We previously examined how calories ingested does not equate with life sustaining nutrition for the body and how that lack of nutrition promotes a strong sensation of malnourishment, further encouraging you to eat more. Another factor to consider is the metabolic impact of the food itself.
Some foods trigger weight gain while some promote weight loss. Carbohydrates trigger insulin to be released and insulin is a fat storage hormone. Insulin does its job exceedingly well; fattening you up until your body gets fed up (pun intended) of a diet laden with sugars and processed carbs and your cells stop accepting glucose despite the insistence of insulin. This is type-2 diabetes in a nutshell.
The fact that carbohydrates trigger weight gain via the release of insulin is the rationale behind low-carb dieting. It makes sense given our history as hunter-gatherers. In a hunter gatherer society, the primary food sources are animal meat and fat, non-starchy vegetables, and at the peak of summer, easily accessible carbohydrates in the form of fruits (and that’s only in certain parts of the planet). Because high sugar, high calorie carbohydrates are so rare in our environment, we developed a key strategy to take full advantage of this short window of availability. This adaptation is what allowed our species to survive the long lean winter months. Before supermarket strawberries from South America, it was feast or famine for the majority of our species.
How this adaptation plays out is simple. We would come across a stand of berries and gorge ourselves knowing that the feast wouldn’t last long. Our pancreas then kicks into high gear giving us plenty of insulin to store the excess glucose as glycogen around the liver and muscles. This extra padding, courtesy of the late summer harvest, was insurance against the cold winter months ahead. Our modern eternal supermarket summer has us packing pounds for a famine that will never come.
This also explains why simple and processed carbs are as addicting as they are. We are evolutionarily adapted to seek out simple sugars, like fructose, not only to keep us alive but to provide a sense of pleasure and assurance as we may now have the excess fat stores we need to survive the lean months. Our refined sense of sweetness hones us in to the most sugary dense foods we can find. Enter high fructose corn syrup into most all processed foods and you can now see the obesity epidemic coming a mile away.
The other key hormone that plays into satiety is leptin. As a protein released from your fat cells, leptin curbs your appetite when it senses that your fat stores are plump and energy needs are met. Things start to get hairy when research reveals that one thing in particular can shut down leptin’s signaling, and furthermore, cause leptin resistance – fructose! That’s right, high fructose corn syrup strikes again by not only going straight into fat production (fructose doesn’t even need insulin to get into the cells, it just zips right in uninvited) but also by down-regulating the very hormone that makes you feel full and satisfied from eating. Food scientists have hijacked our hormonal systems in a way that keeps us going back for more like crazed junkies.
From this lens we can clearly see that obesity is not only a symptom of malnutrition but also of hormonal imbalance. Selecting good quality nutrient-dense and low-carb foods is the place to start to slim down and ramp up your metabolism. If you’ve had experience with low-carb dieting, good or bad, share your thoughts with this community in the comments section below. Thanks for sharing and thanks for reading.