A fat-loss secret washes up

May 5, 2008

A fat-loss secret washes up

Posted to the web on: 30 April 2008
AS YOU age, you dont just slow down on the outside. Your metabolism begins to slow significantly on the inside. That accounts for the spreading tyre round your middle, and the steady accumulation of adipose tissue on other parts of your body.

Adipose tissue is the medical professions euphemistic term for fat. Till now, those seeking to shed excess body fat have had to endure miserable diets that usually produced only mediocre results. Or they have tried fat-burner compounds, with stimulating side effects so unpleasant they could not take or tolerate optimal doses consistently. In worst-case scenarios, they have had to undergo surgery as a last resort.

Thats changing with the discovery of a secret from the sea: a compound, fucoxanthin, that is a carotenoid in a common edible seaweed. The experts are calling it a potent new weapon that can burn away your fat safely. Better still, research shows the carotenoids benefits extend beyond weight loss and lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes, even cancer.

Research in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2006 shows that aging humans suffer a greater than predicted decrease in resting energy expenditure. This helps explain why dieting alone so often fails to provide long-term weight control, and why it is so critical to boost resting metabolic rate if you hope to lose significant body fat stores as you age.

Research also shows that human health relies heavily on the ingestion of plant carotenoids. Just one example is an inadequate intake of carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin that can result in the development of macular degeneration the leading cause of blindness in the elderly.

Fucoxanthin is not a magic bullet, and you cant just take it and carry on eating badly. Research shows it can burn fat safely and effectively, but it has to be an adjunct to a regimen that includes controlled calorie intake and increased physical activity to produce meaningful fat-loss effects.

The key is to recognise that all fat isnt created equal. The bulk of fat in humans is in the form of white adipose tissue, or white fat. White fat stores most of the bodys fat energy, produces visible and often unsightly changes in body contours, and detrimental endocrine functions. It is exclusively the white body fat that produces all the disease risk factors associated with elevated body fat content.

Swedish research in the Journal of Physiolology, Endocrinology and Metabolism in 2007 shows that another form of fatty tissue, known as brown adipose tissue, or brown fat, is rare in adult humans but found in significant quantities in human babies, small mammals, and large mammals that hibernate.

What do these creatures have in common? They need to generate heat efficiently in the process known to scientists as non-shivering thermogenesis, whereby they increase metabolic rate and resting energy expenditure without having to move or exercise. They are able to do this, because brown fat has the ability to activate a unique cellular protein called mitochondrial uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1). Until recently , it was thought that white fat could not mimic the thermogenesis capability of brown fat to any appreciable degree.

The research is in early stages, but evidence suggests that when humans supplement with fucoxanthin, they can induce the expression of UCP1 in their stores of white fat, with none of the side effects associated with other compounds.

Fucoxanthin derives from a specific seaweed that has been extensively studied for its benefits. Animal studies have demonstrated its beneficial effects in stroke prevention, reduction of inflammation, and slowing the growth of various cancer cell types.

It is also shown to facilitate youthful energy metabolism by activating non-shivering thermogenesis, thus promoting the natural removal (metabolic burning) of white fat stored in the body.

Japanese marine biologists discovered serendipitously during their research that when study animals were supplemented with fucoxanthin, something unexpected occurred UCP1 was expressed in white adipose (fat) tissue. Their findings were published in the Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications journal in 2005.

The exact mechanism by which fucoxanthin reduces body fat is unclear, but is part of the process by which the body normally transfers and stores energy, known as coupling.

Under normal circumstances, chemical energy from food is poured into molecules of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which are then used by cells for energy. Any unused energy from the ATP molecules is stored for future use through the formation of new fat molecules. This is why you end up gaining weight in the form of fat when you consume more calories than you expend.

When the bodys caloric needs increase (say, with increased exercise), fat molecules break down and their stored energy is put back into new ATP molecules which provide it to working cells. Under normal circumstances, this process is highly efficient. As metabolism slows down, it becomes less and less efficient.

It is during this fat-making process that fucoxanthin can have a beneficial influence on the mechanism that causes so many people to gain unhealthy weight in the form of fat, say scientists. It effectively induces the production of a protein that uncouples cellular energy transfer so the body is less efficient at converting food energy into fat. In the human body, excess energy (calories) is stored in the form of white fat. An increase in metabolic rate can allow the burning of ingested calories.

The uncoupling properties of fucoxanthin essentially allow white fat cells to mimic some of brown fats properties, in particular, non-shivering thermogenesis, and increase resting energy expenditure, relying on the burning of stored body fat for fuel.

In the words of a researcher in the journal, Hormone Research in 2006, fucoxanthin is an attractive new target for pharmacological management of complex pathological syndromes such as obesity, type 2 diabetes or chronic inflammatory diseases.

Fucoxanthin is sold in SA under the Garden of Life Fucothin brand, available in selected health stores, or online at www.pureliving.co.za. More information is at www.fucothin.com.

n Dr Julius Goepp is a medical doctor in the US.

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