Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Brain Genes and Body Fat

BBC News tells of two studies that found seven genes that were statistically linked to body fat levels. These genes seem to be mainly active in the brain, leading some of the researchers to suggest that obesity is mostly the result of the way the brain works.

In one hypothesis, hunger impulses originate mostly in the brain, and are only slightly influenced by metabolic events. This could be true, at least for some people, based on the evidence so far. If it is, it suggests a possible weight loss strategy would be to learn to partially ignore feelings of hunger.

This is something most people do in one way or another. Most of us don’t tend to eat late at night, for example, based on the idea that breakfast is soon enough.

For two years, I’ve been suggesting the habit of not eating during the 11 hours between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. This is more to keep enzymes in balance than to lose weight, but I’ve heard from people who say it has helped them lose weight. Some experts say it is better to extend this to 12 or even 14 hours every night by having an early supper. Another strategy, recommended as a way to maintain an alkaline pH, is not to eat any solid food in the morning (sometimes the suggestion is juice from wheat grass for breakfast).

A similar strategy would be to limit the places where you eat. You might decide you’re not going to eat (or drink soda) at your desk anymore.

All these approaches are ways of creating a habit of eating at some times and avoiding food at other times. If the hypothesis that the brain is creating excessive hunger impulses is correct, any of these ought to be a way to lose weight.