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In the News

Endocrinology: Sounds Like a Mouthful, but It's the Latest Word in Weight Loss - American Fitness

By Peg Jordan, R.N.

"Breakthrough findings in the body's neuroendocrine responses confirm a centuries old eating style by the world's healthiest cultures. That is the ground-breaking announcement by an international clinical nutritionist."

For over 50 years, dieters thought they had to deprive themselves of food in order to lose weight. In recent years, they are told to add exercise while they restrict calories, especially calories from fat. Ask anyone struggling with a serious weight loss issue, and it still adds up to the same thing...cut back, avoid food, deprive yourself.

The overweight of America have sought in vain for any means to control hunger, and a host of unsafe gimmicks have been sold to them by quick weight loss charlatans. Now it seems that the best means for controlling hunger is locked within the human body itself, according to Dr. Gaemi.

Neuroendocrinology, simply put, is the biochemical communication between the nervous system and the endocrine glands. The various neuroendocrine regulator-hormones that "talk" to other systems play a major role in homeostasis, reproduction, stress and metabolism. The latest research in neuroendocrinology now states that two issues of paramount importance to overweight individuals--fat storage and hunger regulation--are also under the neuroendocrine umbrella.

Sonia Gaemi, R.D., Ed.D., a soft-spoken 41-year-old clinician, just linked the latest neuroendocrine research with her own groundbreaking multicultural studies. Conducting research at the University of California, San Francisco, Kaiser Permanente and other clinics in Northern California, Gaemi brings over 20 years of cultural anthropology, psychology and biochemistry to her nutritional investigations. This new marriage represents the first multicultural solution for weight loss and a new era in weight management. According to Dr. Gaemi, her findings "combine the rich heritage of the world's healthiest cultures with current scientific technology and the latest nutritional guidelines."

Healthier Cultures, Healthier Choices
Gaemi studied cultures where there was little incidence of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke and certain cancers. She looked at eating styles in the Mediterranean, Middle East, Asia, North Africa and Eastern Europe among others. Like many researchers, she found the absence of "lifestyle" diseases is linked to diets high in soluble and insoluble fibers, a higher proportion of complex carbohydrates, certain monosaturated oils and moderate activity.

In our own fast-paced culture, the conventional diet has suffered miserably, contributing to chronic disease and obesity. Our affluent society has made tremendous gains in technology and computer science, but our fast food diet loaded with salt, sugar, fat and low in fiber seems to have suffered from all the wrong technological applications such as additives, over processing and harmful fillers.

Past Traditions, Present Know-How
Gaemi's multicultural breakthrough redefines healthy, lean eating by taking the best of how we used to live and merging it with the positive side of our technical age, vast computer resources and nutritional science.

Working with the American Heart Association, Gaemi developed nutritional guidelines for various cultures, based on the food choices they traditionally had available. She looked at diets that were abundant in chick peas, barley, rice bran, oats, pea fibers, wheat bran, legumes, olive oils, yogurt, herbs, spices, fresh fruits and vegetables, and used meat as a condiment instead of a main entree.

By matching our fiber and complex carbohydrate intake to the levels of these healthier cultures, we can enjoy similar health-promoting, life-enhancing qualities. The typical American diet now provides about nine to 12 grams of fiber per day. Gaemi recommends we raise that level to about 45 grams per day, which meets and even surpasses recommendations of the American Cancer Society, and the U.S. Surgeon General.

Fiber's Neuroendocrine Role
Not only is the amount of fiber important, but also the type of fiber plays a pivotal role in overall health. The guidelines of Gaemi's WeightSmart program contain both types of dietary fiber-soluble (beans, rice bran, psyllium) and insoluble (wheat bran). Research has shown soluble fibers instrumental in lowering cholesterol and heart disease risk, improving diabetic control, and lowering blood pressure. Insoluble fiber has been proven effective in aiding digestion and elimination, preventing diverticulosis, promoting regularity and providing a cleansing action in the bowel, which is linked with lower colon cancer rates. (Cancer Res. 49:4629, 1989)

Today new evidence in the field of neuroendocrinology supports exciting new benefits from various fibers such as rice bran, oat bran, barley and other complex carbohydrates. These foods have a direct effect on the way your body responds to digestion and fat storage. First of all, fiber slows our rate of eating, because it takes longer to chew and swallow. Fiber also slows the rate we absorb sugars and other substances. When soluble fiber expands in the stomach, your brain receives a signal that you're full. According to Gaemi, hunger is controlled and you don't overeat at mealtime.

Insulin: New Culprit in Fat Gain
To understand the benefits of balancing insulin and blood sugar levels, it's important to first trace the digestive process. When food enters the stomach, various gastric juices and enzymes act upon it, and break it down to certain end products. The partially digested "bolus" of food then passes along the intestines. Here, further digestion occurs until the end products such as glucose are ready to pass through the intestinal walls into the circulatory system. In order for the cells to absorb glucose, insulin (secreted from the pancreas) must serve as a "piggyback" carrier.

Research on overweight individuals has pointed to possible faulty mechanisms involving either the action of the insulin as it escorts glucose into the cells or the production of insulin by the pancreas. In either case, the impaired functioning leads to erratic highs and lows in the blood. Overweight people often produce an overabundance of insulin to do the job. When this happens, two significant events occur as a result of too much insulin:

I) Overeating can result. The appetite center is stimulated in the brain, and hunger pangs resume in the stomach, regardless of whether food was just ingested.
2) More fat is stored. As a fat-promoting hormone, insulin not only escorts glucose into cells, it also tends to scoop fat (lipids) out of the bloodstream and into fat cells, adding to weight gain.

Fiber "Chills Out" Insulin
Research shows certain fibers tend to balance insulin levels, sort of smoothing out the highs and lows, which prevents further appetite stimulation by the brain.

Gaemi also discovered drinking a fiber supplement roughly 20-30 minutes before meals would have an additional hunger-controlling aspect. This is due to fiber's expansion in the stomach, similar to the expansion of yeast dough. Stomach receptors then send signals to the brain such as "We're full down here!" Gaemi concludes that you eat less at mealtime because the edge has been taken off your appetite.

Appetite, the Enemy
There is nothing new about wanting to take the edge off your appetite. As long as the overweight seek ways to control appetite and hunger, some diet trickster is on hand with snake oil. Diet pills, amphetamines, jaw wiring, laxatives and saline injections are just a few of the worthless methods that rob people of hope and lifelong success.

Lately, very low calorie diets (VLCD) such as Optifast and SlimFast are gaining in popularity. People taking liquid diets are told hunger will diminish around day three, but they report appetite makes a ferocious comeback once they find real food again. Falsely lured into thinking they can drink their way to permanent weight management, the overweight of America severely lower their metabolism and self-digest their lean muscle, the fat-burning furnace. The yo-yo weight gain following VLCDs has been well documented by obesity experts such as Kelly D. Brownell, Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

A Gutsy Workout
Not only do liquid diets contribute to future weight gain, but also they don't exercise your lower tract. Doctors at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center told a 45-year-old woman she had the bowels of an 80-year-old. She had been taking liquid diets and developed a dependence on laxatives. Bacteriologist James Ghosseiri of Mount Diablo in Concord, California explains liquid diets prevent the gastrointestinal tract from getting a sufficient workout. The contractions or peristaltic waves are not stimulated by the presence of roughage or expanding fiber and as a result the bowel grows weak and sluggish. Food byproducts remain trapped in the diverticuli, and contribute to constipation, ulceration, polyp formation and other ailments. In addition, the lack of fiber prevents bile acids from being diluted, leading to high colon cancer rates.

Giving your guts a good workout may be a leading factor in self-directed preventive medicine.

A Matter of Taste
Dr. Gaemi reports an unexpected benefit of the high fiber diet-patients in her program have slowly altered their taste buds and no longer crave sweets and fats. Eliminating unwanted cravings is great news for women with premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and individuals with eating disorders, such as compulsive bingers. Whether the lack of craving is due to a balanced blood sugar level or an actual change in the taste bud chemistry has not been clearly delineated. However, there are several studies that indicate how eating artificial sweeteners is linked with craving additional sweets and fats.

Leading nutritionists believe this constitutes a manipulation of taste buds by the food industry, reminiscent of the stimulating effects on nervous systems by caffeine in soft drinks. It will be interesting to see how artificial fats such as Simplesse will affect our eating habits and tastes.

Demise of Deprivation Dieting
The neuroendocrine theory linking insulin, fiber, complex carbohydrate, fat storage and hunger control is an authentic breakthrough because it's the first investigation into human biochemical responses to unlock the body's own hunger-controlling secret.

To professional nutritionists, the neuroendocrine connection means reversing half a century of deprivation dieting. To 50 million dieters, this is nothing short of a "miracle." And to a $10 billion diet industry, it could mean obsoletion.

For more information on NutraEra Weight, Dr. Sonia Gaemi or FiberFood, e-mail, or call (415) 447-9944. -AF

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Dr. Sonia celebrating Persian New Year

Sonia in front of her WCW mural

Dr. Sonia with her grandchildren

Christine Jones
Created: 2004