. This IGF-1 is something different. It just has a name that begins with insulin. It’s insulin-like because insulin is a growing hormone. With regular insulin it means growing fat. IGF-1 can be a growing factor of growing muscle mass. IGF-1 can be measured because it’s a longer half-life. It will stick around for a longer period of time. If someone were actually had a deficiency syndrome of growth hormone, and we gave them growth hormone, we could get an idea of what the response to that hormone by measuring IGF-1.
Typically growth hormone declines with age. The biggest time to have growth hormone is when we’re growing in adolescence and early adulthood. It declines about 1-3% per year after age 30. It goes down relatively quickly. You’ll see this in Olympians. Typically for men they’re at peak performance in their mid to late 20’s. That’s true with most professional athletes. It happens a little bit sooner with women. The reality is that most of us by the end of our 20’s will start to have a growth hormone decline. We don’t have that same physical performance that we did in our mid to late 20’s. It drops off relatively quickly, but the highest amounts are in the mid to late teens. It can be up to about 3% per year. At some point it will be really low. As we get older we start getting debilitating illnesses. The question is, if we kept supplemented growth hormone higher, could it actually take care of these illnesses of aging?
What are some common signs of low GH? The problem is that most of these signs are really vague because they go along with just feeling bad. The common signs are: premature aging, flabby and obese, stretch marks, droopy eyelids and sagging cheeks, thinning skin, reduced foot arch, thinning muscles of the hands, and prolonged skin folds after pinching skin on the back of the hand. The prolonged skin folds after pinching can also be a sign of dehydration. It could also be a sign of adrenal problems too. Those are really vague things.
What are common complaints with low GH? Again, these complaints tend to be really vague. They don’t mean a whole lot by themselves. The complaints are: poor quality of life, lack of inner peace, anxious, depression, low self-esteem, lack of concentration, lack of self-control, excessive emotions, thinning and weakening of the muscles and skin, exhaustion and poor recovery, feeling of rapidly aging, low libido, and lack of sleep or excessive need for sleep.
What tests can we actually do? GH has a very short ½ life and is released in a pulsatile fashion, so measuring blood levels is impractical and may be meaningless. If someone is measuring your growth hormone and trying to send it off in a lab for bloodwork, it’s pretty much meaningless. IGF-1 can be measured but there is a wide range of “normal.” GH can be measured in 24 hour urine collection, but many labs cannot do this accurately. Almost all of the signs and symptoms of GH deficiency go along with testosterone deficiency. Testosterone deficiency is really common. Both men and women need testosterone. As we age, our testosterone levels drop. Almost every complaint I just mentioned of GH deficiency is actually more likely testosterone deficiency. This might be much more fruitful to measure than to chase GH around.
Let’s say we’re going to treat you for GH deficiency. What are the risks versus the benefits? The benefits are that the complaints we just mentioned could potentially get better. In theory, it’s really safe because we use bio-identical GH. It looks exactly like human GH. If it truly were that unsafe, we would see a lot of younger people with a lot of GH problems because they have really high levels of GH. You don’t want your GH too high either because it could cause Gigantism. Every once in a while you’ll see the 7 foot person that later was diagnosed with a pituitary tumor that secreted GH. Andre the Giant was one of the classic ones. They have a very enlarged jaw and large hands and feet.
Hormone balance is a key concept. We don’t want something out of balance, whether it’s too much or too little. GH has to be given by injection. In theory could we do something to stimulate your own GH? That’s possible in theory. If it’s given by injection, it could take months to notice a clinical improvement. And, this is incredibly expensive. Unless you truly need it and get approval from the insurance company to get treated for this, good luck with getting it paid for! It would be a few thousand dollars every single month. I don’t know many people who are going to do that or want to do that. There’s always the question of because it’s a GH could it actually stimulate tumor growth? If you had some type of tumor, could GH actually make that grow? That’s a real theoretical concern. There’s never going to be a study to look at that. If someone has a tumor we’re not going to start injecting them with GH! It’s been done in animals and was determined it can actually stimulate tumor growth.
Are there certain things that we could do ourselves that would optimize GH release? That would be the optimal thing. What can we do to improve the release of our own GH? We can’t live without it even though our levels go really low with age. Things that improve GH release: strenuous exercise (like High Intensity Interval Resistance Training), deep quality sleep, and protein. These are the best ways. There are a number of potential enhancers. They are: B-vitamins, inositol (like a B-vitamin), minerals (chromium, magnesium, zinc, and iodine. Magnesium also helps with testosterone), amino acids (glutamine 2g/day, carnitine, arginine 7g/day, GABA-all can be found at health food stores), hormones (DHEA, melatonin-helps with sleep-, estradiol, testosterone, thyroid, progesterone), and herbals that can potentially help. Things to avoid: alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and milk products. These are a lot of things we talk about anyway. There are other things that truly inhibit GH release. Carbs-insulin inhibits the release of GH. Stress increases cortisol levels. Cortisol inhibits GH release. If you’re doing things we encourage you to do, you’re probably doing a lot of these things already.
There are some commercial formulas out there. I see this all the time in magazine and newspapers. They say a famous person takes GH and it keeps them young. That’s their secret! What they’re talking about is something that can potentially help increase the release of GH. They tend to be very expensive. They’re usually a mix of amino acids and/or vitamins and herbs. It’s a “proprietary blend.” There are a number of them out there: SeroVital-hgh, Pro-HGH, Symbiotropin, etc.… They’re combinations that, in theory, that will increase the release of GH. Unfortunately there hasn’t been a lot of evidence that they actually work. There have been a couple of small studies, and they do tend to work in the people that don’t need it! They work really well in young adults, but they’re not GH deficient. Let the buyer beware! They tend to be very expensive with limited studies that show that they help at all. But they’re not completely lying either because it can help in the people that don’t need it.
In summary, could this GH be the “fountain on youth?” Unfortunately many of these questions are unanswered. Optimizing your own GH may be helpful in your overall health and weight loss because it does so much that we want to accomplish. For many people the easier answer may be looking at testosterone levels both male and female. There could be something beneficial there for potential weight loss. It’s something to consider and it’s much easier to measure.
Let’s talk about antioxidants. You hear about them in the media. Are these miracle workers or is this just marketing?
The antioxidants kick out the free radicals. These are superheroes! It’s the epic story of good vs evil. They are the fearless defenders of basically everything. They can cure cancer, prevent aging, and supercharge your immune system. They basically can do it all, right?! Are these miraculous disease fighting nutrients or over-hyped marketing gimmicks?
What we’re trying to address is the oxidative challenge of life. A paradox of metabolism is that the majority of complex organisms (humans) require oxygen. Oxygen is a highly reactive molecule that not only sustains life but also produces reactive oxygen species: hydroxyl radical (OH) and super-oxide anion (O2-). They are free radicals. These free radicals are by-products of our energy producing process (cellular respiration). Cellular respiration is how the cells produce energy and sustain life. We can’t live without this happening on a cellular level. The trick is to keep these highly reactive free radicals under control to prevent cellular damage. These free radicals can cause cellular damage. It’s thought that this cellular damage done by the oxygen-free radicals can cause a lot of health problems. We want to keep them under control. Antioxidants can potentially help us here.
Are you getting “rusty?” I wanted to find a simplified version to think about this. Oxygen and iron produce rust. You can actually do it without the oxygen. In order for rust to form we have to have oxygen available. Are these oxygen free radicals causing some damage within our body? That’s the real question. Just like the Tin-Man got squeaky in the Wizard of Oz, potentially we may need to be oiled up a little bit. What are the ways we can prevent this damage from occurring?
What are antioxidants? The oxidants are producing damage. Antioxidants may be able to prevent that. They are molecules that are capable of inhibiting the oxidation of other molecules. If you’re inhibiting the oxidation of other molecules, we’re preventing the rust. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that transfers electrons from one substance to another. They’re just moving electrons around. Part of this is that oxidation reactions are crucial for life (respiration and production of energy). If we’re not doing this, we are dead. We can’t live without it, but we want to prevent the damage. When we’re breathing in and out oxygen is travelling throughout our body. Every single cell in our body needs it because oxidation reactions are crucial for life. We want to limit the by-products that can cause damage. So, the oxidation can produce these free radicals. These oxygen free radicals can lead to chain reactions that cause cell damage and cell death. These oxygen free radicals are even more reactive than oxygen is. They can cause damage. We don’t want to cause damage to the DNA. When the cells re-produce and there’s damage to the DNA, potentially you’ve cause damage that will keep on going. Tumor cells can come from normal cells. There’s DNA damage and all of a sudden they’re growing out of control. Antioxidants can stop some of these chain reactions. It does this by removing the free radical intermediates. It’s done by giving up electrons. Then it can stop these reactions by occurring.
We can think of antioxidants in two different ways. They’re either Hydrophilic or Hydrophobic. Hydro means water. Phyllic means loves water. Hydrophobic means fear of water. Some work well with water and others do not work well with water. There are different types of antioxidants and they’ll do different things in different parts of your cell. They specifically can do different things for different reactions. They want to neutralize these free radicals.
Where do these free radicals come from? Typically they come from different things in our life. It could come from the following things: ultraviolet rays, atmospheric pollution, stress, and poor nutrition. All these things affect all of our cells. They can cause free radicals. If these free radicals occur they can cause cellular damage. We want to protect these cells with antioxidants.
How does an antioxidant work? For an oxygen free radical to form, the molecule has to lose an electron. Then it becomes unstable, thus becoming the “free radical.” They want to steal an electron from somewhere. They try to steal it from some nearby molecule. This causes a chain reaction. It can go all through the cell and cause cellular damage. An antioxidant is an electron donor. It can donate an electron and still remain stable. It has to be able to donate an electron to these free radicals and still remain stable. This stops the damage. The antioxidants bind to the free radicals to form stable molecules. Stable molecules will prevent the damage. It’s a relatively simple concept. It’s not quite that simple in chemistry.
What are common antioxidants? There are a lot of them out there but many vitamins are antioxidants. Vitamin C is one of the best out there. Vitamin A and the carotenoids are antioxidants. Those are found in the following: carrots, squash, broccoli, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, kale, collards, cantaloupe, peaches, apricots (bright colored fruits and veggies). You’ll find that many of these antioxidants occur naturally in bright colored fruits and vegetables. Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits, green peppers, broccoli, leafy veggies, strawberries and tomatoes. I don’t encourage people to eat a lot of fruit, especially if they’re sensitive to carbohydrates. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin found in nuts and seeds, green leafy veggies, vegetable oil, and liver oil. It’s in a lot of things that we typically eat. We talked about selenium with thyroid. It’s very important for thyroid function. It’s found in the following: fish, shellfish, red meat, grains, eggs, chicken, and garlic. There are a lot of vitamin-like antioxidants. You’ll sometimes see these sold as antioxidants. Coenzyme Q10 is very important. It can be helpful if you’re on a cholesterol medication (statin). If you’re on a statin you ought to be taking Coenzyme Q10 because there’s a lot of damage that occurs in the cells with statins. Coenzyme Q can offset that. It’s an important carrier in mitochondria during energy synthesis. Glutathione is often sold in health food stores because it’s a good antioxidant. The problem is that it’s digested in the intestinal track so you don’t just absorb it. You have to eat the precursors that can make the glutathione. It’s an electron donor and can be increased by supplementing with ALA, melatonin, and milk thistle. Flavonoids/Polyphenols are in a lot of whole foods. They are found in soy, red wine, purple grapes, pomegranate, cranberries, and tea. You’ll often see on the labels, “high in flavonoids.” Lycopene you’ll see on every ketchup bottle in the world. It’s in tomato and tomato products, pink grapefruit, and watermelon. Lutein is found in dark green veggies such as kale, broccoli, kiwi, brussel sprouts, and spinach. Lignan is in flaxseed, oatmeal, barley, and rye.
There are antioxidant enzymes made by the body. These enzymes can help produce the antioxidants. Superoxide Dismutase (SOD) stabilizes that superoxide anion. It can donate electrons. Catalase is another enzyme that converts H202 (hydrogen peroxide) to O2 (oxygen) and H2O. Glutathione peroxidase also breaks down H2O2 to O2 to H2O. The simplified definition of an antioxidant is they are electron donors. They stabilize potentially damaging molecules. Are there health benefits? Yes!
Where are the best antioxidants? Not necessarily in a pill form. Just like when we talked about fiber. The best fiber comes from food. The best antioxidants come from food. It’s the bright colored veggies and fruits (be careful if you’re carb sensitive) that are very high in antioxidants.
You’ll often see what’s called anti-aging antioxidants. It’s a lot of marketing but there’s something to it. I think a lot of the damage of aging is these oxygen free radicals. They can cause damage to the cells, specifically the DNA, and then cause aging. Can we prevent that by taking antioxidants? Most things that have antioxidants in them are very healthy. I encourage you to eat these foods but they’re not necessarily going to stop the aging process. These foods are: acai berry, pomegranate, passion fruit, blueberries, kiwi, cranberries, apricots, prunes, and more. If they’re whole foods, they will typically contain antioxidants. Dark chocolate contains antioxidants. Just a little though…
There are a lot of common myths about antioxidants. Part of that is free radicals must be destroyed! Again, as we mentioned at the beginning, free radicals are actually normal byproducts of normal metabolism. If we stop that, we’d be dead. We can’t stop that and we don’t want to stop that. We want to do it in a controlled manner. Another myth is that all antioxidants are created equal. All these different foods have different antioxidants in them. They have different jobs. You want to get your antioxidants from a broad variety of foods. Another myth is that all antioxidants come from fruits and veggies. That’s not true because you can find them in meat, dairy, and eggs. Typically whole foods are a good source. The next myth is antioxidant fortified foods are healthier. There’s no evidence of this. You can get the antioxidants from whole foods. Adding more antioxidants to those foods has never been shown to be healthier. The last myth was a theoretical concept a few years ago. The myth is if I exercise and take antioxidants I will become super fit. However, the way muscle function improves is to have some stress on the muscle in order for function to improve. That’s why when we exercise we get sore. A little bit of soreness is good. A lot of soreness is not so good. The way we improve from a fitness standpoint is that you need to have some muscle growth there. Part of the way a muscle grows is by undergoing stress. To improve muscle function it is some of the result of this oxidative stress. If we prevent the oxidative stress during exercise you could potentially doing yourself more harm than good. You need to stress the muscle. Just be careful. You don’t want to injure yourself. Some of the best fitness gains occur during the aerobic into the anaerobic energy systems. By taking antioxidants, it may be harder for that to happen.
Here are a few tips for success! Eat your colorful veggies! The evidence is mixed about whether taking antioxidant supplements is beneficial. There’s never been a big study that’s shown that it’s really helpful. Eat the whole foods. Most of what you see is marketing! The “Basics” is always important: eat right, exercise daily, take your vitamins, get plenty of rest, and handle stress. You have to do these things right. Throwing some supplements on top of that is not doing a whole lot to help. Adding antioxidants to the “Basics” potentially will be helpful. I will encourage you to go the whole food route.
If you have any questions don’t hesitate to leave a message below or email them to Success@CFWLS.com. Also if you think of some once we’re all done, give us a yell and we’ll answer them. Stop by the Center for Weight Loss Success and get your Body Composition Analysis done. You need to make sure you’re losing fat and preserving lean body mass.