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Is This How It Works?
A recent study done on mice published in the June issue of Cell Metabolism may help to explain one of the mechanisms that occur when following a low carb Atkins-type diet. Further research will need to be done to identify if this hormone works in the same fashion in humans.
Health authorities continue to recommend we eat at least 120 to 130 grams of carbohydrates a day to sustain brain function and energy. Those of us on the Atkins Lifestyle who are ketone adapted know perfectly well that we are able to function efficiently using ketones as fuel.
We all need some glucose for certain cells in the body but it need not be obtained through the diet. There is no minimum dietary requirement for carbs as there is for protein and fat. The cells that require glucose are able to make glucose or obtain what is needed through gluconeogenesis.
This new finding discussed in Cell Metabolism can help explain how we adapt to a low carb diet to use our fat stores and ketones to meet energy needs.
The newly discovered ďAtkins hormoneĒ so called by some of the media was identified by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
The hormone was found in the liver and is know as FGF21. It is needed to oxidize or burn fat producing ketones that the body (including the brain) can use for fuel.
When you are low carbing, blood sugar and insulin levels are low. This is similar to what occurs in a fasting or a starvation state. Of course when doing Atkins one is not starving or even eating a very low calorie diet.
Lowering blood sugar and insulin to normal levels is the prime benefit of the Atkins Lifestyle especially in those who are at risk or who already have diabetes. Other research has pointed to low levels of insulin that occur with very low calorie diets as possibly increasing longevity.
One of the researchers Dr. Eleftheria Maratos-Flier found that mice react to different diets with the same number of calories by gaining weight differently probably due to hormonal changes that occur with varying diet compositions. So, it may not be just calories in-calories out as we so often hear.
In this study the animals were feed a very low carb but high fat diet (including saturated fat) yet maintained normal lipid levels in the blood. How did the calories get burned rather than go to fat storage?
They found that the FGF21 hormone (fibroblast growth factor gene) was increased in the mice that were given the low carb, high fat diet. When the hormone was blocked in mice they developed significantly fatty livers and severely abnormal levels of fats in the blood.
Unfortunately the response of some to this finding is that this is an avenue for the development of new drugs! In our drug culture itís not surprising, even with the continuing bad news about the dangers of popular drugs. Drugs seem like the easy way out and of course are big business worth billions.
But the safest way to go is lifestyle change rather than pill-popping.
In Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution published in 1972, Dr. Atkins talked about a hormone from the pituitary gland called the fat mobilizing hormone. One has now been found in the liver yet there is still much more to metabolism and individual responses to diets we donít understand.
What we do know is that if this hormone acts in the same way in humans, we will add to the accumulating knowledge and evidence that low carb lifestyles work, are safe and effective and should be a dietary choice for people with metabolic syndrome, those with a family history of diabetes or those already diagnosed with diabetes.
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