As part of my commitment to staying current on the research, I have stumbled upon two pretty important pieces of research that may surprise you. So let’s get to it.
1. As Long as You Don’t Add Sugar, You can Drink Alcohol and Still Lose Weight…
A popular myth is that you can drink clear alcohol and as long as you count the calories in the alcohol (7 calories per gram) you will be fine. Because carbohydrates and protein contain 4 calories per gram, and fat contains 9 calories per gram – the reasoning is that 7 calories in alcohol are simply calories and nothing more.
Well, according to research carried in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, alcohol puts the brakes on fat metabolism (your body’s ability to burn fat as energy) in more ways than one. In the study, eight people were given two vodka drinks separated by 30 minutes.
Fat metabolism was checked both before and after each drink. It turns out that even hours after drinking both drinks, fat metabolism dropped by an incredible 73%. What is happening?
When you drink alcohol, your liver converts it into a substance called acetate. (The acetate levels in the subject’s bodies were 2.5 times higher than normal). And it is the acetates in your body that make losing blubber almost impossible.
Your body prefers burning acetate to all other sources of fuel (fat being one of them), and basically shuts down its normal process of burning off any other source of energy.
In other research, alcohol has been shown to increase appetite. When you combine alcohol with meals, studies have shown you tend to eat more. And since the alcohol is going to serve as your body’s primary source of fuel, all the calories go directly to your waistline.
And finally, alcohol increases your cortisol levels and decreases your testosterone levels for about 24 hours after you imbibe. And this definitely is not good for trimming down or adding muscle!
2. Healthy Additions Are Slimming…
According to some new research from the Kellogg School Management at Northwestern University, a core contributing factor to obesity is our belief about the relationship between a meal’s healthiness and its impact on weight gain.
People mistakenly believe that eating healthy foods in addition to unhealthy ones can decrease a meal’s calorie count.
In the study, 934 people were asked to estimate the calorie count of several meals. Some were shown “unhealthy” meals, and others were shown the same meals with a healthy option.
An example is that some people were shown a bowl of chili alone – and others were shown the same bowl of chili with a small green salad. Other food pairs included: a cheeseburger with celery sticks, a cheese waffle sandwich with a small apple, and a meatball pepperoni cheese steak with a celery-carrot side dish.
The results were pretty scary. Those who viewed the chili alone thought it contained 699 calories. Those who saw the same bowl with a green salad thought it only had 656 calories!!!
So, by “adding” healthier food, people thought the calorie count went down.
Researchers call this, “The Negative Calorie Illusion,” and it applied in all four food pairings. Even worse is that this illusion was TWICE as strong in people who are considered “weight-conscious.”
So now you know: if you are counting calories you have to stick to the numbers. Healthy additions will bias the estimated damage of your meals.
Knowledge is Power
I hope this information has been helpful. There are plenty more weight loss myths out there! If you know of any, please put them in the comments section below. I am going to compile a big list and share them later.
Also, please join our Facebook fan page and start commenting there as well. We are developing quite a community.
One piece of advice that all dieters receive is simply this: don’t skip breakfast. The idea is that skipping breakfast will make you crave junk food, and bypass eating the healthy stuff.
Well, new research presented at the Endocrine Society’s 92nd Annual Meeting in San Diego explains why this may be the case. And it has everything to do with the activation of ghrelin, the “hunger hormone.”
Before we get to the newest study, let’s learn a little more about this “hunger hormone.”
Ghrelin is a hormone located in the stomach that sends hunger signals to the brain. When ghrelin levels are too high, the brain wants food – even if we are full.
And when ghrelin levels are high, the food we crave is high in calories – especially foods that are loaded with fat.
Here is where it gets interesting: ghrelin helps you feel good. In fact it helps you feel REALLY GOOD by activating some of the same regions of brain that are also activated by cocaine! So let’s just say it is highly motivational.
Ghrelin and high calorie cravings
In a study on micei, Dr. Jeffrey Zigman and his team found that mice injected with ghrelin chose to be in a room previously anchored with a high calorie treat versus a room anchored with a low calorie treat. The mice not injected with ghrelin had no preference for either room.
For clarity, the mice with elevated levels of ghrelin just “felt better,” in the high calorie room, “The mice’s behavior had nothing to do with eating,” Zigman said. “Their behavior was linked to obtaining the more pleasurable thing.”
In a second test, Zigman tested how long mice would continue to poke their noses into a hole in order to receive a pellet of high-fat food. The non-ghrelin group gave up far faster than the mice injected with ghrelin.
A new way to increase ghrelin levels and your cravings for fatty foods…
Skip breakfast. In the studyii referred to earlier in this article, researchers recruited healthy (not obese) adults to test this theory.
Here were the conditions:
- Subjects came into the lab on three separate mornings.
- Each time, subjects would be asked to view pictures of either high calorie foods (chocolate, cake and pizza) or low calorie foods (salads, vegetables and fish).
- Then, using a keypad, the subjects rated how appealing they found each food picture.
- There were, however, three different conditions:
- Condition one: subjects came into the lab 90 minutes after eating breakfast and were injected with a saltwater solution 40 minutes before viewing the pictures.
- Condition two: subjects came to the lab 90 minutes after eating breakfast and were injected with ghrelin 40 minutes before viewing the pictures.
- Condition three: subjects came to the lab after skipping breakfast and were injected with the saltwater solution 40 minutes before viewing the pictures.
When injected, neither the researchers nor the subjects were aware of whether they were injected with salt water or ghrelin.
The results: Skipping breakfast is just like injecting ghrelin
The group that skipped breakfast (c) AND the group that ate breakfast and had the ghrelin injection (b) both preferred the high calorie foods.
The group that ate breakfast AND had the salt water injection (a) preferred the low calorie foods.
So don’t skip breakfast if weight loss is your goal!!
The best breakfast for reducing ghrelin (and your cravings)…
In a study, iiipublished in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers determined that protein is the best way to lower post meal ghrelin levels.
The ingestion of fats had little to no effect on post meal ghrelin levels, meaning that eating fat for breakfast is not going to help you make better decisions later in the day.
The ingestion of carbohydrates had an initial ghrelin lowering effect. But in a short period of time after eating carbohydrates, the ghrelin levels not only rebounded, but after only two hours, they rose to an even higher level than before. So eating lots of carbohydrates might also be counterproductive.
So, if you want to control your cravings for high calorie, fatty foods throughout the day, it might be wise to include a lot of protein along with a limited amount of carbohydrates and fats. I am not sure of the types of carbohydrates and fats used in the study, so it might be that carbohydrates high in fiber have a different effect – I just don’t know.
And you definitely require a certain amount of good fat in your diet, so please don’t overdo this.
A ghrelin pill?
Don’t expect ghrelin to show up in your local health food hotspot any time soon. Other studies indicate that artificially reducing ghrelin is also associated with a rise in feelings of depression.
Would losing weight be worth risking depression? Sadly, when people were surveyed on this question back in 2008, the majority of people said it would be worth the risk.
So would you take a pill that would help you lose weight even if you knew it would probably make you feel bad?
Please leave me your thoughts…
iPerello, Mario, and Ichiro Sakata, Shari Birnbaum, Jen-Chieh Chuang, Sherri Osborne-Lawrence, Sherry A. Rovinsky, Jakub Woloszyn, Masashi Yanagisawa, Michael Lutter, Jeffrey M. Zigman. “Ghrelin Increases the Rewarding Value of High-Fat Diet in an Orexin-Dependent Manner.” Journal of Biological Psychiatry. May 1 2010. Vol. 67, Issue 9, 880-886.
iiThe Endocrine Society 92nd Annual Meeting. San Francisco, California. June 21, 2010.
iiiWendy AM Blom, Anne Lluch, Annette Stafleu, Sophie Vinoy, Jens J Holst, Gertjan Schaafsma and Henk FJ Hendriks. “Effect of a High-Protein Breakfast on the Postprandial Ghrelin Response.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. February 2006. Vol. 83, No. 2, 211-220.