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Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids - What Are They?

Fats are essential to our bodies and cannot be completely removed from our diet. But too much fat or the wrong type of fat can be harmful to us, especially our hearts. However, there are “good” fats that offer health benefits.

All fats are made up of carbon and hydrogen atoms. The arrangement and the number of hydrogen atoms are what makes them “good” or “bad.” The good fats are called unsaturated fats, while bad fats are called saturated fats. Good fats have fewer hydrogen atoms than bad fats. Another difference that can be noticed is the state (liquid, solid, or gas) at which they are present at room temperature. Good fats are usually present in liquid form at room temperature and harden when chilled.

Polyunsaturated fatty acids or PUFA are a type of good fats. They are mostly found in plant-based oils like vegetable oils or seed oils, fatty fish, and nuts. There are two major classes of PUFA - omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids. Our body cannot produce these fats, and hence we must include them in our diet.

Is There A Relationship Between PUFA And Body Weight?

Omega-3 fatty acid: Animal studies reveal that omega-3 fatty acids (also known as n-3 PUFA) reduce body fat accumulation. Consumption of n-3 PUFA by pregnant and lactating women has a beneficial effect on birth weight and the growth of the infant. In studies that involved adult men and women, no significant gain in body weight was seen due to the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids. On the contrary, the same study observed weight loss in patients who were given fish oil.

Omega-6 fatty acid: For a long time in human history, there was a balance in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids consumption. Recently the intake of omega-6 fatty (also known as n-6 PUFA) acids has spiked up. A study showed that high omega-6 fatty acid intake induced weight gain in both animals and humans. The same study concluded that a high intake of n-6 PUFA during pregnancy resulted in fat accumulation across generations.

We need to ensure that we consume omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids adequately. Neither of them should be ignored completely or over consumed. The ratio of consumption of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids must ideally be 1:1 (equal quantities of both).

However, recent studies that analyzed the intake levels revealed that an average American consumed omega fatty acids in the ratio of 17:1. This is extremely unhealthy and may put your health at risk by causing heart diseases and diabetes.

Importance Of Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids

Consuming PUFA instead of saturated or trans fat can have various health benefits:

Studies show that omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids play a crucial role in the development and functioning of the brain. Any deficiency or imbalance in omega-3 fatty acids during the developmental or adulting phase can significantly affect brain function. Some of the brain disorders that are associated with a lack of omega-3 fatty acids include:

Recommended PUFA Intake

According to the European Scientific Committee on Food (SCF), 2% of daily energy must be derived from omega-6 fatty (n-6 PUFA) acids, and 0.5% of total energy must come from omega-3 fatty acids (n-3 PUFA). This means a typical adult man must consume 6 g of PUFA per day with 5 g of n-6 PUFA and 1 g of n-3 PUFA. Whereas for a woman, the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) is 8 g or PUFA per day - 6.4 g of n-6 PUFA and 1.6 g of n-3 PUFA.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that over 2.5%-9% of the daily energy must be derived from omega-6 PUFA, and over 0.5%-2% of the daily energy must be derived from omega-3 PUFA.

This difference in the recommendation is attributed to the different nutritional goals of the two organizations. While the SCF focuses on correcting PUFA deficiency, the WHO recommends PUFA intake considering its benefits on brain and heart health

Genetics Behind PUFA Intake and Weight Gain

BDNF Gene

The BDNF gene encodes Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor, which is a protein found in the brain and spinal cord. This protein plays a role in the development, maturation, and maintenance of cells called neurons.
The BDNF protein is also specifically found in the regions of the brain that control eating, drinking, and body weight.

rs6265
rs6265, also known as Val66Met, is a Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) in the BDNF gene. A study carried out a detailed examination of eating behavior in persons with different Val66Met types (Val-Val or GG, Val-Met or AG, and Met-Met or AA). It was discovered that people who have the Met-Met (AA) type had a lower BMI than those with the Val-Met (AG) or the Val-Val (GG) genotype.

Effects of Excess PUFA Intake

Over-consumption of PUFA can lead to the following:

  1. Inflammation: Omega-6 fatty acids are pro-inflammatory; that is, they induce inflammation. While inflammation is our body’s natural response to injuries, it is also the root cause of obesity, diabetes, and heart diseases.
  2. Calorie buildup: In our bodies, one gram of fats provides us with nine calories - this is more than the calories provided by the other two macros (carbohydrates and protein) per gram. For this reason, even though PUFAs are healthy, it is important to stay within your calorie needs.
    Apart from health risks, polyunsaturated fatty acids are generally unstable and get spoilt easily.

This is due to their chemical structures (that have double bonds). They react with the oxygen present in the surroundings, and this oxidized form of PUFA is unhealthy. They also smoke easily, and residuals of the smoke have been linked to neurological diseases and cancer in some animal studies.

Effects of PUFA Deficiency

Lack of adequate omega-3 fatty acids can cause:

Lack of omega-6 fatty acids in our diet can have a negative effect on our skin. A study from the University of Illinois found that omega-6 fatty acid is important for our skin. According to this study, a type of omega-6 acid (arachidonic acid) plays a role in the development of dermatitis (an itchy inflammation of the skin). The study observed that the absence of this acid in mice resulted in severe dermatitis, which could be reversed by feeding them with an omega-6-rich diet.

Dietary Sources Of PUFA

Maintaining a healthy ratio of omega-6 fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids is important.

Plant Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Animal Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Plant Sources of Omega-6 Fatty Acids

Animal Sources of Omega-6 Fatty Acids

Summary

  1. Polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) are a type of healthy fat that includes omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
  2. PUFA is a brain-food that is involved in regulating the development and functioning of the brain.
  3. A region, rs6525 in the BDNF gene regulates your weight on PUFA intake - people with the AA type of rs6525 tend to have a lower BMI on PUDA intake than the AG and GG types.
  4. Some recommended food sources of PUFA include flaxseeds, tofu, and seafood.

References

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-truth-about-fats-bad-and-good
https://www.healthline.com/health/all-about-vitamin-e#more-research
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19672626/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22591885/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4808858/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3335257/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brain-derived_neurotrophic_factor
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16707914/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29610056
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23527564/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19925718/
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100412121022.htm

Does Fat Count As A Flavor? Can We Taste Fat?

Fat has been classified as a taste as early as 330 BC by Aristotle. However, recent research suggests that fat is associated more with the smooth velvety texture (like in butter) but not with the sense of taste.
To be classified as a ‘ basic taste’ it must meet certain criteria. Some of these include:
1. Effective stimuli that react with the tongue: For fats, the stimuli arise from the breakdown of fatty acids
2. Receptors on the tongue that identify the stimuli: A study published in the Journal of Lipid Research by Pepino et al. claimed that our tongue indeed contains a protein (CD36) that can detect the presence of fats.
3. A transmission of the signal from the fat receptors in the tongue to taste-sensing regions in the brain: The molecules generated from fatty acid breakdown activates neurotransmitters like serotonin, which trigger the orosensory (oral senses) perception.
4. Independent perception of the taste: While sweet and salt tastes can be perceived independently, there’s still a controversy over whether or not ‘fat’ taste can be identified independently.
5. Physiological effects once the taste receptors are activated: Upon consumption of fat, a commonly seen physiological effect is the increase in the triglyceride levels.

Why Do We Like Fat?

Fat is universally palatable because of its desirable properties in smell and texture.
Smell: There’s a reason why we can ‘taste’ the sizzling bacon even before we dig into it. Fats dissolve odor chemicals and concentrated flavors. Upon heating them, these are released, and when you smell the cooked food, the flavor molecules make their way to your nose and mouth.
Texture: Fatty foods have a special mouthfeel, a special texture. Emulsions made with fat are responsible for the creamy texture of many items like ice cream, peanut butter, and chocolate.

Consumption Of Fats: An Evolutionary Need

Our ancestors likely began acquiring a taste for fat 4 million years ago.
Out of the three macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fats), fats provide the most energy per unit gram.
Proteins and carbohydrates (sugars) provide about 4 calories per gram, while lipids provide 9.4 calories per gram.

Fats also make us feel fuller for a longer time because it is absorbed slowly.
When we feel full, our brain releases ‘feel-good’ hormones that make us content and relaxed. So on hunting days, our ancestors gathered as many fatty foods as possible.
Those who consumed more fats than others had a tendency to survive better in times of food scarcity.

The ‘craving’ for fatty foods, the happiness we derive from it, and the fullness we experience are all a result of evolutionary adaptation.

How Does Genetics Fatty Foods Preference?

A recent study from the Journal of Lipid Research claims that we carry a protein (receptor) in the tongue that is sensitive to fat. People who have more of this ‘fat-perceiving’ protein are more sensitive to fat, and vice versa.

CD36 and Tendency to Prefer Fatty Foods

The CD36 gene is located on chromosome 7. It encodes the Cluster of Differentiation protein, also called the fatty acid translocase protein. It is present on the surfaces of many cells in the body. People with certain forms of the CD36 gene have a lower concentration of the ‘fat-perceiving’ protein and may prefer and consume more high-fat foods than people with the other forms of this gene.

rs1527483
rs1527483 is associated with oral sensitivity to and preference for fat. Individuals who had the C/T or T/T genotypes tend to be less sensitive to fat in the diet than those with the C/C genotype. So, people with the TT type tend to prefer fatty foods more than the others.

rs1761667
According to a study, the G-allele of the rs1761667 SNP was associated with a 11-fold lower threshold for oleic acid than the A allele. Thus, people with the * GG type* had a higher sensitivity to oleic acid and thus consumed less fatty foods.

Health Risks Of High Fat Consumption

High Fat Consumption May Increase The Risk of Diabetes

Fatty acid affects glucose levels by influencing the activity of enzymes like insulin. This can alter cell structure and gene expression. Studies show a positive association between trans fatty acids intake and risk of diabetes. Trans fat is found in animal products such as meat, whole milk, and milk products. Mounting evidence suggests that trans fats increase inflammatory cytokines that are related to the risk of diabetes.

High Fat Consumption May Increase The Risk of Heart Disease

The potential for a fatty meal to trigger heart attacks has been discussed in the medical literature for many years. According to a study, when people with heart disease consumed a high-fat meal, EKG changes were observed along with reports of chest pain in nearly half of the participants.

High Fat Consumption May Increase The Risk of Blood Clots

Heart attack, stroke, and pulmonary embolism are examples of diseases caused by blood clots. According to a study, after a meal rich in fatty acids, the volunteers displayed increased activation of blood clotting factors.

High Fat Consumption May Reduce Testosterone Levels

A study investigated the effects of fat-containing meals on plasma sex hormone levels in men. The results revealed reduced concentrations of both total and free testosterone hormone levels.

Consuming Fats The Healthy Way

Studies now show that certain kinds of fats (saturated fats) taken in the right amounts can offer health benefits. Some high-fat foods that are filled with nutrients include:

Animal Sources of Healthy Fats

Plant Sources of Healthy Fats

Summary

  1. Fats are universally palatable owing to the creamy texture it adds to foods like peanut butter.
    Our liking for fats has an evolutionary aspect to it. Fats provide the most energy per unit gram and make us feel fuller. So, our ancestors who consumed more fats had better survival chances than others.
  2. Certain people prefer fatty foods less than others because of their heightened sensitivity to fats - this may help consumers detect small changes in fat intake. As a result, they may be less likely to consume excess amounts of this nutrient.
  3. CD36 gene influences the sensitivity to fat. Two SNPs in this gene - rs1527483 and rs1761667 are associated with oral sensitivity to and preference for fat. People with certain genetic types tend to consume more fats than others.
  4. Increased fat consumption is linked to health conditions like diabetes, heart diseases, and cancer.
  5. Some “healthy fats,” known as saturated fats, are beneficial to health. Some food sources of saturated fats include avocados, fatty fish, eggs, full-fat yogurt, and chia seeds.

Reference

https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Criteria-for-tastes-to-fulfil-to-be-classified-as-either-basic-tastes-or-within-a-new_fig1_330462664
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/02/190205161420.htm
https://m.jlr.org/content/53/3/561.full
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CD36
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3743670/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pm/carticles/PMC4377901/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11689201
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7498102/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2392062/

Saturated Fats Overview

Saturated fats are dietary fats that contain carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen molecules. These types of fats have saturated hydrogen molecules and just one bond between the carbon molecules. As a result, saturated fats remain in a liquid state when the temperature is high and solidify when the temperature drops.

Saturated fats are a common source of fat in the American diet.

Why Are Saturated Fats Considered Unhealthy?

Several studies have proved that excess saturated fat intake increases the risk of the below conditions.
Cardiovascular diseases
Hyperlipidemia (excess lipids in the blood)
Type II diabetes
Obesity and weight gain

Weight gain is a common problem with increased saturated fats intake. Saturated fats add extra calories to your meals and increase your LDL cholesterol levels. These steadily cause an increase in body weight.

Saturated Fats At The Molecular Level - Getting Technical

The digestion of saturated fats starts from the minute you consume fatty food. Saliva contains enzymes that break down fats into smaller molecules. The act of chewing food also helps in breaking down the particles. From here, fat molecules reach the stomach. The bile and stomach enzymes work on saturated fats and break them down into even smaller components. The very small fat molecules reach the bloodstream directly. Bigger ones get passed on to the intestine. In the intestine, fats get converted into triglycerides. Triglycerides are forms of fats that can be stored in the body.

Triglycerides circulate throughout the body and some of them are absorbed by the cells for energy. The rest are stored in the adipose tissue. Saturated fats have different structures than unsaturated fats. This makes it easy for lots of molecules to be packed together at the same location. Because of this tight packaging, it is difficult for the body to break down saturated fats. When you consume more fat than what’s needed by the body, your adipose tissue starts building up and you start putting on weight.

The more saturated fat you keep consuming over the years, the higher will be your body fat percentage.

Getting Technical - How’s Iron Circulated In the Body?

Iron Absorption

A fraction of the ingested iron is absorbed by the body. It can vary from 5% to 35% depending on a few factors like the type of iron (heme or non-heme) and hepcidin levels. Hepcidin is secreted by liver cells and is a circulating peptide hormone that coordinates the use of iron.

Iron Circulation

Iron circulation in the body occurs with the help of a protein called transferrin. The iron laden transferrin binds to its receptor, which leads to the entry of iron into the cell. Iron is then transported to the cell’s mitochondria, where it is used to synthesize heme or iron-sulfur compounds.

Did You Know?

Many people assume that saturated fats are types of trans fat, which are the worst types of fats you can eat. Trans fat is a byproduct of the process called hydrogenation. This process helps increase the shelf life of cooking oils to preserve them for a longer time. Trans fat is commercially produced and has no health benefits at all.

Saturated fats are not commercially produced like trans fats.

These naturally occur in the foods you eat. When had in the right amounts, saturated fats are beneficial to the body and help absorb certain types of vitamins. When you limit your fat intake and make sure you pick unprocessed and fresh sources of saturated fats, saturated fats are not bad! They don’t deserve all the bad rap they have been getting so long!

The History Behind Saturated Fats

In the 1950s, heart diseases were the biggest cause of death in the United States. On September 24th, 1955, the US President Dwight D. Eisenhower had a massive heart attack. Though he recovered and went on to win a second term, this caused an alarm in the US.

Diet and unhealthy lifestyles were both blamed for the increase in cardiovascular problems. It was during this time that fats were largely researched upon.

During the 1950s, researchers found a relationship between hyperlipidemia and heart diseases. This added fuel to the fire.

From the 1950s to the early 1980s, studies conducted all around the world found a positive relationship between saturated fats, weight gain, and cardiovascular problems.

In 1980, the ‘Dietary Guidelines for Americans’ was released by the US Department of Health and Human Services and the US Department of Agriculture. It asked people to limit their consumption of saturated fats and cholesterol.

Since then saturated fats have had a bad reputation globally.

RDA of Saturated Fats

For an average American, the recommended intake of saturated fats should be less than 10% of the total caloric intake.

For instance, if you are on a 1500 calorie diet, just 150 calories have to come from saturated fats.

For those diagnosed with high cholesterol levels or those with existing heart conditions, the recommended intake of saturated fats has to be less than 7% of the daily caloric value.

In terms of weight, the Daily Value (DV) of saturated fats is 20 grams per day.

How Genes Influence Saturated Fat Requirements?

FTO Gene and Saturated Fat Metabolism

The FTO gene is a very popular gene related to obesity and weight gain. Certain variants of the FTO gene seem to worsen the effects of a saturated fat-based diet.

There are two SNPs of the FTO gene that relate saturated fat intake and weight gain.

rs9939609 of FTO Gene and Weight Gain Tendency On Saturated Fats Intake

The A allele of the rs9939609 SNP makes people gain more weight upon saturated fat intake. The T allele does not relate saturated fats and weight gain though.

rs1121980 of FTO Gene and Weight Gain Tendency On Saturated Fats Intake

Similarly, the A allele of the rs1121980 SNP causes weight gain with saturated fats intake while the T allele does not result in weight gain.

APOA2 Gene and Saturated Fat Metabolism

The APOA2 gene helps produce a protein called apolipoprotein A-II. This regulates fat metabolism and also helps in building HDL cholesterol in the body. A primary SNP of the APOA2 gene relates saturated fat intake and weight gain.

rs5082 of APOA2 Gene and Weight Gain Tendency On Saturated Fats Intake
The G allele of the rs5082 SNP is associated with obesity and individuals gain excess weight up on saturated fat intake. The A allele however is not associated with either obesity or weight gain relating to saturated fat intake.

STAT3 Gene and Saturated Fat Metabolism

The STAT3 gene produces a transcription factor that helps in controlling various other genes in the body. There is a link between variations in the STAT3 gene, saturated fat intake and obesity.

rs8069645 and rs744166 of STAT3 Gene and Weight Gain Tendency On Saturated Fats Intake
Men with the G allele of both these SNPs are likely to gain more weight with saturated fats intake. This can also lead to obesity. Those with the A allele are not affected by saturated fats.

rs1053005 and rs2293152 of STAT3 Gene and Weight Gain Tendency On Saturated Fats Intake

The C allele of both these SNPs can weight gain and obesity in men up on excess saturated fats consumption. This relationship is not found in those with the T allele.

Non-genetic Factors Relating To Saturated Fats And Weight Gain

  1. Higher caloric intake - Saturated fats have 9 calories per gram of fat. In comparison to fats, carbohydrates and proteins have about 4-5 calories per gram only. Because of this, it is easier to consume more calories with saturated fat intake, which can lead to weight gain.

  2. Fat storage - When you consume more fat than what’s needed for the body, excess fat is stored in the adipose tissues. When you consume excess saturated fats, your adipose tissue grows and you start putting on weight.

  3. Taste - Fatty foods are generally tastier. Think of buttery bacon, fried chicken, sweet pastries, or a big slice of cheesy pizza. They get addictive with time and this is another non-genetic factor that causes gradual weight gain.

  4. Food combinations - Most packaged foods/ takeaways/ restaurant meals are a mix of carbohydrates and saturated fats. While carbohydrates give the body the needed energy, the excess fat you consume is mostly not used. This gets stored in the body, leading to weight gain.

What Happens When You Do Not Consume Saturated Fats?

Fats are essential sources of nutrition. Fats help absorb and transport certain vitamins throughout the body. Fats also provide you with insulation when the temperature goes down and maintains cell membranes.

The right amounts of saturated fats help produce steroid hormones like testosterone and estrogen. Fats keep you fuller for a longer time and are used by the body as energy when you are glucose deprived.

While it is healthier to bring down your saturated fats intake, do not skip them altogether. Choose unprocessed and fresher saturated fats to enjoy their benefits.

Excess Saturated Fats And Weight Gain

When you consistently include excess saturated fats in your diet (more than 10% of your caloric intake), here are some of the problems it can cause.

Recommendations For Healthy Saturated Fat Consumption To Prevent Weight Gain

  1. Make healthier food choices. Let your sources of saturated fats come from natural plant sources and unprocessed meat. Stay away from processed meat, deep fried goods and pastries and savories.
  2. Low fat dairy products have limited saturated fats and also provide you with essential vitamins and calcium.
  3. Choose healthier cooking methods like broiling, sauteing, boiling, steaming, and baking instead of deep frying and roasting.
  4. Opt for skinless chicken and fish over red meat.
  5. Fill up your plate with healthy fruits and vegetables and smaller portions of fat.
  6. Be calorie conscious. Count your caloric intake for the day to stay fit. Make sure most of your calories come from proteins, natural sources of fat, and complex carbohydrates.
  7. It is ok to treat yourself to fast foods and packaged goods once in a while. For the majority of the time, cook your meals fresh at home.

Summary

Reference

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5642188/
https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/new-thinking-on-saturated-fat
https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-truth-about-fats-bad-and-good
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20934605/

Protein Overview

There are very few macronutrients discussed as extensively as protein. Protein is an essential nutrient that helps support all aspects of the human body. Proteins (Amino acids) are the building blocks of the human body. Proteins are made of chains of amino acids linked by a chemical bond. Amino acids are organic molecules that majorly contain carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen. In nature, there are about 500+ amino acids available. Out of these, nine are considered essential amino acids that the human body cannot produce. These have to be obtained from the foods you eat.

Nine Essential Amino Acids

Valine
Phenylalanine
Threonine
Tryptophan
Methionine
Isoleucine
Leucine
Lysine
Histidine

Sources Of Proteins

Proteins are abundantly found in all plant and animal sources. About 70% of protein intake in North America is through animal-derived foods. Over the world, about 60% of protein sources are plant-based foods.

Proteins At The Molecular Level - Getting Technical

Once you eat protein-rich foods, proteins reach your stomach. The hydrochloric acid in the stomach along with an enzyme called proteases help in breaking down proteins into smaller molecules. The amino acid sequence in proteins is connected together by peptides. Proteases help break these peptides. The smaller chains of amino acids now move to your small intestine. Here, enzymes like trypsin, carboxypeptidase, and chymotrypsin help break down the smaller chains into individual amino acids. The broken down amino acids are absorbed in the small intestine and reach the bloodstream. They are taken from here to all the cells in the body. When you consume a variety of protein-rich foods throughout the day, your body can collect the essential ones from different sources and get what’s needed for its survival.

Protein Functions In The Body

Proteins are abundantly needed and present in the body. It is essential for many vital processes including

Chemical reactions - As enzymes, proteins carry out thousands of chemical reactions in the body. Without enzymes, the body will come to a standstill.
Transmitting signals - Proteins act as messengers and help transmit signals and information between different cells, tissues, and organs. Proteins also help transport smaller molecules between different cells.
Providing structure - Proteins support the healthy growth of cells and give structure to the muscles and tissues. Proteins are also the basic building blocks of all the organs in the body.
Building immunity - Antibodies are types of proteins produced in the immune system. These help fight against harmful microorganisms attacking the body.

Proteins And Weight Loss

One of the most discussed functions of proteins is aiding weight loss. There are several protein-based diet plans on the internet that promise quick and rapid weight loss with minimal effort.

Do all these diet plans work? No. However, proteins help people lose weight when consumed the right way. Proteins help in increasing metabolism and reducing appetite. Both factors are beneficial to lose weight healthily. Particular gene types also encourage weight loss in certain individuals when they consume a protein-rich diet.

Did You Know?

Proteins are one of the most essential nutrients needed. There are so many functions that depend on protein sources in the body.

In simple terms, when you do not consume proteins, you cannot survive.

Protein turnover is a wonderful way your body keeps maintaining the levels of essential proteins in the body.

When you are asleep, your body does not get its source of proteins from food for 6-8 hours at a stretch. In this time, your body breaks down its own stored proteins and obtains essential amino acids. These stored proteins come from both skeletal muscles and your skin.

When you fast for days together, the body starts using up proteins from your muscles too. Every day that you fast, you will lose 32 grams of muscle because of protein turnover.

The History Behind Proteins

Did you know that the first living molecule that originated on earth was a kind of protein?

How fascinating is that!

That’s how important proteins are for living organisms.

Protein was first discovered by Gerhardus Johannes Mulder in the year 1837. He initially assumed that proteins were made of just one type of large molecule.

A Swedish chemist named Jöns Jacob Berzelius is given credit for naming protein in 1838. Protein means ‘primary’ in Greek.

The main problem with studying proteins was the difficulty in purifying them in large quantities. The only types of proteins that were studied extensively were those that were easily available from egg whites, blood collected from slaughterhouses, and digestive enzymes.

In 1949, insulin was the first protein for which the amino acid sequencing was done successfully. It was then that scientists understood proteins contained linear polymers of amino acids.

Since then, protein has been extensively researched and analyzed and its importance has only grown.

RDA of Proteins

The recommended intake of proteins is set as 0.36 grams of proteins per pound of body weight. In case you are an active person or an athlete, you may need up to 0.60 grams of proteins per pound to match up your physical demand.

This is the minimum recommendation to prevent a person from getting protein deficient.

How Genes Influence Protein Intake and Weight Loss Tendency?

TCF7L2 Gene and Protein Metabolism

This gene produces a protein that plays an important role in several functions in the body. Changes in the TCF7L2 gene affect the relationship between a high-protein diet and weight loss.

rs7903146 and rs10885406 of TCF7L2 Gene and Weight Loss Tendency On Protein Intake
In both the rs7903146 and rs10885406 SNPs, the C and A alleles respectively help individuals get the most out of a high-protein diet. Individuals with these alleles do not gain weight upon protein intake.

TFAP2B Gene and Protein Metabolism

The TFAP2B gene helps produce the AP-2B transcription factor. This controls the activities of other genes around and a particular SNP is known to affect the relationship between weight gain and protein intake.

rs987237 of TFAP2B Gene and Weight Loss Tendency On Protein Intake
The A allele of this SNP has very low risks of obesity. However, the G allele individuals are at high risk for obesity. In both variants, a high protein diet will help maintain existing weight and prevent further weight gain.

Non-genetic Factors Relating To Saturated Fats And Weight Gain

Excess Proteins and Weight Loss

While a high-protein diet will help with weight loss, when you start consuming excess proteins just to lose weight, experts say this could backfire.

Excess proteins in the body are stored as fat and this will result in weight gain with time. This is especially true when you consume excess calories on a high-protein diet.

Here are other possible side-effects of excess protein consumption:
- Gastrointestinal problems like indigestion and diarrhea
- Dehydration
- Bad breath
- Kidney damage in people with pre-existing kidney conditions
- Choosing excess red meats as protein sources can increase the risks of heart diseases
- Red-meat based high-protein diet increases the risk of cancers

What Happens When You Are Protein Deficient?

Recommendations For Right Protein Intake To Lose Weight

  1. For those looking to increase their protein intake, plant-based proteins are the best. These are safer and excess consumption does not lead to risks of cardiovascular problems or cancer.
  2. For meat lovers, seafood, turkey, and chicken are good sources of proteins that are healthier too.
  3. Make sure you include a variety of protein-rich foods throughout the day. This will ensure you get your sources of essential amino acids just from foods.
  4. Protein supplements can help those looking to quickly shed weight. Talk to your doctor/nutritionist about this.
  5. Genetics can play a role in deciding how helpful proteins are for weight loss. Get your genetic testing done.
  6. Choose healthier, fresh protein sources and stay away from packaged, processed, and canned foods. These end up causing more harm.

Summary

Reference

https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/understanding/howgeneswork/protein/
https://geneticeducation.co.in/story-of-protein/
https://www.quantamagazine.org/lifes-first-molecule-was-protein-not-rna-new-model-suggests-20171102/
https://examine.com/nutrition/5-facts-about-protein/
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322825#side-effects

What Is Fiber And Why Is It Important For Weight Loss?

Fiber is a type of carbohydrate also called roughage. This nutrient is available in many plant-based foods. Though fiber is a type of carbohydrate, it cannot be broken down into sugars in the body. There are two common types of dietary fibers.

Soluble fiber - This is fiber that is easily dissolved in the body. It turns into a gel-like substance in the body and leaves the person feeling full for a longer time.
Insoluble fiber - This is fiber that does not dissolve in the body. It moves through the digestive system as such and can prevent problems like constipation.

The soluble and insoluble fibers are further classified into different types depending on their sources.

Both these types of fibers keep you healthy.

In recent times, fibers have become even more important for their ability to help with weight loss.

Fiber At The Molecular Level - Getting Technical

Soluble fiber is not processed in the small intestine. In the stomach, it absorbs water and turns into a gel. This moves through the small intestine and reaches the large intestine. Here, soluble fibers are acted upon by the bacteria present in the large intestine.

This process is called fermentation. Fermentation results in certain nutrients that are beneficial to your body.

The remaining soluble fiber helps give body (volume) to your stool. The water content in the soluble fiber is also retained and passed out with your stools.

The insoluble fibers meanwhile pass through the small intestine and the large intestine unchanged. Except for a few types, the insoluble fibers are not fermented. Bigger molecules of insoluble fibers trigger the production of mucus in the large intestine. These provide volume to your stool and make passing stools easier.

Smaller molecules of insoluble fibers can be constipating.

While still not a macronutrient, dietary fiber is gaining status as a very important nutrient.

The significance of fiber

The significance of fiber in weight loss

Many studies conclude that a fiber-rich diet helps with weight loss. Here are the reasons why.
- Fiber-rich food keeps you full for a longer time and brings down appetite. This can help with weight loss over time
- Fiber prevents fluctuations in blood sugar levels. When sugar levels don’t go up and down drastically, your body goes through lesser sugar cravings and hunger.
- Fiber keeps the gut healthy and clean. This regulates digestion.

Did You Know?

Even though fiber passes through the body mostly unchanged, there are few places where your body smartly breaks it down into portions that it can easily handle.

The minute you eat fiber-rich food, your teeth and jaw work to break down the food into smaller portions. This action changes the physical appearance and structure of the fiber. After it reaches the stomach, the churning action of the stomach muscles also helps in further altering its physical structure.

The fiber content is further broken into smaller parts. From here until fiber reaches the large intestine, it mostly remains the same.

Fiber keeps your gut healthy by flushing out excess LDL cholesterol and other unwanted deposits in the digestive tract as it travels down.

The Story Behind Fiber

The story of fiber goes back to the times of ancient Greece. Greeks consumed wheat bran regularly as they thought it helped prevent constipation. They did not know why wheat bran helped though.

It was only in the 19th century that people started looking more intently into fiber and its benefits. The benefits of fiber in curing constipation was introduced in America by J.H Kellogg, a doctor, who later created the iconic Kellogg cereal brand.

Kellogg initially pointed to the lack of fiber as a reason for two common conditions prevalent then - constipation and masturbation. He sincerely believed that including a lot of fiber in food will ‘treat’ these conditions.

Kellogg and his family came up with a kind of granola that was full of fiber content. In 1953, a British physician first coined the term ‘dietary fiber’.

The early 1900s saw a lot of demand for these fiber-rich breakfast options and slowly, foods with higher fiber content became popular choices in families with healthy food choices.

As nutritionists and doctors started understanding what fiber did to the body, the link between high fiber and weight loss became a well-researched topic.

Total dietary fiber intake should be 25 to 30 grams a day from food, not supplements.
Did you know that the average American gets only about 15 grams of fiber a day?

How Genetics Influence Fiber Related Weight Loss

FTO gene

The FTO gene is associated with obesity, type II diabetes, and body-mass index. A particular variant of the FTO gene seems to have a relationship between lower waist circumference and a high-fiber diet.

rs11076023
A allele - Individuals are likely to lose more weight upon fiber intake. Their waist circumference also reduces.
T allele - Individuals are likely to lose moderate to less weight upon fiber intake with a lesser reduction in waist circumference.

TCF7L2 gene

The TCF7L2 gene produces the TCF7L2 protein. A variation in this gene plays an important role in increasing/decreasing the risk of type II diabetes in relation to fiber intake. Type II diabetes and sharp sugar highs and dips in the body are directly related to weight gain.

*rs7903146 *
There are three genotypes of this SNP that relate fiber intake to risk of diabetes and weight loss. Individuals with the CC and CT genotype have lesser risk of developing type II diabetes upon fiber intake.
These individuals also lose more weight when they include fiber-rich foods. Those with the TT genotype are not protected against diabetes type II because of a high fiber diet and also lose only moderate to less weight upon fiber intake.

Non Genetic Factors That Relate Fiber And Body Weight

Feeling of fullness - Fiber-rich food is often bulky and fills you up well. It takes a long time for fiber to pass through the digestive tract too. Because of these reasons, fiber gives you a sense of being full for a longer time. This prevents re-snacking in between meals and can help with weight loss.

Low calories - Many fiber-rich foods are low in calories. Their energy density is lesser than foods rich in simpler carbohydrates. This means that even if you eat your normal quantity, you are getting lesser kilojoules/gram of the food. Choosing a fiber-rich meal is hence a perfect way to bring down the caloric intake and lose weight.

Lowered risk of sugar dips - When you have a normal carbohydrate-rich meal, carbs are quickly broken down into sugars and are absorbed right away. This causes a sharp increase in blood sugar levels and once the sugars are absorbed, a sharp dip too. Sugar dip can make you crave food again, especially sugary snacks and desserts. Fiber prevents the sharp sugar dips from happening and maintains your sugar levels stable. You will hence snack less and lose weight faster.

What are the symptoms of fiber overdose?

While many people are only fiber deficient, it is possible to get an overdose of fiber when you do not plan your diet right.

When you consume more than 70 grams of fiber a day, these could be some of the side effects noted.

What are the symptoms of fiber deficiency?

When you consistently get lesser fiber than what’s recommended, here are some of the symptoms to look out for:

Recommendations For Healthy Weight Loss With A Fiber-based Diet

Summary

  1. Fiber, also called roughage, is quickly gaining popularity as an important nutrient needed for the healthy functioning of the body.
  2. This is a type of carbohydrate that is available in foods in soluble and insoluble forms. 3. A high fiber diet is associated with an increased chance of weight loss.
  3. High-fiber diet prevents constipation, cardiovascular diseases, risks of type II diabetes, and keeps the gut healthy.
  4. Some people are genetically designed to lose more weight with increased fiber intake than others.
  5. Making sure you get your daily recommended dose of fiber will help you stay fit and healthy.

Reference

https://www.forbes.com/sites/priceonomics/2016/05/17/the-surprising-reason-why-dr-john-harvey-kellogg-invented-corn-flakes/?sh=45da5e766997
https://www.theguardian.com/business/2006/dec/28/food.usnews
https://www.otsuka.co.jp/en/health-and-illness/fiber/about/history/
https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/how-much-fiber-per-day
https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002136.htm
https://www.ucsfhealth.org/education/increasing-fiber-intake
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321286#symptoms
https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/fibre-in-food
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3433658/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4807705/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3478519/

Carbohydrates are one of the most prominent food groups in the diet. They are present as sugars, starches, and fiber in food. Glucose molecules are linked together to form starch and fiber. When carbohydrates enter the body, the fiber goes undigested, while the sugar and starch are broken down into glucose.  Glucose provides the energy required for bodily functions.  

Carbohydrates are commonly associated with weight gain. However, the right kind of carbs in the right amounts can earn a rightful place in your diet. 

Types Of Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are subdivided into three categories depending on the number of sugars present and the nature of the chemical bonds between them.

Different types of carbohydrates

Although this is the conventional way of classifying carbohydrates, a more useful approach would be to classify them as refined and whole carbohydrates.

Whole carbohydrates include vegetables, legumes, whole fruits, and grains, which are unprocessed and thus have their nutrient content intact.

The stripping of nutrients in refined carbohydrates as a part of processing makes them 'empty calories.' This removal of the nutrients results in rapid absorption and metabolism of these carbohydrates. This results in spiked sugar levels and unstable energy levels.

The Story Behind Carbohydrates

Previous studies on the development of the brain and other human traits suggest that the shift from plant-based to meat-based diet played a critical role. Since then, a lot of evidence has come to light that indicates the involvement of plant-based carbohydrates in meeting the demands of the growing brain.

Further, the role of cooking in improving the digestion and breakdown of carbohydrates has also been factored in. 

According to Mark Thomas, an evolutionary geneticist from University College London, the brain's size started significantly increasing only around 800,000 years ago - which is speculated to be the time period where the usage of fire started. 

What does this mean?

Glucose is the main source of energy for the brain. When the cooked vegetables were consumed, the body had to put in much less work to convert the carbohydrates to glucose for feeding the brain.

For example, the starch in cooked potatoes digests 20 times faster than the uncooked ones. This suggests that cooked carbs, which became the major source of energy, contributed to brain growth.

To further investigate the hypothesis, the starch digesting enzyme amylase was studied. An analysis revealed that the genes that produce amylase started evolving to higher numbers around the same time cooking was started.

This was an advantage since more amylase was required to digest the increasing amounts of starch consumed. So, with every mouthful, the brain derived more energy from the starch.

There are still uncertainties about the antiquity of cooking and the reason for the increase in the amylase enzyme gene. However, the above-mentioned correlation cannot be just dismissed as a coincidence!

Genetics Of Weight Gain On Carbohydrate Intake

AMY1 gene

The AMY1 gene encodes the enzyme amylase, which is responsible for the digestion of starch. Salivary amylase is the enzyme found in your saliva, which begins the process of digesting starch in food. It breaks the insoluble starch into smaller soluble forms. High-AMY1-gene copy number (number of copies of a gene) indicates increased secretion of amylase. This results in a faster breakdown of starch. The difference in the copy number of the AMY1 gene is reported to be the genome's largest influence on obesity. According to a recent study, each copy of AMY1 decreases the risk of obesity 1.2-fold.

rs4244372

rs4244372 is a Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) in the AMY1 gene. The A allele in this SNP is associated with a lower copy number of AMY1 gene, and hence poor starch metabolism. People who have the AA type may tend to put on more weight on carbohydrates when compared to the people who have the TT or the AT type.

Do All Carbohydrates Cause Weight Gain?

Refined carbohydrates cause sudden spikes in sugar levels. As the sugar levels rise, the body produces insulin to regulate them. Insulin converts excess sugar into fat. A higher spike in sugar levels results in increased insulin secretion, which leaves you with excess stubborn body fat. Various studies show that refined carbohydrates are associated with type 2 diabetes and heart diseases.

Whole carbohydrates, also known as complex carbohydrates, have natural fiber components in them. This fibrous part is easy to digest and thus helps us stay full for a longer time. A balanced diet that is rich in natural fiber helps maintain the blood sugar levels in our body. These foods have a low glycemic load. Glycemic load estimates how much a person's sugar level will rise upon consuming food. A low glycemic load indicates longer digestion time and a smaller spike in blood sugar levels.

An ideal whole carb diet contains seeds (chia seeds and pumpkin seeds), grains (quinoa and oats) with fresh vegetables and fruits. Many nutritionists also advise a switch from white rice to brown rice. This is because brown rice is packed with nutrients that help us prevent heart diseases and type 2 diabetes. 

Should You Avoid Carbohydrates Completely?

Other than being an important source of energy to the body, carbohydrates also perform the following functions:

Carbohydrates Help Maintain A Healthy Gut

Research tells us that a fibrous diet can help maintain a healthy gut. Complex carbohydrates contain a sugar component and a fiber component. Fiber is present in two categories, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber helps maintain bowel movements, as well as the consistency of the stool. Insoluble fiber relieves constipation and prevents various digestive tract diseases. Studies also show that a diet rich in fiber helps maintain our blood sugar levels and also benefits our heart.

Carbohydrates Influence Heart Health

While refined carbs are not really your heart's best friend, dietary fiber can help maintain blood sugar levels and is heart-healthy. When fiber passes through the intestines, it prevents reabsorption and hence, the buildup of bad cholesterol. This reduces the risk of heart diseases. 

Dr. Tamar Polonsky, MD, from the University of Chicago Medicine, said that foods that contain complex carbs "decrease inflammation and help us decrease the risk of plaque buildup in our arteries." Plaque is the deposition of certain substances in the blood vessels that block the blood flow. This buildup is caused by fat, cholesterol, and calcium that is present in the blood. This can potentially lead to a heart attack or stroke. Polonsky advises us to stick to healthier carbohydrates with less fat and cholesterol to prevent these.

Carbohydrates Help Maintain Muscle Strength

Our body stores the extra glucose in the form of glycogen (another sugar), which is very important to us. When there's no available glucose from carbohydrates, the body breaks down the muscles to generate glucose for energy. To prevent muscle mass loss due to starvation, the consumption of adequate amounts of carbs is essential.

Carbohydrates Can Improve Mental Health

Apart from all the impacts on physical health, research suggests that carbohydrates can improve mental health as well. A study from the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that people who were on a low-carbohydrate diet for a year experienced symptoms of depression and anxiety. 

Food Sources That Have Low Carb Content

The idea behind a low-carbohydrate diet (for weight loss) is that if the body does not receive the extra carbohydrate, no excess fat will be stored. Instead, the fat already present will be burnt for energy. 

Plant Sources Of Low-Carbohydrates Foods

Animal Sources Of Low-Carbohydrates Foods

High-carbohydrate need not necessarily be our enemy. In fact, high carbohydrate foods with adequate fiber are extremely healthy. 

Food Sources Of Complex Carbohydrates

All these foods are rich in fiber and help us from feeling hungry frequently. They also help us maintain good gut and heart health. 

Summary

Carbohydrates are one of the major food groups. There are two types of carbohydrates - whole or complex and refined. Whole/Complex carbohydrates present in food like oats and bananas are healthy, while the refined carbohydrates are "empty calories" that spike your blood sugar levels. The starch in the carbohydrates is digested by the salivary enzyme, amylase, encoded by the AMY1 gene. A higher copy number of the AMY1 gene is considered beneficial, as it results in a faster breakdown of starch. rs4244372 is an SNP in the AMY1 gene associated with the difference in the copy number of the gene. People who have the AA type tend to have a low copy number and hence may be poor digestors of starch. These people are at an increased risk for weight gain on carbohydrate consumption and may benefit from a low-carbohydrate diet. Some low carbohydrate foods include leafy greens, nuts, and olive oil. Animal foods like lean meat and fish are low in carbohydrates. Another option can be switching to a fiber-rich carbohydrate (complex carbohydrates) diet. Fiber is digested slowly and thus keeps you full for longer. Quinoa, buckwheat, berries, and sweet potatoes are good sources of complex carbohydrates.

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6485469/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4712930/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3836142/
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24008907/
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glycemic_load
  6. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/features/gnet-brown-rice-diabetes/
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21332763/
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23422921/
  9. https://www.uchicagomedicine.org/forefront/heart-and-vascular-articles/the-benefits-carbohydrates-can-have-on-heart-health
  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19901139/
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