Visceral Fat and Weight Loss
I have exposed the power that stress holds over Adrenals, and the release of Cortisol and its impact on Blood Sugar levels, and Insulin, and all these play a role on the Circadian Rhythm, and our ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.
I have also explain that a lack of proper sleep on a regular basis will also play a key role on stress and Cortisol levels, and how it affects weight gain, especially around the middle.
Stress, Blood Sugar Imbalances and Weight Gain
“Given the role the adrenal glands play in regulating stress response and the number of things that disrupt their action, it is easy to see how dysfunctional weight gain can become a vicious cycle.” (see illustration 1) (Christianson, A. 2014)
Eating breakfast helps reduce dietary fat and minimize impulsive snacking and therefore may be an important part of a weight-reduction program. (Schlundt, DG. et al. 1992)
Low carbs raise Cortisol
“One problem is that when you cut your carbs too much, Cortisol rises. Remember that one of cortisol’s jobs is keeping your blood sugar up. There’s a drop in blood sugar when you miss meals or you are fasting, but it also happens if your meals are too low in carbs. Your body needs Cortisol to take glucose from your muscles and liver. This rise in Cortisol can turn on the fat-storage enzymes and lead to poorer-quality sleep, both of which work against lasting weight loss.” (Christianson, A. 2014)
In order to combat this, it is important – when your adrenals are overworked and need to be re-aligned – to change your breakfast habit, and look at lowering your Carbohydrate intake at breakfast and augmenting the portion at lunch and dinner time. Allan Christianson explains:
“A breakfast and lunch that are higher in protein can support the healthy morning spike of Cortisol. This gives you energy for both your muscles and your brain. It also allows you to burn fat for fuel and keep your blood sugar levels stable throughout the day.
Later in the day, it is a different story. Ideally, your Cortisol will start lowering after lunch as your insulin starts to rise. Lunch is a good time to have ½ cup of healthy carbs to initiate the Cortisol reduction, so you can eventually get to needed nighttime levels. Energy production and mental focus will be critical for several more hours, so the best lunch contains balanced amounts of protein, starch, and fat.
A lunch with less than ½ cup carbohydrate would keep up the morning energy peak but would also require Cortisol to stay high to keep the blood sugar levels up. On the other hand, if lunch has too many carbohydrates your brain goes into sleep mode, which is not helpful for your day.
By dinnertime, your insulin response is at its peak. If you do not have some carbohydrates, Cortisol will raise your blood sugar, which will prevent your getting a good night’s sleep. This can also cause a blood sugar crash, which leads to sugar cravings.
By testing glucose levels minute by minute throughout the night in hundreds of people, I have observed that unstable blood sugar levels occur exactly when people are struggling to fall asleep or are spontaneously waking up at night. Carb cycling helps keep the Cortisol levels where they should be during the day but is critical to keeping them low enough at night to allow for deep sleep” (Christianson, A. 2014)
Following recent research, it is then clear that breakfast plays a key role in Blood Glucose Balance but also in the Stress Response. By using key nutrients, such as good Protein, Fats and little Carbohydrates for breakfast, it may be possible to negate the impact of Stress generated from all sources exposed earlier, but also from the stress that we inflict on our body by eating the wrong food, at the wrong time, and not sleeping properly, and not enough.
When it comes to Cortisol and Insulin, Lean may not mean Healthy
“Conclusions Mean glucose concentrations are higher in hypertensive men at all body mass index levels, whereas relative Hyperinsulinaemia is present only in the more corpulent hypertensives. Heart rate, free fatty acids level and morning plasma Cortisol level are elevated in hypertensive subjects at any body mass index level, but particularly in the lean ones with high systolic blood pressure.” (Filipovsky, J. et al. 1996)
In less scientific terms, this means that people with High Blood Pressure have Higher Blood Glucose Levels whatever their BMI (Body Mass Index); however, obese people also have higher levels of Insulin in the blood. Lean people (with high Systolic Blood Pressure) have an increased Heart Rate, more Fat travelling within blood vessels, and higher levels of Cortisol upon rising, compared to Obese People.
Understanding Blood Pressure readings:
Chronic Stress, Cortisol and Insulin, and fat around the middle
“Adipose tissue distribution is an important problem in view of the close epidemiological and metabolic associations between centralized fat accumulation and disease.
With visceral fat accumulation multiple endocrine perturbations are found, including elevated Cortisol and androgens in women, as well as low growth hormone and, in men, testosterone secretion. These abnormalities probably derive from a hypersensitive hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal [brain-adrenals] axis, with Hyperinsulinaemia related to a marked insulin resistance as a consequence. These hormonal changes exert profound effects on adipose tissue metabolism and distribution. At the Adipocyte [fat cells] level Cortisol and Insulin promote lipid accumulation […]” (Björntorp, P. 1996. p. 291)
As an efficient mechanism, the body preserves excess energy in form of fat that it stores in Adipose Tissue (fat cells). Under chronic stress, anxiety or depression, or when regularly skipping meals, the body stores Fat around the middle because of the high level of Cortisol and Blood Glucose travelling within the blood vessels. This central distribution of fat allows quick access to energy if the body does not know when there will be a next meal, and we are still facing “danger” (e.g. stress!)
“Furthermore, Cortisol can decrease the uptake of LDL by the liver. Cortisol in the presence of relatively high Insulin concentrations can promote the deposition of energy and lead to obesity.” (Brindley, DN. 1995)
The Medical Journal explains further that this leads to “Diabetes”, “Hypertension”, “Hypertriglyceridemia” (high levels of Triglycerides), “Hyperapobetalipoproteinemia” (lipoprotein disorder associated with premature coronary artery disease), “and low concentrations of HDL; a cluster of risk-factors that predisposes to the development of premature atherosclerosis”.
Björntorp, P. (1996). The regulation of adipose tissue distribution in humans. International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders : Journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity. 20 (4), pp. 291–302. Available at: http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/8680455.
Brindley, DN. (1995). Role of glucocorticoids and fatty acids in the impairment of lipid metabolism observed in the metabolic syndrome. International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders: Journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity. 19 (1), pp. S69–75. Available at: http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/7550541.
Christianson, A (2014). “The adrenal reset diet: strategically cycle carbs and proteins to lose weight, balance hormones, and move from stressed to thriving”. New York: Crown Publishing Group.
Filipovsky, J. et al. (1996). The relationship of blood pressure with glucose, insulin, heart rate, free fatty acids and plasma cortisol levels according to degree of obesity in middle-aged men. Journal of Hypertension. 14 (2), pp. 147–272. Available at: http://journals.lww.com/jhypertension/toc/1996/02000.
Schlundt, DG. et al. (1992). The role of breakfast in the treatment of obesity: a randomized clinical trial.. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 55 (3), pp. 645–651.
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Olivier is a Michelin trained chef, a registered Naturopath and Nutritional Therapist, embracing fully his passion for good food and healthy eating.