The human body is an amazing collection of systems designed to work together for the purpose of sustaining life. When basic needs are met, survival is ensured as these highly sophisticated systems of the body adapt themselves to change. One of the most important needs is obtaining proper fuel. Fat is the preferred fuel for the body because it contains approximately 2.4 times more energy compared to the same unit of protein or carbohydrate; and certain fats are better than others.
There are two basic categories of fats: saturated and unsaturated. Although saturated fats aren’t converted into useful energy as easily as unsaturated fats, they’re needed by the body for the health and maintenance of bones, joints, cellular function and hormonal balance. Unsaturated fats include both monosaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Polyunsaturated fats include the essential omega 3 and omega 6 oils found in fish, leafy greens, flax seed oil and flax seeds, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, certain nuts and whole grains. They’re called essential because they cannot be manufactured by the body. Walnuts, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds are some of the most nutritious of these healthy fats. Polyunsaturated fats assist brain function, improve cardiovascular health, reduce inflammation, and help reduce low density lipids (bad cholesterol).
Sources of monounsaturated fats include olives, avocados, and peanuts. Both polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats help prevent oxidation within the body which causes plaque buildup in the circulatory system. One of the best ways to obtain healthy fats is by using a variety of unprocessed, unfiltered, preferably organic oils in cooking or in raw food recipes. My favorites include organic sesame oil and raw, fermented coconut oil.
Our bodies do not function well on artificial fats. Commercially produced artificial trans fats were invented to ensure a long shelf life for processed foods and to fool indiscriminating taste buds into thinking that those foods actually taste good. Unhealthy trans fats are also created when oils are heated beyond their smoke point. The smoke point refers to the temperature at which the oil gives off smoke. If you reach this point while cooking, the oil is no longer healthy and should be discarded. Trans fats cause cell walls to become stiff and unable to respond properly to the activity of hormones and other important cell activators.
Our bodies are designed to have an ideal number of fat cells to provide storage for the fuel needed by our bodies – just like cars with gas tanks which hold a certain amount of fuel and enable them to travel certain distances between fill ups. Having the proper number of fat cells worked well for many years as it ensured our survival. When food was plentiful, fewer fat cells were needed. When food was scarce, more fat cells were manufactured to provide additional storage of fuel until more food was available. By regularly providing an adequate supply of healthy food, your body will help you obtain and maintain your appropriate body weight and produce the proper number of fat cells. When you give your body reasons to trust what you are doing, you will be rewarded with good health!
When one eats beyond ones energy needs, additional fat cells will be produced. Bodies assume that cycles of activity will be repeated – so the energy of the fat contained inside the cell will be used instead of using the actual fat cell for energy. By retaining the fat cell for future use, the body is being efficient; and the programming in the cells encourages them to absorb more fat next time the opportunity arises. Ever notice that even after losing weight you must fight the urge to overeat? This relates to that programming. If this happens, be strong as you move past what’s been called set points. These points will be reset if you can get past those urges.
Most people know there’s more to weight loss than just calories and exercise, but do you know about obesogens? They’re a class of natural and synthetic chemicals that disrupt the functions of hormonal systems. These endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) have been implicated in weight gain by mimicking human hormones, misprogramming stem cells to become fat cells, and altering the function of genes. By disrupting your body’s hormones, obesogens trigger the excessive growth of fat cells. Since estrogen is produced in fat cells, the more fat cells, the more estrogen, etc. The ideal number of fat cells is no longer dictated by your body’s needs but by powerful substances that seem to have a mind of their own. Very scary stuff!
Obesogens may be found throughout our food and water supply. From natural hormones in soy products, growth hormones fed to livestock, plastics in food and drink packaging, ingredients added to processed foods and pesticides sprayed on produce, obesogens have been linked to almost every major human disease. Two of the worst offenders, high fructose corn syrup and soy, are added to many foods commonly eaten in America as well as being added to the diets of conventionally raised animals. See The New American Diet by Stephen Perrine (2009) and the websites of the Environmental Working Group and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences for information on ways to avoid these dangerous obesogens.
Another function of fat cells is to store toxins. Once fat cells store toxins they are off limits for use unless they’re needed for energy in the most extreme conditions. This is why I suggest that patients who want to lose weight utilize special detoxification programs with cleansing herbs and ionic foot baths to help remove toxins and make stored fats usable again. Detoxification should be supervised by a qualified professional and done properly to avoid potentially dangerous consequences and/or cause damage to the filtering organs, the liver and the kidneys, or other organs.
It’s the perfect season to be thankful for all of the things your body does for you. Don’t you think it’s time for you to reciprocate by taking better care of your body?
Dr. William Karl, D.C.