Weight issues: a heavy burden to bear (pun intended)
Are you carrying a bit (or maybe a lot) of extra weight that you just can’t shift? Perhaps you used to lose weight easily before with dieting and exercise, but that isn’t working for you now?
I have struggled with weight issues since I was child, so I know what it’s like. I have probably tried every ‘diet’ you can think of and have lost weight and then regained it numerous times over. My last crazy weight loss regime (which was actually a very well-known 12-week transformation program – that I did 3 times in a row) saw me lose a whopping 20 kg over 6 months and shrink down to the tiniest I have ever been – a size 8. But trust me when I say I wasn’t healthy. It was actually the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak. I ended up with severe adrenal exhaustion and couldn’t get off the couch for months. My immune system was a mess and I couldn’t get rid of the chronic cough I developed from a cold. My body was utterly depleted.
That was nearly 8 years ago, and whilst my adrenals are much happier these days and my overall health is significantly improved, since that time I have regained all of that weight and a few extra kg’s for good measure. There are days when I don’t feel ‘good enough’ or healthy enough to talk to patients about their weight, but then I remind myself that I am probably the best person to have that conversation because I really get it. And I won’t judge you for it.
Underlying drivers of weight gain.
Weight issues are a heavy burden to bear (pun intended) and there is often a clear genetic link when you look at siblings, parents and grandparents. Whilst there is no doubt that what you put in your mouth (i.e. food and drink) and the amount of exercise you do are both significant factors when it comes to body size, but there is more to the story.
One of the first things to consider is your body’s capacity to deal with inflammation and oxidative stress. We are designed to respond to injury quickly and inflammation is a normal part of our innate immune defence to repair tissue. The key here with acute inflammation is the rapid response and a resolution.
However, when the persistent irritant doesn’t go away (e.g. alcohol, fast food, smoking) or the repair doesn’t go as planned, we end up with chronic inflammation that does not go away; that is, there is no resolution.
Chronic inflammation is one of the leading contributors to disease including obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, PCOS, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), autoimmune disease, endometriosis, osteoporosis, infertility, autism and heart disease.
Adipose (fat) tissue is an endocrine organ.
Yes, you read that correctly. Your fat tissue produces hormones including leptin (involved in appetite control), cortisol, insulin and numerous pro-inflammatory cytokines including IL-6, TNF-alpha and angiotensinogen. Up to one third of IL-6 levels found in the blood are produced from adipose tissue and IL-6 is strongly associated with diabetes risk. CRP has been shown to drive ALL other risk factors associated with heart disease including high cholesterol.
Your adipose tissue is making you hungrier, storing more fat and creating significant inflammation. Hopefully you can see why obesity is considered to be an inflammatory disease now.
Exercise and inflammation.
Did you know that exercise causes muscle cells to produce IL-6 too? BUT the difference here is that IL-6 doesn’t activate pro-inflammatory pathways (as it does with adipose tissue). Better yet, exercise also stimulates the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines including IL-10 (tip: there are other ways to increase IL-10 and down-regulate inflammation too).
Exercise is potently anti-inflammatory and can significantly offset inflammation produced from adipose tissue.
But of course, there is always one exception to the rule! There is a known genetic variant that may predispose you to exercise-induced muscle injury, with this risk substantially increased if you are overweight or obese.
Are you keen to know your risk? And what exercise is right for you? Good! Read on.
Your ability to metabolise carbohydrates, protein and fats.
There is more to weight loss than simply calories in and calories out (or energy consumption vs energy expenditure). Some people are genetically more prone to carrying extra weight.
Your genes influence your metabolism in a number of ways including how effectively you metabolise and absorb fats, carbohydrates and protein. I’ve already written a blog post on the PEMT gene which leads to a deficiency in choline and is linked to weight gain, inflammation, diabetes and many other conditions (read the post here). Your genes also control your appetite through hormonal regulation (e.g. leptin).
It’s time to shift our thinking away from calories in and out, to regulation of energy storage and energy utilisation. It is here that we can use our unique DNA to help us find optimal health.
Genetic testing can determine your unique dietary requirements based on your DNA, as well as determine the best type of exercise for you to help you burn body fat.
Genetic testing for weight management.
Testing includes genes associated with:
- Antioxidant and cellular defences
- Nutrients including vitamin D, A, B12, folate, choline
- Hormones and fertility
- Methylation and homocysteine metabolism
- Cardiovascular health, fat metabolism and cholesterol regulation
- Metabolism, diabetes and weight management
- Food allergies and intolerances
One of the many benefits of genetic testing, is that you can find out why you struggle with weight issues. It takes the blame out of the equation. And better yet, you can be provided with the information and support you need to make changes that will enable you to lose the weight, without any crazy fad diets.
I just posted my own personal DNA test kit off last week, so watch this space.