(NaturalNews) The brain regulates our energy intake and expenditure through a process called energy homeostasis. The common belief is that this homeostasis is somehow maladapted and doesn't prevent overeating and weight gain. Thereby, constant voluntary caloric restriction is often recommended to maintain or lose weight. Little attention is often paid to dietary choices, and calorie counting is emphasized. Losing or maintaining weight this way is very difficult, unhealthy and not a long term solution. By choosing the right types of foods our energy homeostasis gets a chance to function properly.
The body's fat stores produce a hormone called Leptin. This hormone allows for the brain to monitor the size of these stores and regulate them by appetite and energy expenditure. Leptin resistance is common in obese individuals; a condition where leptin produces a smaller response at its receptors, thereby triggering hunger and reduced energy expenditure. When this "fat thermostat" is malfunctioning, the body tries to gain weight in an attempt to increase leptin levels and improve leptin resistance.
Hunter-gatherers living on "ancestral diets" maintain healthy body weight even when they engage in a minimal amount of physical activity and have access to an abundance of food.
Studies show that even very physically active and healthy westerners have significantly higher leptin levels than people living in non-westernized settings. This indicates that the human energy homeostasis isn't maladapted like some believe, but rather that certain aspects of our modern lifestyle, especially diet, leads to a malfunctioning energy homeostasis.
Various theories have been proposed as to how modern diets produce leptin resistance. Lectins are sugar-binding proteins found especially in grains and legumes. These proteins are supposed to protect the plant from predators, by causing intestinal distress when consumed. Although humans tolerate a certain amount of lectins, studies show that prolonged consumption contribute to leptin resistance.
Epidemiological studies show that the human energy homeostasis seems to function properly when modern foods like flours, sugars and refined fats are excluded from the diet. Most people will also benefit from limiting all grains and legumes, as they are characterized by a high carbohydrate density, anti-nutrients etc.
Several studies are done where westerners are put on a diet which consists of "ancestral foods" such as meat, fish, fowl, eggs, vegetables, fruits, berries and certain oils. Even when test subjects are allowed to eat as much as they want, their calorie intake is reduced by up to 30 percent compared to other "healthy" diets.
Increased leptin sensitivity and other metabolic improvements are seen regardless of macronutrient ratio, fiber intake and energy density.
Overweight individuals will benefit from reduced carbohydrate consumption when trying to improve leptin resistance and lose weight. When metabolic functions are improved and healthy gut flora is achieved, energy homeostasis usually functions properly even with increased carbohydrate intake and some consumption of "unhealthy" foods.
Sources for this article include
Biesiekierski JR, Newnham ED, Irving PM, et al. Gluten Causes Gastrointestinal Symptoms in Subjects Without Celiac Disease: A Double-Blind Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial Am J Gastroenterol. 2011 Mar;106(3):508-14; quiz 515. Epub 2011 Jan 11.
Jonsson T, Granfeldt Y, Erlanson-Albertsson C, Ahren B, Lindeberg S. A paleolithic diet is more satiating per calorie than a mediterranean-like diet in individuals with ischemic heart disease. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2010;7:85.
Osterdahl M, Kocturk T, Koochek A, Wandell PE. Effects of a short-term intervention with a paleolithic diet in healthy volunteers. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2008;62(5):682-685.
Frassetto LA, Schloetter M, Mietus-Synder M, Morris RC Jr, Sebas-tian A. Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2009;63(8): 947-955.
Jonsson T, Olsson S, Ahren B, Bog-Hansen TC, Dole A, Lindeberg S. Agrarian diet and diseases of affluence - do evolutionary novel dietary lectins cause leptin resistance? BMC Endocr Disord. 2005;5:10.
de Lartigue, Barbier de la SC, Espero E, Lee J, Raybould HE. Diet-induced obesity leads to the development of leptin resistance in vagal afferent neurons. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2011; 301(1):E187-E195.
Cordain L. Cereal Grains: Humanity's Double-Edged Sword World Rev Nutr Diet. 1999;84:19-73.