Set Point Explained - POSTED ON: May 01, 2019
The podcast below contains a relatively simple, very understandable
and exceptionally accurate explanation of Set Point.
Below are links to some additional DietHobby articles involving the Set Point issue.
Running DOWN the UP Escalator - Weight Loss & Maintenance
Winner of the “5 Percent Lottery of Hell”
False Assumption - POSTED ON: Apr 10, 2018
See Video Below: The Problem with Poodle Science
Three Obesity Types - POSTED ON: Mar 12, 2018
The medical profession has no cure for obesity. While many people will diet, exercise, and thus, lose weight - keeping that weight off is where the real struggle lies.
Below is an article and a video in which Dr. Sharma, who-is-one-of-the-medical-obesity-experts-that-I-admire-and-respect, explores the complex biology behind weight loss and regain, and gives his medical opinion as to why obesity should be managed as a chronic disease rather than as a personal failure.
The Three Clinical Faces of Obesity
by Dr. Arya Sharma M.D.
In my experience, patients presenting with obesity tend to fall into three categories, each of which requires a distinct management approach. They are:
1) Active Gainers
2) Weight Stable
3) Post-Weight Loss
Active Gainers are patients currently at their lifetime maximum and continuing to gain significant amounts of weight – i.e. more than the usual 0.5 to 1 lb/year. Patients in this category require immediate attention – if nothing happens, their weight will most likely just continue to increase.
The good news is that in almost every patient in this category, there is an identifiable reason for the ongoing weight gain – this can be psychosocial (e.g. depression, binge-eating disorder, etc.), due to a medical comorbidity (arthritis, chronic pain, etc.) or medications (e.g. atypical antipsychotics, hypoglycemic agents, etc.).
From a management perspective, the sooner we identify and address the underlying problem, the sooner we can slow or even halt the rate of weight gain – in this patient – gaining less weight than before is the first sign of success. There is really no point trying to embark on losing weight as long as the underlying problem driving the weight gain has not been addressed, as this is likely to make sustained weight loss even more unlikely that it already is..
Weight Stable patients are those that present with excess weight but are relatively weight stable. Even though they may be at their lifetime maximum, they have been pretty much the same weight (perhaps a few lbs up or down but nothing drastic) for several years (sometimes even decades). By definition, a patient who is weight stable is in caloric balance, and thus, by definition is not eating too much. In fact, these patients are eating the exact number of calories needed to sustain their bodies, which is why they are weight stable. (Remember, even if you are weight-stable eating 4000 Cal a day, you are technically not “overeating”.)
These patients of course have experienced significant weight gain in the past (historical weight gain), but whatever it was that caused them to gain weight is no longer an active problem (e.g. pregnancy, past depression, etc) – and therefore, probably doesn’t need to addressed (although, I always find it of interest to find out what caused the weight gain in the first place). With these patients, we can determine whether or not their weight is affecting their health, and if it is, we can jump right into discussing treatment options (behavioural, medical and/or surgical).
The third group of patients, Post-Weight Loss, are those who are not at their lifetime maximum, or in other words, have already lost weight (by whatever means).
These patients generally present either because they want to lose even more weight (Doctor, my diet has stopped working! = “weight-loss plateau“), or are experiencing weight regain (Active Regainers).
In case of the patients experiencing a “weight-loss plateau”, one needs to determine if there is in fact any medical indication for further weight loss – many of these patients may already be at their “Best Weight”.
If there is indeed a medical indication for further weight loss, it generally means adding therapeutic options that may include anti-obesity medications and/or surgery. (In my experience, patients who have been maintaining a significant amount of weight loss on their own, generally leave little room for further behavioural intervention).
On the other hand, there are the post-weight loss patients who are actively regaining weight. These tend to fall into two groups:
1) The first group of Active Regainers are those, who have lost a significant amount of weight with a strategy that is in fact unsustainable (e.g. a very low-calorie diet, an excessive exercise program, or whatever else desperate patients will try just to drop their weight).
As the strategy they were on is not one that they can sustain (for good reasons), some weight gain is inevitable and the best we can do is to offer a weight management strategy that is sustainable in the long run (and may include medication or surgery) .
2) The other group of Active Regainers, are those that were on a more-or-less sustainable management plan (behavioural, medical or surgical) and have for some reason “fallen off”.
Here one needs to determine what exactly they have stopped doing (e.g. no longer keeping their food journal, stopped their anti-obesity medications, etc.) or what additional weight-gain promoting change has occurred that has thrown them off (again, reasons can be psychosocial or medical).
Here one needs to determine if the patient can in fact go back to doing what was “working”, which may require addressing the new problem that has arisen or add additional therapeutic options (e.g. medications or surgery).
Thus, as each type of patient needs a somewhat different assessment and management strategy, I find this approach to thinking about each patient most helpful.
About Dr. Sharma:
Dr. Arya M. Sharma, MD/PhD, FRCPC is Professor of Medicine & Chair in Obesity Research and Management at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada. He is also the Clinical Co-Chair of the Alberta Health Services Obesity Program.
Dr. Sharma is founder and Scientific Director of the Canadian Obesity Network, a network of over 10,000 obesity researchers, health professionals and other stakeholders.
He is also the Past-President of the Canadian Association of Bariatric Physicians and Surgeons.
His past appointments include positions as Professor of Medicine and Canada Research Chair (Tier 1) at McMaster University (2002-2007), Professor of Medicine at the Franz-Volhard Klinik – Charité, Humboldt University Berlin (2000-2002) and the Free University of Berlin (1994-2000). His research focuses on the evidence-based prevention and management of obesity and its complications.
He has authored and co-authored more than 350 scientific articles and has lectured widely on the etiology and management of obesity and related cardiovascular disorders. Dr. Sharma is regularly featured as a medical expert in national and international TV and print media and maintains a widely read obesity blog at www.drsharma.ca.
Video Below: How to Lose 50 Pounds and Keep Them Off
Fat Cells are Forever - POSTED ON: Oct 04, 2017
Once fat cells reach a certain size -- that is, they become filled to capacity with fat content -- then new fat cells will begin to form. The fat cell number and size increases and shrinks based on deposits from food intake.
“We have a seemingly infinite capacity to recruit new fat cells, but we cannot get rid of them once they have been recruited" said Michael Rosenbaum, associate professor of clinical pediatrics and medicine at Columbia University. "in most cases, weight gain initially reflects ... enlargement of existing fat cells followed by an increased growth of new fat cells.”
Research has shown that obese people who have weight loss surgery have just as many fat cells two years after the surgery as before it, even though they have become much thinner.
Scientist, Dr. Rudy Leibel, says that "the body controls the number of its fat cells as carefully as it controls the amount of its fat". Fat cells die and new ones are born throughout life. Scientists have found that fat cells live for only about seven years and that every time a fat cell dies, another is formed to take its place.
Below see a 2017 New York Times article about this matter.
Are Fat Cells Forever?
By Alice Callahan
February 17, 2017 - New York Times
Once fat cells are formed, can you ever get rid of them?
The number of fat cells in a person’s body seems to be able to change in only one direction: up. Fat cell number increases through childhood and adolescence and generally stabilizes in adulthood.
But this doesn’t mean that fat cells, or adipocytes, are stagnant. The size of individual fat cells is remarkably variable, expanding and contracting with weight gain or weight loss. And as with most cell types in the body, adipocytes die eventually.
“when old ones die, they are replaced by new fat cells,” said Dr. Michael Jensen, an endocrinologist and obesity researcher at the Mayo Clinic. Cell death and production appear to be tightly coupled, so although about 10 percent of adipocytes die each year, they’re replaced at the same rate.
Even among bariatric surgery patients, who can lose massive amounts of weight, the number of fat cells tends to remain the same, although the cells shrink in size, studies show.
Liposuction reduces the number of fat cells in a person’s body, but studies show the weight lost is typically regained within a year. It isn’t known whether this regain occurs through the production of new fat cells or expansion of existing ones.
People who are obese tend to have more fat cells than those who are not, and several studies have found an increase in fat cell number with weight regain following weight loss.
"The fact that fat cell number can be increased but not decreased most likely contributes to the body’s drive to regain weight after weight loss", said Dr. Kirsty L. Spalding, a cell biologist at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and the lead author of a 2008 study showing that fat cells die and are replaced. Beyond their role in storing fat, adipocytes secrete proteins and hormones that affect energy metabolism.
“Following weight loss, adipocytes become smaller, generally smaller than those from people with a similar B.M.I.,” Dr. Spalding said. One hypothesis is that those smaller cells might send signals to increase appetite and fat storage, which could help to explain why weight loss is so difficult to maintain, though much more research is needed.
Our Weight is Regulated by Our Biological System - POSTED ON: Oct 01, 2017
I continually read a great many books, articles, blogs, and forum posts on the subject of obesity.
No one,…. not even the most qualified medical doctor or scientist, … knows everything or holds only beliefs that are absolutely correct.
However, I am often amazed by the vast amount of existing misconceptions, myths, and wishful-thinking that gets spread and promoted by people who present themselves as obesity “experts” or “gurus”.
One thing that Scientists know for sure about obesity management, is the sad fact, that no diet, exercise, medication, not even bariatric surgery, will permanently reset the body’s tendency to defend and regain its body weight to its set point .... this generally being the highest weight that has been achieved and maintained for a notable length of time.
Thus, any effective long-term treatment MUST OFFSET the complex neurobiology which is designed to eventually doom every weight-loss attempt to ultimately "fail".
A comprehensive review recently published in Endocrine Reviews describes the complexity of the biological system that regulates our body weight.
The 30+ page research paper, backed by about 350 scientific citations, was written by the undisputed leaders in the medical field of Endocrinology (Michael Schwartz, Randy Seeley, Eric Ravussin, Rudolph Leibel and colleagues) and is actually a “Scientific Statement” from the Endocrine Society.
In other words, these Scientists know that they are talking about when they speak about the Science of Energy Balance, and in this paper they outline in excruciating scientific detail just how complex the biological system that regulates, defends, and restores body weight actually is.
From the Abstract of this research paper:
We included evidence from basic science, clinical, and epidemiological literature to assess current knowledge regarding mechanisms underlying excess body-fat accumulation, the biological defense of excess fat mass, and the tendency for lost weight to be regained.
A major area of emphasis is the science of energy homeostasis, the biological process that maintains weight stability by actively matching energy intake to energy expenditure over time.
Growing evidence suggests that obesity is a disorder of the energy homeostasis system, rather than simply arising from the passive accumulation of excess weight.
Their position is that, despite all we have learned about this system, we are still far from fully understanding it.
Science knows about one of the pathways, but there are many pathways in a complex network of multiple interacting pathways that involve virtually every part of the brain.
They say that the medical field currently needs a great deal more information about the specifics of this issue:
The identification of neuromolecular mechanisms that integrate short-term and long-term control of feeding behavior, such that calorie intake precisely matches energy expenditure over long time intervals, will almost certainly enable better preventive and therapeutic approaches to obesity.”
To be viable, theories of obesity pathogenesis must account not only for how excess body fat is acquired, but also for how excess body fat comes to be biologically defended.
Answering this question requires an improved understanding of the neuro-molecular elements that underlie a “defended” level of body fat. What are the molecular/neuroanatomic predicates that help establish and defend a “set point” for adiposity? How do these elements regulate feeding behavior and/or energy expenditure, so as to achieve long-term energy balance? By what mechanisms is an apparently higher set point established and defended in individuals who are obese?”
They conclude that:
Given that recovery of lost weight ... (the normal, physiological response to weight loss irrespective of one’s starting weight) ... is the largest single obstacle to effective long-term weight loss, we cannot overstate the importance of a coherent understanding of obesity-associated alterations of the energy homeostasis system.”
So, in essence, this scientific paper shows why no simple solution to obesity is in sight; details the existence of an enormous Problem; and raises Questions for which Science still needs to find answers.
To get a simple explanation of the basic concept, see: Set Point.
Any “health & wellness” professional, medical doctor, or guru who claims that any particular Diet, Behavior, or LifeStyle can fundamentally change the part of the body’s biology which acts to protect and restore body fat in the long term is Simply Wrong.
They are either spreading a Lie, sharing a Myth, or offering a hypothesis for which no proof or reasonable evidence exists… which means that they are simply sharing their own Wishful-Thinking.
At this point, all credible Scientific Research indicates the following:
No matter how much weight gets lost, or is maintained for the short-term, …
No matter whether that weight loss was slow or fast, ...
No matter when food intake occurs ...
No matter whether “unprocessed” or “healthy” food is eaten, ...
Ultimately NO diet or behavior
manages to “reset” the body-weight set point to a lower level,
in order to biologically “stabilize” weight loss for the long-term.
NOTE: Originally posted on 7/23/2017. Bumped up for new viewers.
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