Burn That Fat. Naturally


Words: Dr Richard FIRSHEIN

A strange thing happened in the late 1970s. An extract from hamburger was found to inhibit tumours in mice. In 1987, this extract was identified as conjugated linoleic acid [CLA]. CLA belongs to the omega-6 fatty acid family. After nearly thirty-five years of research on this ‘designer fat,’ we’ve found out that CLA may reduce body fat and increase lean body mass.

How does it work? We aren’t quite sure. It seems that CLA may modulate fat metabolism in the liver. It also may stop fat from being deposited in the body, increase the actual breakdown of fat in cells, and upturn the utilisation of fat for energy. One clinical trial over a period of 90 days produced an average of 4.3 per cent reduction in body fat.

CLA is not the only nutraceutical in our weight-loss arsenal. A compound called hydroxycitric acid [HCA] also seems to help curb weight gain. It’s found in the highest concentrations in a South Asian tree called Garcinia cambogiaVrikshamla in Ayurveda. It is actually a digestive aid.

Hoffman La Roche, a drug company, began to investigate HCA, in 1970, and found that it reduces our body’s conversion of carbohydrate to fat. It also lowers the production of cholesterol and may even suppress appetite.

How does HCA work? During and after meals, calories that are not used for energy are stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen, which is a source of energy for the body. When glycogen stores become filled, the liver sends out signals to the brain indicating we are full, effectively sating the appetite during a meal. If we continue to eat anyway, the glycogen is turned into fat. The conversion of carbohydrates into fat requires an enzyme called ATP-citrate lyase. HCA works by temporarily inhibiting this enzyme. This essentially means it blocks the fat production.

Yet another weight-loss nutraceutical is known as pyruvate. Pyruvate is an essential part of energy production in the body. It actually improves the action of insulin and is one of the end-products of glucose metabolism. Pyruvate actually sets the body’s ‘idle’ at a higher level. People with a weight problem generally have a low ‘idle’ level — a slower metabolism than normal. They also seem to store energy in food more efficiently than thin people.

Dr Ronald T Stanko, MD, at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, US, studied fourteen obese women on a one-thousand-calorie liquid diet for three weeks. Half of the women were also given 36gm of pyruvate daily. Those taking pyruvate lost 37 per cent more weight [13 versus 9.5lb] and 48 per cent more fat [8.8 versus 5.9lb] than the control group.

Pyruvate also facilitates weight loss by regulating thyroid hormone. In animal studies, pyruvate raised thyroid hormone levels by as much as 14 per cent; thyroid regulates metabolism, and a faster metabolism helps burn fat.

Pyruvate might even increase endurance: a study of ten active college students [all male] found they had a 20 per cent increase in endurance after seven days on the supplement. Best of all, pyruvate fights body fat without compromising valuable muscle mass.

All the three nutrients are promising, and they each work in different ways. I often administer them in various combinations for my patients with weight problems.

Dr RICHARD FIRSHEIN, DO, is the Founder-Director of The Firshein Center for Comprehensive Medicine in New York City. He is a leading innovator and authority in the field of preventative and nutritional medicine, integrating Western and Eastern medical practices. He is Board Certified in Family Medicine and has served as professor of family medicine. An internationally recognised leader in the field of integrative medicine and healthy aging, a cancer researcher, prolific author and writer, Dr Firshein has written several ground-breaking books, including the bestselling Reversing AsthmaYour Asthma-Free ChildThe Nutraceutical Revolution and The Vitamin Prescription [For Life]. This article is ©Dr Richard Firshein.

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