Why are so many people overweight, and why does one diet prove effective for one person but not for another? Why do some people eat relatively minuscule amounts of food, but gain weight easily? These are some of the many perplexing questions regarding the pervasive problem of obesity.
Research conducted at Analytical Research Laboratories, Inc. over the past decade has revealed some surprising answers to these and other questions concerning obesity. Our new understandings of body chemistry help take the guesswork out of selecting a diet, thus reducing the disappointment and possible harm that can result from deficient diet regimens.
We will suggest the idea that obesity is related to an energy deficit brought about by imbalanced body chemistry. The energy deficit can impair fat metabolism, lead to excess water retention or fat deposition, and cause cravings for foods that perpetuate the obesity problem.
To treat obesity effectively, the rate at which one oxidizes or burns food must be carefully considered. How efficiently one burns food depends largely on optimal thyroid and adrenal gland activity. The importance of specific nutrients, based on oxidation types, cannot be overemphasized.
Toxic metals lodged in body tissues, such as cadmium, also play a vital role in the causation of obesity. Toxic metals displace vital minerals such as zinc and copper, which in turn affects energy production, carbohydrate tolerance and other vital aspects of body chemistry.
We offer the following as a research report on the findings revealed by tissue mineral testing on several thousand obese individuals.
Obesity can have numerous biochemical and nutritional causes. Let us begin by considering two common metabolic patterns, as determined by hair mineral testing. Both metabolic types can gain weight, but for different reasons. The importance in knowing one's biochemical type cannot be overestimated in achieving success in weight loss.
A large group of overweight individuals are slow oxidizers. Dr. George Watson originally coined this term to describe a person who burns his food at a slower-than-normal rate, due principally to sluggish thyroid and adrenal gland activity. These people tend to accumulate extra weight on the lower part of their bodies - the hips, thighs and legs.
Slow oxidizers gain weight for several reasons:
A copper imbalance often results in a reduced desire for protein, especially animal protein. An adequate protein intake is vital for the slow oxidizer, inasmuch as dietary protein serves to increase one's low rate of metabolism. Any reduction in dietary protein intake can aggravate slow oxidation and thyroid underactivity, factors that further contribute to weight gain.
The slow oxidizer thrives best on a diet in which approximately 40% of the calories are derived from low fat protein, 40% from complex carbohydrates, and 10% from fat. The increased protein intake can enhance thyroid and adrenal gland activity. Dietary fats tend to slow the metabolic rate and should be minimized for this reason.
A fast oxidizer can be defined as a person in whom thyroid and adrenal gland activity are overactive. Food is burned at a faster-than-normal-rate. Fast oxidation may be due to toxic metal poisoning, excessive reaction to stress, a calcium, magnesium and zinc deficiency, poor food selection, temperament or other factors. One might think that a fast oxidizer would be underweight because of a higher-than-normal metabolic rate, but often they are not. Fast oxidizers tend to carry extra weight above their waist, frequently in the abdominal area.
Principal reasons why fast oxidizers tend to gain weight are:
A desire for alcohol can also develop, inasmuch as alcohol is an excellent sugar substitute. However, alcohol is high in calories, and onl aggravates the fast oxidizer's current nutritional imbalances.
Fast oxidizers function optimally on a diet in which 30% of their calories is derived from protein, 40% from fats and oils and 20% from complex carbohydrates. Fast oxidizers with a severe inability to properly metabolize sugar and simple carbohydrates, as determined by a tissue mineral analysis, may initially need to eliminate simple carbohydrates almost completely to successfully lose weight. The diets advocated by Robert Atkins, MD, consisting of animal protein, fats, and non-starchy vegetables, are often extremely helpful in promoting healthful weight loss in fast oxidizers.
Besides the importance of the oxidation type, hair analysis research has revealed close relationships between individual mineral levels and mineral ratios, and obesity. The following mineral patterns have been observed to correlate with obesity problems.
(Zinc less than 14 mg%, magnesium less that 4 mg%.) Zinc and magnesium help prevent excessively high sodium levels and hence water retention, by reducing stress-induced excessive aldosterone secretion. A deficiency of zinc, or magnesium allows sodium levels to rise, contributing to water retention. A magnesium, or zinc deficiency also results in impaired sugar and carbohydrate metabolism. This can result in weight gain.
Phytate rich grain diets can lower zinc and magnesium levels, although this effect is somewhat offset by the high magnesium content of whole grains.
A high tissue copper level is a frequent cause of obesity. Copper, in excess, tends to raise tissue sodium levels while lowering tissue potassium levels. A high sodium level can cause water retention. Low potassium is associated with hypoglycemia and sweet cravings. Also, copper levels tend to correlate with estrogen levels. An increase in estrogen levels can cause sluggish thyroid and adrenal activity.
Copper, in excess, also has a slowing effect upon the oxidation rate. Such a reduction can be beneficial in the fast oxidizer, but can worsen slow oxidation by further reducing thyroid and adrenal gland activity. As stated previously, an elevated tissue copper level also has the effect of reducing the desire for eating meat protein. Lack of protein in the diet can further slow endocrine glandular activity, resulting in more weight gain.
Copper toxicity is specifically associated with cellulite problems, which often disappear when one's copper balance improves.
Several years on a mineral balancing program may be needed, however, to improve copper balance sufficiently to correct this problem.
Cadmium toxicity can raise sodium levels, causing water retention. Cadmium also displaces zinc. Zinc deficiency impairs insulin activity, causing sweet cravings and other metabolic dysfunctions. Major sources of cadmium are canned food, refined foods, cigarette smoke and tap water.
A high sodium/potassium ratio is often associated with water retention, especially if the absolute sodium level is also high (above 25mg%). A high sodium/potassium ratio may be caused by a toxic metal, or by a relative inability to adequately cope with stress. Increasing one's ability to cope with stress has proven effective in enhancing weight loss.
This ratio imbalance can cause excessive weight gain for the following reasons:
An imbalanced calcium/magnesium ratio is commonly associated with sugar and carbohydrate intolerance. In some people, insulin secretion is high, causing excessive conversion of glucose to fat and increased fat deposition in body tissues. Insulin deficiency can also occur. This impairs glucose uptake into the body cells, which in turn results in an increased craving for high-energy, quickly absorbed foods such as refined sugar and other simple carbohydrates.
Numerous diets are recommended for achieving weight loss. The rationales for diets can be quite confusing. Understanding the principles of the oxidation types described earlier can help clarify why some diets are effective some of the time, and why no diet is ideal for everyone.
The number of calories in one's diet can make a major difference, especially for those who simply overeat. However, many people who are unable to lose weight do not overeat. A critical principle is that a diet is effective because in some way it tends to balance that individual's body chemistry. As the body chemistry improves, energy levels improve and the body is better able to metabolize sugars, starches and fats.
The above principle can be understood in greater detail by examining some of the more popular dieting methods:
A common type of diet recommended by Weight Watchers, Diet Center, Nutri-Systems, Overeaters Anonymous and many other groups, consist of low-fat protein, together with a low fat and caloric intake. This diet is often temporarily successful for the slow oxidizer. Many variations on this diet exist including the Scarsdale diet and diets that involve protein drinks and special low-fat foods.
Protein, although often poorly used, is especially required by the slow oxidizer to enhance thyroid activity and hence increase the metabolic rate. Dietary fat tends to reduce one's metabolic rate and is best avoided by the slow oxidizer who is attempting to lose excessive weight.
A high-protein, high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet is the type of diet popularized in books by Dr. Robert Atkins and Dr. Stillman. This type of diet is more effective for the fast oxidizer metabolic type. In severe cases of glucose intolerance, it may be necessary to drastically reduce one's carbohydrate intake and to eat liberally of fats, meats, dairy foods and non-starchy vegetables for optimum results.
This type of diet is high in energy-rich acetates. These are substances found in fats that are especially required by the fast oxidizer to avoid excessive cravings for carbohydrates, alcohol and sweets. The relatively high fat content of this diet also exerts a slowing effect on an excessively fast rate of metabolism resulting in improved energy efficiency in the fast oxidizer. Dairy products are often effective for the fast oxidizer, since they contain calcium, fat and the amino acid tryptophan, all of which have a desirable slowing effect on an excessively rapid metabolic rate.
A high percentage of individuals temporarily loses weight on vegetarian diets. These diets tend to be lower in calories and fat. A reduction in dietary fat results in an increase in the metabolic rate, a desirable effect for the slow oxidizer. Slow oxidizers are particularly attracted to vegetarian regimens because they have difficulty handling both fats and meat protein.
In our experience there are drawbacks to strict vegetarian regimens. For example:
Several books on natural healing advocate mono diets, or diets consisting of only one food. A few examples are the rice diet, the grape diet, etc. These diets are nutritionally incomplete, and should not be followed for more than a few days without supervision. The benefit of these diets lies more in what is not eaten, than in what is eaten. Eating only a single food often results in a reduced caloric intake. Also, these diets can eliminate common food addictions and food allergies. However, crash diets of any kind can cause permanent physiological damage and thus should be avoided.
A variation on the mono-diet is various cleansing diets recommended in many books. These diets consist of only a few foods, such as all fruit, or a combination of fruits and vegetables. Again, these are nutritionally incomplete diets. Although they can serve as a transition diet, they should not be continued for more than a few days because nutritional deficiencies will eventually occur and permanent harm can be done to the body.
It is a pernicious myth that one must live on fruits or juices to cleanse the body. Cleansing is a natural function that occurs 24 hours per day. We find that the most rapid method of inducing a cleansing is by enhancing production of biochemical energy by balancing body chemistry. A hair mineral test is used to guide this procedure.
Fasting is the abstention from all or almost all food for a period of time. Water must be taken if a fast continues more than one or two days. Sometimes broth, fruit or vegetable juice is allowed.
Fasting for more than several days should only be undertaken under close supervision, and is not recommended for permanent weight loss. Stopping all food intake often has a rebound effect after the fast, causing a person to eat as much as, or more than he did before fasting. Also, a fast is a special situation that fails to help a person cope with daily food selection and food temptations. Some doctors advocate fasting one day a week or one day a month. This appears to be safe provided that adequate amounts of food are eaten during the non-fasting period.
Many books on fasting were written 40 to 50 years ago. Today, most people are less well nourished, and their bodies contain more pesticide residues, toxic metals, and other toxic chemicals. Fasting, because it results in increased breakdown of fats, can release these stored poisons quickly, causing a wide variety of toxic reactions. For these reasons, we seldom recommend long fasts today, and harm can result from long fasts.
Diets consisting of white bread, soda pop, processed meats and cheeses, and canned vegetables are high in calories but deficient in essential minerals such as magnesium, manganese, zinc and chromium. An important cause of overeating is that poor-quality food fails to provide adequate nourishment. The body craves additional food to obtain vital nutrients, increasing the appetite.
Food addiction is a common phenomenon in which a particular food satisfies a biochemical or psychological need that perpetuates a craving for that particular food. Common addictive foods are dairy foods, wheat and simple carbohydrate foods. Commonly, the addictive food is enjoyed but it effectively prevents weight loss.
Dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt are excellent examples of commonly addictive foods. The high calcium, tryptophan, fat and exorphin-like amino-acids proteins found in milk are capable of producing a tranquilizing effect. Some people when under stress gravitate to these foods for relief. However, if the person is a slow oxidizer, as is commonly the case, the effect of dairy foods is to further disturb an already imbalanced body chemistry. The result is frequently weight gain as well as other distressing symptoms.
To successfully lose weight, one's eating habits can be as important as the food eaten. Important habits are:
Exercise can play an important role in weight loss. Exercise is effective not so much because it burns calories, but because it favorably alters body chemistry. Exercise enhances the metabolic rate, which then enables the body to more effectively burn starches and fats.
Exercise also assists oxygenation of the tissues, improves blood and lymph circulation, and serves as a natural massage for body organs.
Exercise can also be used to reduce one's appetite. If one is eating out of boredom or fatigue, an invigorating walk or swim will often serve to distract one's attention from food.
Recent research indicates that periodic exercise enhances adrenaline secretion and decreases cortisol (glucocorticoid) secretion. This is important because chronic excessive cortisol secretion leads to increased fat deposition.
Exercise must be appropriate for each person. Excessive exercise may burn calories, but can also lead to endocrine gland exhaustion and eventually to more severe weight problems.
Often a symptom results from a defensive maneuver or adaptation to stress. The solution to obesity may not be a diet, but rather to remove the need for the adaptation or defense.
Obesity commonly is a defense against the possibility of the body running out of available fuel. The particular biochemical or dietary imbalance involved will determine whether fat is stored in the abdominal area, the buttocks, or on the hips and legs. Regardless of where it is stored, fat functions as an emergency fuel reserve. This adaptation may be required by the body for reasons discussed earlier, including inability to store adequate glycogen, inability to mobilize glycogen from storage, inadequate insulin function, poor transport across cell membranes or other reasons. By improving energy utilization, the obesity adaptation is no longer needed.
Many people gain weight when they are under stress, even if they don't consume more food. Inability to adequately cope with stress is an important cause for obesity! Stress can cause weight gain because:
There can be other subtle reasons for weight gain due to stress, such as depletion of vital nutrients required to burn, or oxidize glucose, e.g., zinc and magnesium.
For all these reasons, stress reduction can help weight loss. A nutritional balancing program will reduce nutritional causes of stress. Many times emotional, social, or psychological stressors need to be reduced as well, to optimize body functioning.
One's attitude can definitely play a role in successful weight loss. Intent is important for any achievement, including weight control. A defeatist attitude, low confidence, low self-esteem, or a fat body image will hinder any weight loss program. It is helpful to visualize yourself as you wish to be. If this is done repeatedly and seriously, it can be a very powerful aid.
Willpower is also necessary for any successful effort. It is important to remember that anything we really desire to achieve we can achieve. If one is not successful, it is often wise to determine in what way one is sabotaging his or her own effort. Willpower depends in part upon optimal functioning of one's adrenal glands.
Body fat is sometimes retained as a psychological defense mechanism, or insulation from stress. Some women and men retain fat so they are less attractive to the opposite sex and thus avoid the stress of personal relationships. Body fat can also be used to cover up anger or other hidden negative emotions. Overweight people may have a jolly disposition because they are effectively hiding their anger.
Attitudes about food are important. If one is using food as a substitute for love, as one's main sensual pleasure, as a distraction to avoid stress, or for other compulsive reasons, one is likely to have difficulty controlling his or her food intake. If one thinks about food excessively, it is helpful to ask whether one is eating to avoid some stressful thought or situation.
Discipline and self-esteem are required to avoid giving into peer pressure and temptation to eat the wrong foods. This is especially difficult at dinner parties, restaurants, bars, etc. It is often best to avoid any situation you can't presently handle, or take a friend along and instruct him or her to help you control your appetite.
Some people have unrealistic body images or expectations about becoming thin. If an obesity problem is given more emphasis than it deserves, conflict and stress will be created that will actually interfere with natural weight loss. In our experience, as a person feels better through mineral balancing nutrition the exaggerated importance of being thin diminishes. The idea that one's problems were caused by overweight is replaced by the realization that feelings of inadequacy, depression, etc., are often due to improper body functioning.
Many women complain of weight gain before their menstrual period. Several mechanisms are responsible for this phenomenon. The metabolic rate normally slows before the menstrual period, reducing the efficiency of glucose utilization in slow oxidizers. Also, increased estrogen and copper levels that occur premenstrually can result in a rise in tissue sodium levels while lowering potassium levels. This results in water retention and frequently hypoglycemia. Finally, in some women the sodium/potassium ratio drops below 2.5:1 before the menstrual period. This can indicate renal stress that causes water retention and consequent weight gain.
Addition of supplements or foods high in zinc, magnesium and vitamin B-6 are often helpful in preventing or minimizing premenstrual weight gain. Zinc and magnesium prevent sodium retention by enabling one to better cope with stress. Vitamin B-6 is a zinc synergist and has a natural diuretic effect. Renamide, a kidney glandular supplement, may also help reduce weight gain, due to water retention.
A variety of nutritional and psychological factors influence weight gain. These include ones' metabolic type, specific nutritional deficiencies or excesses, individual stress factors, food addictions, exercise habits, and subtle attitudinal factors.
A basic nutritional principle is that any diet, attitude or activity that balances body chemistry will assist normalization of weight. Weight normalizes because a more normal body chemistry results in the production of more energy, which, in turn, assists utilization of food and improves all metabolic processes.