I (Dr. Rosedale) have been talking about this subject matter for over 20 years. It is wonderful that Tony Robbins has recognized this and has taken an interest in the truth of health. I hope you will enjoy and learn from my article that I wrote for Tony as my response to an LA Times article that typifies how frequently medical ‘science’ is falsely interpreted.
The Truth About Weight Loss, Hormones, Prescription Drugs, And Your Health
“For several decades I’ve been calling people’s attention to the fact that diets alone are not the answer to a healthy life. So when the Los Angeles Times recently ran an article “Why Dieters Tend To Regain Weight” on Oct. 26, I read it with interest.
This article covered a recent study about how difficult it is to lose weight, and how pharmaceutical companies continue to work on developing a “magic” pill that they can sell to the growing millions of obese people in the U.S. and around the world. One problem with this approach is what the Times calls the “marginal effectiveness” of the drugs.
Every intelligent human being knows that drugs can and usually do have significant and often dangerous side effects. Science has shown us again and again that getting our nutrients, including healthy fats through the consumption of raw nuts and other foods, let us regulate the naturally occurring hormones in our bodies, and trigger appetite-suppressing hormones, which in turn control our hunger and prevent us from overeating and becoming obese.
After reading the article I reached out to natural hormonal expert Ron Rosedale, M.D., whose work in this area I respect, and asked Dr. Rosedale for his response to the following LA Times article.” — Tony Robbins
“A study shows that various hormones conspire to make us hungrier for at least another year, telling us to eat more, conserve energy and store fuel as fat. The report, published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, helps explain why roughly 4 in 5 dieters wind up gaining back lost pounds within a year or two of losing them — and, sometimes, pack on a few extra pounds for good measure… It is a close look at the disheartening pattern: In the wake of weight loss, ‘multiple compensatory mechanisms’ spring to life, the study illustrates, and work together to ensure that weight loss is reversed quickly and efficiently.”
But does the study really show that weight loss causes these ‘compensatory mechanisms’? …or is it a kind of diet that almost everyone is eating, and that doctors and nutritionists alike have been telling everyone to eat for over half a century, that forces thosehormones and ‘compensatory mechanisms’ to ensure that we get fat, diseased, and stay that way? And is there another diet that might allow us to use these same mechanisms for our benefit instead to burn fat instead of detriment to store too much? The answer to both those questions is yes.
To summarize this study, participating overweight and obese human subjects had several appetite regulating hormones measured, and were then placed on a very calorie restricted (500 calorie) diet for 10 weeks, after which they (predictably) lost on average 28 lbs and the same hormones were rechecked. The participants were then asked to voluntarily adhere to a less, though still somewhat restrictive, low fat diet with regular dietary counseling for a year. An average of 11 lbs was regained. It was also found that hormones such as leptin that reduce appetite were decreased, and this decrease was partially maintained for a year as was increased hunger. It was concluded that the decrease in appetite suppressing hormones was causing increased appetite and is the cause of weight regain after dieting (so-called yo-yo dieting). It was further concluded that because of this, multiple drug therapy may be necessary.
Like happens so much in nutritional research and medicine in general, the conclusions presented in the article represent a very simplistic, and false, view of how the body…and life…works (and that just so happens to greatly benefit the massive profits of pharmaceutical companies by treating symptoms rather than the root disease).
For a deeper understanding of the major so-called ‘compensatory mechanism’, a history and summary of the hormone leptin is in order.
The Ob mouse is a strain of mouse that has a genetic mutation that makes it obese and unhealthy. It had been used for almost half a century as a research model of obesity, though the reason that it was obese had eluded scientists. This changed when, in 1994, Jeffrey Friedman of Rockefeller University discovered that this mouse lacked a previously unknown hormone called leptin, and when it was injected with leptin it became thin, vibrant, and very healthy within weeks. This made headlines around the world, “The Cure for Obesity Found” and pharmaceutical companies started tripping over themselves with trillion dollar signs in their eyes to be the first to genetically manufacture leptin on a large-scale. This did not last long, for when people were tested for leptin it was found that, unlike the Ob mouse, they did not lack leptin; on the contrary almost all overweight and obese people have excess leptin. These people were “leptin resistant” and giving extra leptin did little good. The financial disappointment was extreme and scientists working for pharmaceutical companies said that leptin was no longer financially worth pursuing.
To make money in medicine one needs a patent and this generally means remedies which are not commonly or easily available — that are not natural. This illustrates two extremely unfortunate principles in modern medicine; only those therapies that will make lots of money (generally for the pharmaceutical industry or hospitals), ever get pursued and thus taught to physicians (since most of medical education after medical school takes place by pharmaceutical corporations), and these therapies, almost by definition, will be unnatural. This inhibition of extremely important knowledge is not only unfortunate, it is deadly, and is exemplified by how few people, including doctors, know much about leptin, let alone how to control it to greatly improve health. I would consider leptin, along with insulin, to be the most important biochemicals in your body that will determine your health and lifespan, and they are not controlled by drugs. They are controlled by what you eat.
What exactly is leptin? Leptin is a very powerful and influential hormone produced by fat cells that has totally changed the way that science (real science, outside of medicine) looks at fat, nutrition, and metabolism in general. Prior to leptin’s discovery, fat was viewed as strictly an ugly energy storage depot that almost everyone would prefer to get rid of. After it was discovered
that fat produced the hormone leptin (and subsequently it was discovered that fat produced other very significant hormones), fat became an endocrine organ like the ovaries, pancreas and pituitary, influencing the rest of the body and, in particular, the brain. Leptin, as far science currently knows, is the most powerful regulator that tells the brain what to do about life’s two main biological goals: eating and reproducing. It takes lots of fuel to make babies. Just ask any pregnant mom-to-be at the supermarket staring wide eyed at the ice cream. Your fat, by way of leptin, tells your brain whether you should be hungry, eat and make more fat, whether the time is nutritionally ripe to make babies, or (along with insulin) whether to “hunker down” and work overtime to maintain and repair yourself to reproduce at a future more energy available time. I believe I could now make a very convincing and scientifically accurate statement that that rather than your brain being in control of the rest of your body, the most ancient and critical parts of your brain are, in fact, subservient to your fat — and leptin.
In short, leptin is the way that your fat speaks to your brain to let your brain know how much energy is available and, very importantly, what to do with it. It not only takes lots of energy to make babies, it takes a lot of energy to keep you healthy. Therefore, leptin may be “on top of the food chain” in metabolic importance and relevance to disease.
It has been known for many years that fat stores are highly regulated. It appears that when one tries to lose weight the body tries to gain it back. This commonly results in “yo-yo” dieting and in scientific circles one talks about the “set point” of weight. It had long been theorized that hormones must exist that determine this. Science points now to leptin as being the most powerful and influential.
Nature knows that to make someone obtain more energy if necessary, it must make that person hungry. Likewise, nature knows that the only way to not eat too much, to not make too much fat, is to not be hungry. Asking somebody to not eat, to just use willpower even though they might be hungry, in other words “to count calories” is asking the near impossible. Hunger is way too powerful a force that has been instilled into us by nature almost since life began to make us eat. The only way to eat less in the long-term is to not be hungry, and the only way to do this is to control the hormones that nature designed to regulate hunger. We must control leptin to control hunger, health and life.
For our ancestors, life was a time of feast and famine. We needed to store some fat for the times of inevitable famine. However, it was equally dis
advantageous to be too fat. For most of our evolutionary history, it was necessary to run, hunt and gather, and to avoid being prey. If a lion was chasing a group of people, who would it chase? It would catch, and eliminate from the gene pool, the slowest runner and the one who could not make it up the tree — the fattest one that would also give that lion the most energy bang for its having to get-up-and-exercise buck.
Thus, it is so critical that fat storage or burning be highly regulated, that this is done via several hormones, the most significant
again being leptin. When leptin levels are low, it is supposed to signal an area of the deep brain in the hypothalamus that you have too little fat, and if there is a bit of a famine you’ll be a goner. This will override most any other thought, and you will be made to be hungry, and your prime directive as instilled in you by millions of years of evolution will be to find food, eat, turn that food into fat, and save, not burn, the fat that you’ve got.
On the other hand, if a person is getting too fat, the extra fat produces more leptin which is supposed to tell you that there is too much fat stored, lions are being tempted, more fat should not be stored, and the excess needs to be burned. The key words there are “is supposed to”. Leptin must function properly… and there are no drugs that will make this happen, now or in the foreseeable future.
Insulin is another hormone, one of whose primary functions is to regulate energy stores. Its effect on blood glucose is merely a side effect of this. I first spoke of the importance of insulin in health and disease almost 2 decades ago, and I am even more convinced now. Aside from its obvious role in diabetes, it plays a very significant role in hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. However, new research is revealing that in the long run glucose and therefore insulin levels may be largely determined by leptin.
It had been previously believed that the insulin sensitivity of muscle and fat tissues were the most important factor in determining whether one would become diabetic or not. Elegant new studies are showing that the brain and liver are most important in regulating a person’s blood sugar levels especially in type 2 or insulin resistant diabetics. It should be noted again that leptin plays a vital role in regulating the brain’s hypothalamic activity which in turn regulates much of a persons “autonomic” functions; those functions that you don’t necessarily think about but which determines much of your life (and health) such as thyroid levels, body temperature, heart rate, hunger, the stress response including adrenal function and cortisol action, fat burning or storage, reproductive behavior, and newly discovered roles in bone health (osteoporosis), autoimmune diseases (MS), even playing a dominant role in what’s considered insulin’s primary domain; blood sugar levels. This is because recent studies reveal leptin’s importance in directly regulating how much glucose the liver manufactures (gluconeogenesis). How many doctors treat diabetes by regulating leptin? The sad truth is, almost none.
Leptin not only changes brain chemistry to do nature’s bidding, it can also “rewire” the very important areas of the brain that control hunger and metabolism, especially in the very young and even in a fetus. I believe that it was the first chemical in the body that had been shown to accomplish this “mindbending” event. Thus a future mom can pass on the predilection for her child to become obese and diabetic depending on what the mom eats that effects leptin.
Many chronic diseases are now linked to excess inflammation, such as heart disease and diabetes. High leptin levels are very pro-inflammatory, and leptin also helps to mediate the manufacture of other very potent inflammatory chemicals from fat cells that also play a significant role in the progression of heart disease and diabetes. It has long been known that obesity greatly increased risk for many chronic diseases, but no one really knew why. Leptin appears to be that missing link also.
Leptin will not only determine how much fat you have, but also where that fat is put. When you are leptin resistant, you put that fat mostly in your belly, your viscera, causing the so-called “apple shape” that is linked to much disease. Some of that fat permeates the liver, impeding the liver’s ability to listen to insulin, and further hastening diabetes. Leptin plays a far more important role in your health than, for instance, cholesterol, yet how many doctors measure leptin levels in their patients, know their own level, even know that it can be easily measured, or even what it would mean?
Leptin appears to play a significant role in the so-called “chronic diseases of aging”. Could it perhaps affect the rate of aging itself? Scientists who study the biology of aging are beginning to look at that question. As mentioned previously, there are two drives that life has been programmed, since its inception, to fulfill, succeed at, and succumb to. These are to eat and to reproduce. If every one of our ancestors had not succeeded in doing these, we would not be here, you would not be reading this, and I wouldn’t have written it. All of your morphological characteristics from your hair to your toenails are designed to help you succeed at those two activities. That is what nature wants us fundamentally to do.
It is important to know what mother nature wants. Otherwise, she can get downright ornery. Nature does not necessarily want you to live a long and healthy life, but instead wants you to perpetuate the instructions, the genes that teach the progeny how to perpetuate life. Even so-called “paleolithic” diets, though undoubtedly far better than what is generally eaten today, were not necessarily designed by nature to help us live a long and healthy life but, at best, to maximize reproduction. Nature appears to not care much about what happens to us after we have had a sufficient chance to make babies and get them on their feet. That is why we die. But it is vital to nature that we do stay healthy long enough to make babies to perpetuate the instructions of life, and therein lies the rub. Nature gives us clues about how to stay alive and healthy. And that brings us once again to fat– and leptin.
Energy was, and always will be, a coveted commodity. Nature, and evolution hates wasting it. It makes no sense to try and make babies when it appears that there’s not enough energy available to successfully accomplish that goal. Instead, it seems that virtually all living forms can “switch gears” and direct energy away from cell division and reproduction and towards mechanisms that will allow a life to “hunker down” for the long haul and thus be able to reproduce at a future more nutritionally opportune time. In other words, nature will then let you live longer to accomplish its primary directive of reproduction. It does this by up regulating maintenance and repair genes that increase production from within the cells, of antioxidant systems, heat shock proteins (that help maintain protein shape), DNA repair enzymes, and garbage collection (called autophagy). This is what happens when you restrict calories (without starvation) in animals, that has been shown convincingly for 70 years to greatly extend the life and health span of many dozens of species.
Thus, there is a powerful link between cellular reproduction, energy stores, and longevity. Genetic studies in simple organisms have shown that that link is at least partially mediated by insulin (which in simple organisms also functions as growth hormone), and that when insulin signals are kept low, indicating scarce glucose availability, maximal lifespan can be extended– a lot; several hundred percent in worms and flies, and even doubling the lifespan in some mammals. Glucose is an ancient fuel used even before there was oxygen in the atmosphere, for life can burn glucose without oxygen; it is an anaerobic fuel, kept around today for just that purpose; fight or flight emergencies. The use of fat as fuel came later, after life in the form of plants soaked the earth in oxygen, for you cannot burn fat without oxygen. The primary source of energy stores in people is fat by far, as many unfortunately are all too aware of. The primary signal that indicates how much fat is stored is leptin, and it is also leptin that allows for reproduction, or not. It has long been known that women with very little body fat, such as marathon runners, stop ovulating. There is not enough leptin being produced to permit it. Paradoxically, one of the first pharmaceutical uses of leptin was approved to give to skinny women to allow them to ovulate and get pregnant.
To summarize thus far; both insulin and leptin work together to control the quality of one’s metabolism and, to a significant extent, the rate of metabolism.
Metabolism can roughly be defined as the chemistry that turns food into life, and therefore insulin and leptin are critical to health and disease. The purpose of insulin goes way beyond the control of blood sugar. It works mostly at the individual cell level, telling the vast majority of cells whether to burn or store fat or sugar and whether to utilize that energy for cellular division/reproduction (that, when too loud, can lead to cancer) or for maintenance and repair (youth and longevity). In this way it actually helps to control the rate of aging, and therefore the chronic diseases of aging such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. It is so critical to life that is found in virtually all animal life, and has apparently been evolutionarily conserved all the way back to worms and beyond.
Leptin, on the other hand, controls energy storage and utilization by the entire republic of our 15 or so trillion cells allowing the body to communicate with the brain about how much energy (fat) the republic has stored, and whether it needs more, or should burn some off, and whether it is an advantageous time nutritionally-speaking for the republic to make new baby republics.
But for leptin to properly regulate these all-important mechanisms critical to life and health, leptin has to be heard, and if the brain and body cannot properly hear what it is trying to say, people become so-called “leptin resistant”…and sick; obese, diabetic, heart diseased, osteoporotic…not happy campers.
In part 2 we dig even deeper…