Obesity and diabetes are reaching epidemic proportion in the US. Researchers are looking for answers to these closely associated problems, knowing that a single magic bullet is unlikely. Weight management and blood sugar control are complex issues that need to be tackled from many angles, including exercise, thyroid hormone optimization, daily food choices, stress management, detoxification and even psychological factors which individuals may struggle with.
Metabolism plays a major role in weight management. Metabolism is the rate at which your body uses energy- in other words- how fast your “motor” runs.
Hypothyroidism is a well-known cause of slow metabolism, so healthy thyroid function can be very helpful in maintaining a healthy weight. Hypothyroidism results in a low temperature and is characterized by a high TSH level. However, people can still have low temperatures and slow metabolism even when their thyroid lab tests appear to be “normal.” Body temperature is the best measure of how fast your “motor” is running. This article addresses how to check your temperature and what you can do if it’s low.
Research suggests that natural ingredients may be helpful in supporting healthy metabolism. An interesting review article was just published in the journal Advanced Nutrition, addressing the topic of metabolism. The paper is a review of previously published research on natural ingredients which may support a healthy metabolism. Much of the research they uncovered was based on animal studies, but there were also clinical trials that tested the ingredients in humans.
This extensive article covered several different ingredients, so I’ll be sharing that research over the course of 2 short blogs.
To start, we need to understand that “fat cells” aren’t all one thing; in fact, there are 3 types of fat cells: white, beige and brown. As you may have guessed, beige fat cells are white fat cells caught in the process of slowly converting to brown cells.
When it comes to metabolism, brown fat cells burn more fuel and generate more heat. These are commonly referred to as “BAT” cells (brown adipose (fat) tissue). BAT, and beige cells to an extent, control blood sugar better, enhance insulin sensitivity, and are better at thermogenesis. Thermogenesis is the process the body uses to burn fuel to generate heat. BAT thermogenesis can be triggered by cold temperatures. BAT may help you manage your weight by helping you convert calories to heat.
White fat is the opposite of BAT, as it takes extra energy and stores it as triglycerides. White fat cells essentially convert calories to excess weight.
The focus of the review article is to identify compounds which support thermogenesis in BAT and a healthy metabolism. One of the most well-known plants for inducing thermogenesis is hot red peppers, which contain the natural chemical capsaicin. Multiple animal and human studies show that this ingredient effectively increases energy expenditure by enhancing “fat oxidation”, a term which means that the large stored fat molecules are broken down into smaller parts and are used as energy resulting in weight loss.
Animal and human studies also show that capsaicin supplements tend to increase BAT activity and decrease fat mass when the subjects are exposed to cold temperatures. It has been shown that high dose capsaicin tends to increase the amount of beige fat cells (and ultimately BAT) and suppresses weight gain despite overeating. Animal studies indicate that capsaicin works on “beta adrenergic receptors” and therefore is more stimulating and energy consuming. The authors of the paper feel that more studies need to be done on the effect of capsaicin on weight for people, to help determine the most effective and safest doses.
Be sure to check out part two if this blog, where we will discuss more natural ingredients being researched for their potential in supporting healthy thermogenesis and metabolism!
Reference: Adv Nut 2017; 8:473-83