Fiber, Leptin, and Weight Loss
Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist
Dietary fiber is one of the fundamentals of a healthy diet. To support weight management, I recommend 35 – 50 grams of fiber per day (men on the higher side). A lack of adequate dietary fiber will eventually stall any weight loss efforts. Although it is a form of complex carbohydrate, it is so complex that it is not digestible for use as energy like other carbohydrates (fruit, bread, pasta, etc.). This can be a bit confusing, as fiber “calories” must be listed as carbohydrates on food and supplement labels, yet they are actually a “no calorie” type of food.
Our government recommends 25 grams of fiber per day. Americans who eat the typical refined food diet get about half that amount. The American Cancer Society recommends 20 – 35 grams of fiber per day, based on research indicating that higher fiber intake may reduce the risk of various forms of cancer. The FDA allows a health claim for certain types of fiber, like psyllium and oats, for the reduction of heart disease. Several Wellness Resources products that contain fiber qualify for this heart friendly claim (Fiber Helper and Daily Protein Plus - Original).
Soluble vs. Insoluble Fiber
There are two forms of fiber, water-soluble and water-insoluble.
Insoluble fiber is typically in skins of fruit and structural components of grains and vegetables. It provides bulk to your stools, helps your colon contents move along in a timely manner, and helps clear toxins and prevent constipation. Whole wheat and other whole grains contain large amounts of insoluble fiber.
Most vegetables are a combination of insoluble and soluble fiber. The structural, tougher fibers are insoluble, while the pulpy parts are soluble. Fruits are mostly soluble fiber, unless you eat the skins (like an apple skin, which is insoluble). Other common soluble fibers include oat bran, oatmeal, barley, and legumes. Psyllium, a frequently used fiber supplement, is 70 percent soluble fiber and 10 percent insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber intake supports healthy cholesterol and blood sugar metabolism.
As a general rule, a diet high in fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, legumes, and whole grains is vital for getting adequate dietary fiber, being healthy, and living longer. Conversely, the American junk food and fast food industry is famous for churning out garbage food that produces obesity, diabetes, breast cancer, and early death – in part due to the lack of fiber.
How Fiber Helps Weight Loss and Leptin
Obesity is at epidemic levels in America, partly due to the lack of fiber in the American diet.Both insoluble and soluble fibers help you feel fuller, so that you don’t want to eat as much food. Insoluble fiber tends to promote bowels to move along, the bulk or size of stools, and ease of bowel movements (reducing constipation and hemorrhoids). Soluble fiber slows gastric emptying while it stimulates digestive enzyme release. This enables better digestion of food as well as slows the rate of calorie surge into your blood and results in better metabolic control.
Both types of fiber help weight loss by acting as a “sponge” for toxic waste, which is vital to get out during the weight loss process. It is important to realize that stored fat is not only a warehouse for surplus calories but also a storage bin for excess fat-soluble toxins and pollution, which must come back out again when you lose weight. If you can’t get these toxins out of your body correctly as they re-enter your bloodstream, then you run the risk of getting poisoned while you try to lose weight. In some cases your body will not give up a toxic layer of fat, as a defense mechanism, so you don’t get poisoned (meaning you will be stuck at a toxic based, weight loss plateau).
Nutrients that help your liver (Daily Balancer), and lymph (Immune Plus), or bind toxins in your GI tract (like Chlorella) can be very helpful during weight loss efforts, but the most basic toxin absorbing compound is adequate dietary fiber. Fiber helps to sequester bile acids as they enter your digestive tract, and it is these cholesterol containing bile acids that also contain the fat-soluble toxins that your liver excrets. Thus, a lack of fiber in general and constipation in particular will cause you to become too toxic as you try to lose weight – problems that bring weight loss to a halt.
While you need both types of fiber to assist weight loss, a case can be made that soluble fiber is the most important. This is because soluble fiber regulates the pace of calorie digestion and release into your bloodstream, which has a profound effect on blood glucose, insulin, and leptin.
Leptin is the key hormone that must be considered by any person seeking to lose weight – more important than thyroid, insulin, growth hormone, and adrenal hormones – because it controls all of them!
When you eat a meal you release insulin to transport calories. Insulin transports some of those calories (regardless of your body weight) to your white adipose tissue. When blood sugar arrives in the insulin taxi cab at your white adipose tissue it stimulates your fat cells into action, which makes some leptin. This leptin enters your blood, and goes up to your brain. When leptin levels get high enough (meaning you’ve eaten enough), leptin tells your brain you are have had enough to eat and feel satisfied.
Once your brain gets the leptin driven full signal, all other hormonal systems, such as thyroid, are given a green light, and energy production and metabolism run at an optimal pace (as your subconscious brain knows you aren’t starving). At the same time, the higher levels of leptin signal your pancreas to quit making insulin, thus completing the feeding and calorie transport process. This is the normal way your body handles a meal, transports the calories to needed places, and tells you that you are full.
When you lack dietary fiber at a meal, carbohydrate calories rush into your blood with too large a spike. This causes an excess surge of insulin, and an excess production of leptin by fat cells. At the same time, insulin, having too much sugar on its hands, starts making triglycerides that are now at higher than optimal levels in your blood. These extra triglycerides clog leptin receptors at your blood-brain barrier, preventing leptin from getting into your brain, and you from getting a full signal on a normal amount of food. This means you have to eat more food to eventually get a leptin driven full signal, resulting in weight gain. If you do this on a regular basis you develop insulin resistance and leptin resistance.
If you eat less food, so that your brain doesn’t really get the leptin driven full signal, then your body thinks it is starving and your metabolism is not given a green light, again resulting in weight gain even though calorie intake is lower. People stuck in this rut are darned if they do and darned if they don’t. Any person who is overweight and cannot easily lose weight is stuck in one of these two patterns of insulin and leptin inefficiency.
Adequate soluble fiber can go a long way toward breaking you out of this metabolic rut, cut your desire for food, and help you get normal leptin driven full signals eating less food. Science shows that when this happens your blood glucose levels are better, insulin resistance is improved, and leptin works better.
One study that evaluated metabolically obese women (women with too much abdominal fat even if their total weight was OK) found that one key difference was that they lacked fiber in their diet. This lack of fiber was associated with increased inflammation coming from white adipose tissue (TNFa and IL6), elevated triglycerides, elevated blood pressure, insulin resistance, and elevated leptin (leptin resistance). On top of that these women had more of the potentially plaque forming small particles of LDL and more oxidized LDL (LDL that is damaged and also more likely to form plaque.)
Another study showed that Kellogg’s Corn Flakes sugar shocked healthy volunteers, compared to a higher fiber cereal. The higher fiber meal enabled a better insulin response, which resulted in more normal leptin response. The Corn Flakes meal was a metabolic disaster – even for a healthy person. This is more evidence that the makers of refined and sugar laden junk grains are setting up a clear path to leptin problems and obesity for Americans.
It is a national disgrace that young people are becoming type 2 diabetic from their overweight conditions. One study in young Japanese women, ages 18-20, found that the lack of fiber was directly associated with obesity risk. Another study of young Japanese diabetic women, ages 18-22, found that the only diet variable associated with high levels of leptin (leptin resistance) was dietary fiber intake. The lower their intake of dietary fiber, the worse their leptin levels. This was true regardless of body mass index.
It is vital to follow the Five Rules of the Leptin Diet to lose weight healthfully. Additionally, having adequate soluble fiber and high quality protein are two of the key issues that make sustained weight loss possible, because they help improve the function of leptin, the key hormone that determines whether calories will make you fat or be metabolized as fuel.
The Wellness Resources Fiber Products
In my years of experience with many dieters, appetite is optimally suppressed by a fiber intake ranging from 35 – 50 grams of fiber per day. How much you personally need is easy to judge, because when you get enough you have far less desire to overeat or eat in response to stress.
The challenge for any dieter is to cut back on carbohydrates and increase fiber intake. During a reduced calorie diet it is common for dieters to have two servings of fruit per day, usually breakfast and lunch, and two servings of vegetables per day, usually lunch and dinner or both at dinner. A serving of fruit or vegetables averages about 4 grams of fiber per serving. Assuming four servings per day, that adds up to 16 grams of fiber.
One cup of oatmeal or two slices of whole wheat toast each have 4 grams of fiber. Legumes and bran cereal have about 8 grams of fiber per serving. If you are trying to lose weight you will typically need to limit this type of food to one serving per day, or 4-8 grams of fiber.
Even though this adds up to 20-24 grams of fiber, that is not enough fiber for most overweight people to feel satisfied. It might be enough fiber for a normal weight person with a normal appetite and good leptin balance, but if you are overweight this amount of fiber won’t keep you from circling the refrigerator and looking for food after your finish your dinner.
Whole wheat fiber and bread products are horrible choices to boost fiber in your diet when you are trying to lose weight (one serving a day is fine). These products contain mostly insoluble fiber; what you really need is to boost your soluble fiber intake. Plus, when these foods are over-consumed their carbohydrate calorie content becomes excessive for weight loss, and aggravates insulin and leptin resistance problems..
Fruit is a choice for more soluble fiber, but you really don’t want any more than two servings of fruit-sugar calories either. That leaves vegetables. Eat as many of them as you like to get your fiber, except high sugar carrots, corn, and peas; use spices as desired to make vegetables taste better, not large amounts of salad dressing.
A far easier to way to increase your fiber intake, reduce your appetite, and boost your metabolic efficiency is to use zero calorie supplemental fiber. The problem with most fiber products on the market is that they taste terrible, gel up too much when mixed, and/or contain natural or artificial sweeteners that throw their own monkey wrench into your leptin-taste system.
I designed two specialty fiber products, Fiber Helper and LeptiFiber, both very high in soluble fiber (8-9 grams of soluble fiber per heaping tablespoon). Both products mix easily in water or a protein drink, do not gel up and gag you, have little taste, and have no added sweeteners of any kind.
Fiber Helper is comprised of Nutrim® oat bran, arabinogalactan fiber, and small particle psyllium seed husk. The oat and psyllium in this product qualify for the FDA’s approved health claim, which is as follows:
“Soluble fiber from foods such as oats and psyllium, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.” A serving of Fiber Helper supplies .75 grams of the needed 3 grams of oat beta-glucan soluble fiber from oats and 3.5 grams of the needed 7 grams of soluble fiber from psyllium necessary per day to have this affect. Thus, 1 serving provides 75 percent of the soluble fiber per day for this FDA approved health claim.
Nutrim oat bran was originally developed and patented by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It has long been known that oat soluble fiber beta-glucans support the maintenance of healthy cholesterol, triglyceride, and blood sugar. Nutrim not only concentrates these important beta-glucans, but also provides a smooth mouth feel with a mild oat flavor, making it the best form of oat beta-glucan to easily consume.
Arabinogalactan fiber, which is in both Fiber Helper and LeptiFiber, is a glyconutrient of 6 parts galactose to 1 part arabinose, with small amounts of glucuronic acid arranged in a highly branched configuration. This highly branched structure is slowly fermented, meaning that this type of fiber does not cause gas and bloating. It has been proven to have high digestive tolerance in dosages up to 30 grams per day, though fiber-related benefits have been demonstrated at the dose of 5 grams per day (the serving size in either Fiber Helper or LeptiFiber). It has been shown to increase the production of friendly flora and important colon protecting short chain fatty acids, and decrease the production of unfriendly flora and ammonia.
We include psyllium in this product because it is one of the better soluble fibers that also promotes stool bulk and regularity. It is very important to keep your bowels moving forward during weight loss. We use specially filtered small-particle psyllium, which reduces the gelling and clumpiness that is associated with other psyllium products.
This unique mix of three fibers in Fiber Helper is a premier fiber supplement, with documented support for a variety of health needs - including regularity. One serving has 10 grams of dietary fiber, nine of which are soluble. The overall product is easy mixing with a mild oat flavor.
Our other fiber product is LeptiFiber. This is a combination of arabinogalactan and partially hydrolyzed guar gum fiber – another great soluble fiber source. We made this second fiber product for several reasons:
Whenever you increase soluble fiber intake it is best to do so gradually. This enables your lower colon to get used to the extra fiber. It is natural that soluble fiber will increase metabolic activity in your lower colon, which is quite good for you. If you do it too fast you may get gas or bloating. If that happens, cut back, let your system calm down, and then gradually increase intake to the desired level that supports appetite control and improved metabolism.
The Power of Increasing Quality Protein and Fiber
In addition to adding quality fiber to your diet, the other basic change that favors weight loss is increasing quality protein that is rich in branch chain amino acids, such as optimally filtered whey protein. Unlike most other amino acids, branch chain amino acids are metabolized in your muscle. They enhance insulin signaling to your muscles, boost CCK to help regulate your appetite, naturally stimulate your liver into metabolic gear, and prevent muscle wasting during weight loss.
To reach the weight loss boosting amount of protein, you need between three-fourths of your ideal weight up to three-fourths of your actual weight, in grams of protein per day. It is vital to start your day with a high protein meal to optimize weight management efforts and stabilize your energy and appetite. For example, if you like oatmeal, oat bran, or a wheat bran cereal for breakfast to help with your fiber intake, you are better off having that meal at lunch or dinner. An option is to have a protein smoothie along with the fiber containing cereal. For a comprehensive review of protein during weight loss please read my feature article, How Protein Helps Weight Loss.
Taken with fine quality whey protein, soluble fiber enhances the digestion and absorption of the protein, as the fiber holds the protein in the stomach and small intestine longer, while enhancing the release of digestive enzymes.
I designed three specialty whey protein, soluble fiber, and antioxidant powdered drinks for mixing with a spoon or in a blender to make a smoothie. These are called Daily Protein Plus.
Daily Protein Plus Original flavor contains 21 grams of protein, 7.5 grams of Nutrim oat bran, and 900 mg of high antioxidant mangosteen whole fruit powder (ORAC = 1500 per serving). It does not include sweeteners of any kind. The product tastes pleasant because of the fine quality protein used (it is not bitter like cheaply processed whey protein), which enables the mild oat flavor to come through. It provides 25 percent of the daily total of needed oat beta-glucan, qualifying for the FDA heart disease reduction claim. Plus, it packs an antioxidant punch with the equivalent of a full serving of fruit.
Based on the success of this formula I added two more flavors, vanilla and chocolate. Once again these products contain no added sweeteners of any kind. We use organic high polyphenol dark cocoa in one product, and the finest organic vanilla in another (also an excellent natural antioxidant). The chocolate product contains 4 grams of soluble fiber from partially hydrolyzed guar gum. The vanilla product contains 5 grams of soluble fiber from arabinogalactan.
The concept of getting the finest protein, various high grade soluble fibers, and a serving of potent antioxidants all in one smoothie is a breakthrough in product design. There is no added anything of any kind! Other companies don’t make products like this because their protein quality is so bad that the bitter test must be covered up in some way. Bad tasting protein means cheaper filtration systems were used, which broke the protein molecules, causing the bitter taste.
For general health purposes, you can blend any one of these Daily Protein Plus drinks with a serving of fruit, or you can eat a piece of fruit afterwards. This will give you at about 8 grams of soluble fiber to start your day, along with a significant metabolic boost from the protein.
When you are on a serious weight loss campaign, you will want to boost your soluble fiber even further. The Fiber Helper mixes very well with the Daily Protein Plus Original. The LeptiFiber mixes very well with the chocolate or vanilla. This can get you to the 12 to 16 gram soluble fiber intake range, an optimal meal amount for regulating your appetite during the day, while also improving the efficiency of your metabolism.
The proper use of fiber and protein is fundamental to make weight loss efforts easier and more likely to succeed.
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