As we started our discussion we examined lifestyle issues associated with maintaining metabolic function, then in part 2 took a closer look at the effects of endocrine regulation of cellular energy metabolism. As we continue this exploration, we will delve now into some specifics of using nutritional agents to enhance metabolic regulation; to boost our ability to burn stored energy (fat) by increasing the efficiency of cellular energy processes. Ready? Then let’s dive right in…
We always need to start with a broad multiple vitamin/mineral format, since all these nutrients must be present for proper biochemical function. Many specific nutrients have demonstrated therapeutic value when used in higher doses but the basics must be in place. To this foundation we first add higher levels of the B vitamins, all of which are necessary for efficient energy processes, helping us convert carbohydrates, fats, and proteins into energy. Vitamin B6 is also required for the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in controlling appetite and cravings.
Minerals are critical as cofactors for enzyme function, controlling the rate of biochemical reactions. Several minerals have specific function related to energy process and weight management. Magnesium is a required cofactor for cellular energy production, serves as the body’s muscle relaxer (improves rest), and is necessary (with vitamin B6) for the production of serotonin and melatonin. Selenium is necessary for adequate conversion of thyroid hormone from T4 into T3, the active form, which is a primary regulator of our metabolic rate. Zinc is necessary for proper responses to most endocrine hormones and is closely related to our sense of well-being, to taste and smell, and to energy maintenance. Iodine is required for two processes critical to weight management; without adequate iodine we cannot break down estrogens in the appropriate metabolic pathways (high estrogens lead to weight gain), and iodine is one of the building blocks from which we make thyroid hormone. Chromium is involved in normalizing insulin response and has been shown to be beneficial in maintenance of healthy weight, in part by inhibiting synthesis of fats from carbohydrates. Minerals should always be used in proper balance with each other to prevent depletion and resultant metabolic impairment.
Essential fatty acids, the omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9 monounsaturated fats required for life, are critical for cellular energy processes. Our processed diet is generally deficient in these necessary fats although heavy in polyunsaturated fats and trans-fats which impair cellular function. Fish oils are the primary source for EPA and DHA, the omega-3 fats we require. Flaxseed oil is the primary plant source of the omega-3 fat alpha linolenic acid (ALA). Both fish oils and flaxseed oil have been shown to have significant benefit to our overall health. Another promising supplemental fatty acid is conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA. Studies using CLA show that it seems to support reduction in body fat and a concurrent increase in the ratio of lean body mass.
Enhancing digestive capacity improves our ability to free necessary amino acids from food proteins, allows us to properly utilize fats and carbohydrates for our energy needs, and even improves our uptake of supplemental nutrients. Several agents may be used to improve our digestion and nutrient uptake, including betaine HCl, digestive enzyme combinations, probiotic blends, and even l-glutamine, an amino acid which has been shown to be beneficial in improving the integrity of the gastrointestinal membrane. Betaine helps the B vitamins to synthesize amino acids and serves as a carrier for HCl, the hydrochloric acid necessary for digestion of protein. Various digestive enzymes assist in the digestive breakdown of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, allowing us to properly utilize the energy we obtain from our food sources. Probiotics help restore the normal bacterial flora inhabiting our digestive tract, organisms which help us with digestion and absorption of nutrients as well as helping with our immune defenses.
A broad variety of other nutrients has been shown to be beneficial in our weight management journey. Briefly, and in no particular order: L-theanine is an amino acid that improves the effect of calming neurotransmitters, helping reduce excessive cortisol production. L-carnitine is required for fat transport, allowing fats to be used as energy sources. L-tyrosine, another amino acid, forms part of the thyroid hormone molecule and is a precursor for producing neurotransmitters. 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is our precursor for producing serotonin, a calming neurotransmitter which also helps control appetite and cravings. Alpha lipoic acid and cinnamon have been shown to improve insulin response, thereby reducing insulin resistance. 7-keto DHEA, a derivative of the adrenal androgen DHEA, has been shown to increase our conversion of thyroid hormone from T4 to T3 (the active form of thyroid hormone), and studies have shown reduction in body fat ratios using this supplement. Di-indolylmethane (DIM) and indole-3-carbinol improve metabolism of estrogens (elevated estrogens increase fat mass). Green tea is used for its EGCG content, which has been demonstrated to increase metabolic rate and breakdown of fats. Garcinia cambogia is used as a source of hydroxycitric acid which inhibits fatty acid synthesis and increases glycogen storage; increasing glycogen stores signal the brain that we’ve had enough.
I’m sure by now you’ve had enough of this as well, so let’s take a break. Think about your current supplement regimen, consider possible changes or refinements, but realize that supplements alone can’t overcome an inappropriate lifestyle. I would encourage you to review the earlier parts 1 and 2 of our discussion as you read this segment- I hope you can see these three developing as parts of a whole. In the next article, we will complete our overview with evaluation of dietary models that are appropriate not only for weight loss but for lifetime good health. And isn’t that our ultimate goal?