Hormone Imbalance May Impact Weight More Than Caloric Intake

Written by Professor Kean, Updated on March 6th, 2024
Reading Time: 3 minutes

For all our lives, most people have lived under the assumption that dieting is just a simple addition/subtraction problem. If you want to lose weight, simply eat fewer calories than your body burns in a day! A combination of eating less and working out more is the classic combination for dieting. As nutrition science advances, however, we're learning that our past assumptions on dieting are vastly oversimplified.

Our Understanding of Diet and Nutrition Has Evolved Over Time

The modern science of dieting and weight loss begins sometime around the early 20th century. Scientists got a handle on the number of calories in various foods and dietitians set to work to get people to eat fewer calories to lose weight. In the 1980s and 1990s, it was widely believed that dietary fat was the biggest obesity threat, because fat calories are more dense than carbs or protein. In the modern era, processed foods, sugars, and fats all became prime targets for dietary restriction.

Upon investigation, there are some serious problems with how we understand diet as it pertains to obesity and weight loss. While average calorie intake increased from 1970-2000, it's mostly flattened out or declined since the turn of the century. In spite of this, the number of Americans with obesity has gone up by over 33% over the same time frame, now afflicting 42% of the population. One might argue that sedentary lifestyle is the cause of this rapid increase, but Americans have actually become slightly more active in recent decades.

The Carbohydrate-Insulin Model

A study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition may upend a lot of what we think we understand about how diet and nutrition really work. Dr. David S. Ludwig and his associates believe that overeating is primarily caused by weight gain and not the other way around. This conception of weight gain and obesity is known as the carbohydrate-insulin model. This model posits that it isn't the number of calories that we take in that matters most, but their source.

Based on this model, diets low in fat and rich in simple carbs are the main source of obesity, combined with the increasing prevalence of highly processed foods. This diet contributed to an increase in the volume of potatoes, cereals, white rice, and white bread in the American pantry. The carbohydrate-insulin model functions on the assumption that an unhealthy diet high in simple carbs causes Hormone Balance to malfunction as Insulin Levels skyrocket and lead to Insulin Resistance and many other problems.

Effect of Obesity on Testosterone and Hormone Balance

This model would explain increasing levels of Testosterone Deficiency among men. Testosterone Levels are strongly negatively impacted both by obesity and by high baseline insulin. Body fat produces Estrogen from Testosterone, which then suppresses signal for Testosterone. Testosterone protects against insulin resistance.

Waning Testosterone exacerbates Insulin Resistance, leading to further storage of fat. Obesity, under this model, is a vicious cycle of Hormone Imbalance. While weight loss is impacted by changes in caloric intake, this new normal makes it harder and harder to resist cravings and limits the benefits of caloric restriction.

This process causes us to deal with fatigue and makes us hungrier more often. Our bodies are storing too much and using too little. Because our bodies have baseline energy needs, we eat more than we should, leading to further weight gain.

Improving Diets Through Hormone Optimization

This new understanding of diet and weight loss helps explain why diets so often fail. Changes in Hormone Balance set us up to fail. Based on this new science, the researchers suggest that we restructure dieting in a way that encourages improved function of Insulin and other hormones so that we create the environment for healthy and successful weight loss and blood sugar balance. They suggest we do this by eating more healthy fats and by drastically reducing our reliance on processed carbohydrates. Using this strategy, it may even be possible to lose weight without even reducing caloric intake, as the diet encourages the utilization of stored body fat.

In the end, there's a good chance that both models for weight loss play a role in the most successful diet. Eating less and eating right can both help us lose weight. Short-term caloric restriction may even help rewire our hormones so that we can focus on improved carbohydrate intake. Only time and more research will tell.

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