Wednesday Bubble: is weight loss all in your head?

Posted by on Jul 7, 2010 in Uncategorized | 17 comments

It appears that weight loss, might indeed be in your head. But not the way that you think. This week’s bubble focuses on the brain and how it helps to regulate weight gain. In fact, researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center are reporting that an enzyme in the brain, better known as P13 kinase, may help burn extra calories after eating a high-fat meal. Mind you, these findings are from a study conducted in mice so it is too early to assume that if there was a way to enhance the activity of P13 kinase in humans, then it would be easier to lose or maintain weight.

In the current study, researchers examined mice who had reduce P13 kinase activity and then fed them a high fat diet but did not alter their physical activity levels. When they compared them to normal mice, they found that their body heat did not increase and they became more likely to become obese. regardless of physical activity level. (Evidently, when we eat too many calories, the body tries to assist by expending more energy, in order to balance out our calorie intake. )

Interestingly, brown fat, or brown adipose tissue, is a key tissue that appeared to generate enough body heat in the mice to help them burn off excess calories. Two other important factors that appear to play a role include the hormones leptin which help regulate how the body uses energy.

Brown fat?

I contributed a post to MizFit Online last October that provides a bit more information about brown fat and I’m reposting it here to provide a bit of background to make the current study findings easier to understand:

What you need to know…

In mammals, fat (known among the medical set as “adipose tissue”) comes in two varieties: white and brown.

* White adipose tissue (or “WAT”)  is used for energy storage and to provide warmth. It also protects the organs by acting as a cushion. Most of the fat in our bodies is white.
* Brown adipose tissue (or “BAT”), is mostly found in newborns and tends to diminish as a person ages.  Brown fat is used by the body to regulate temperature and quickly burns sugar to keep infants warm, meaning that exposure to cold activates brown fat cells. This last point may be important when it comes to weight loss.

For decades, brown fat was believed to significantly decline as we grew older, mainly because as we become more able to regulate our body temperatures, we no longer solely rely on biology.  However, PET scanning has shown that healthy adults actually have stores of brown fat  scattered throughout the front and back of the neck and chest areas.

So, is brown fat an equal opportunist? NO!

In fact:

* Women with lean body mass have at least twice the ratio of brown fat compared to men.
* Exposure to temperatures of around 61º F appears to kick off brown fat cell activity, at least in leaner people.
* The higher your body mass index (BMI), the lower the amount of brown fat in your body.

Turning down the thermostat can help lose weight, right?  Well yes. And no.

In controlled situations, volunteers left “chilling” for at least two hours were shown to have a surge in brown fat activity. However, keep in mind that the body is fine-tuned to maintain equilibrium, so, what goes out often goes right back in.In other words, expend more energy, eat more food. And the “chill factor” hasn’t been extensively tested in people under normal, everyday conditions. Still, based on what researchers are able to learn from animal studies, they believe that having as little as 1 to 2 ounces of brown fat in your body could potentially burn about 20% of the average daily caloric intake, that is, if brown fat cells were properly activated.

If you combine the information from the mouse study with the information on brown fat, it seems that the combination of brown fat plus activating P13 kinase may produce a way to burn calories more efficiently. And, leptin and estrogen help regulate the process.

The question however, is how do we get there from here?

17 Comments

  1. 7-8-2010

    “The question however, is how do we get there from here?”

    Well, it is a breakthrough, I mean with all those years of nutrition research who can tell that the human body itself has fat-repelling capacity? With neurologists and dietitians working together in labs to see if activities of P13 kinase and brown fat have weight loss effect, we can foresee a milestone in both fields.

    • 7-8-2010

      There is evidently a meeting of the researchers in the UK this coming weekend to start to explore the potential of brown fat and obesity. Stay tuned!

  2. 7-11-2010

    I think that the head, specially what we program in our subconcious, is much more important than given credit for. I wish some studies could be peformed on the suboncious. Oh btw, i didnt know that there was a type of fat called brown fat, lol.

  3. 7-11-2010

    Lol Liz, same here. I had no idea about brown fat myself, but i have to give credit though. This post was very informative and we really learn a new thing everyday don’t we.
    Regards.

    • 7-11-2010

      Glad that the post was informative! Hope to have more information on this soon!

  4. 7-15-2010

    Great post! I found it very helpful and inspiring. Alot in regard to losing weight is in the head. One most be motvated and have discipline to lose weight.

    • 7-15-2010

      Thank you! Glad to inspire. Motivation is usually half of everything, no?

  5. 7-16-2010

    good:)

  6. 7-17-2010

    Lemon Detox really works. Great natural process to loss loads of weight.
    http://lemon-detox-diets.blogspot.com/

  7. 7-30-2010

    Of course weight loss is all in your head! Weight gain is all in your head, too!

    Sometimes motivation is not enough to make lasting weight loss changes. Weight loss requires a mind shift. Weight loss may be the easist aspect of the entire process. The most difficult is making the process a life long and enjoyable journey. In other words, you may achieve your goal weight. Can you stay there? The answer is YES, if you have a shift in the way you think and do. Learn more.

  8. 8-7-2010

    The process of losing weight can get to be drab at times, and with it will come a lack of motivation. Should that happen, then it could mean a complete reversal of all your hard work, so it’s something to definitely avoid.

  9. 10-6-2010

    nice article this seems helpfull fo the losing weight can get to be drab at time.

  10. 11-22-2010

    weight loss is sometimes difficult to attain, it all depends on your motivation and genetics ;:,

  11. 4-12-2011

    May I ask you exactly where you got the theme for the blog? It looks awesome. I was considering of a similar one for my personal blog too. I especially like the top of the theme. Thanks in advance!

    • 4-12-2011

      It’s a free wordpress theme.

  12. 7-4-2011

    princess cut engagement,

  13. 8-15-2011

    Thanks for Sharing. I like it blog and yours articles ! I’m gonna share it on tweeter 🙂

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Top Ten Wednesday Bubbles of 2010 « Flashfree - [...] Is Weight Loss All in Your Head? Brain enzymes and brown fat and research, oh my. How do we…

Leave a Reply to Lauryn Gullotta Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *