Why Toxins and Waste Products Impede Weight Loss - The Leptin Diet Weight Loss Challenge #3

By Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist

April 16, 2012

Why Toxins and Waste Products Impede Weight Loss - The Leptin Diet Weight Loss Challenge #3
Your body's ability to process trash, including toxic trash, is a pervasive factor in your ability to lose weight and reach a healthy goal weight. Struggling with this issue activates backup strategies for dealing with toxic overload, which include expanding the number of fat cells and stuffing them with toxins as well as fat. This is likely done to get the toxic trash out of your circulation and away from key organs. It causes easy weight gain and complicates weight loss because your body does not easily give up the toxic fat it has stored.

In many ways, our polluted world is a true test of genetic survival of the fittest. The number of toxic chemicals now threatens the reproductive ability1 of the human race and is also a large part of the cancer issue. These chemicals contribute to weight gain in various ways, including disruption of the hormone signaling2 system that regulates your metabolism, damage to and accumulation in your white adipose tissue, and increased risk for poisoning during weight loss. It is absolutely vital that you understand this subject.

Our Toxic World is a Major Metabolic Problem

In my previous article in this series, How Digestive Problems Prevent Weight Loss, I explained how toxic LPS, the result of bacterial imbalance within the digestive tract, stimulates the formation of new fat cells and promotes weight gain. I explained how LPS causes leptin resistance and thyroid malfunction. LPS is an example of an internally generated toxin. There are other internally generated toxins along with plenty of “normal” trash like inflammatory debris and lactic acid. Additionally, pervasive environmental toxins affect everyone to some degree and can cause all of the metabolic malfunctions of LPS, as well as increase the risk for cancer. Many of these environmental toxins are fat soluble, which means they readily accumulate in white adipose tissue.

Some of these toxic compounds have been banned, but the damage has already been done as they continue to bioaccumulate in the food chain and pose long-term challenges to the farming soils throughout America (PCBs, dioxins, furans, DDT, DDE). Others are widely used by industry such as the biocide tributyltin (TBT)3, an anti-fouling agent for paint, which gets into water and accumulates in fish. Others are in daily consumer contact4, including contact with food, such as Bisphenol A (BPA). There are many others. This is a key metabolic problem for the two-thirds of Americans who are overweight.

Once upon a time, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducted a program called the National Human Adipose Tissue Survey (NHATS). In 1982 and again in 1987 it analyzed human fat samples from cadavers obtained throughout the country, looking for the types of toxins that accumulate in human fat. Four industrial solvents and one dioxin were found in 100 percent of the fat samples6. Nine more chemicals, including three more dioxins and one furan were found in more than 90 percent of the fat samples. In general, 83 percent of the fat samples contained PCBs. U.S. researchers have confirmed the presence of multiple toxins in human fat7 associated with obesity risk. The EPA has confirmed the presence of these chemicals as pollution in the farm soil across America – meaning this problem will be with us for some time to come.

The scientific theory of how these chemicals cause weight gain8 and difficulty losing weight has now been established. They bind to gene signaling within white adipose tissue and induce new fat cells to form9 while simultaneously increasing inflammation10. Oftentimes, the newly formed fat cells are themselves damaged by the toxins11 so that they cannot metabolically perform12, which includes an inability to make leptin normally13. These damaged fat cells can fill up with excess fat14 and toxins, but are not able to efficiently carry out normal functions of fat cells, leading directly to increased risk for type 2 diabetes15 via the suppression of the important fat cell hormone16 known as adiponectin17. Several human studies confirm that PCBs increase diabetes risk.18 These chemicals pose a serious problem to the thyroid gland19 and the efficient utilization of thyroid hormone throughout your body. Furthermore, they can cause either hypothyroidism20 or hyperthyroidism. Trying to get the fat and toxins out of these damaged fat cells is no small challenge in terms of successful weight loss, yet it is vital to restore normal metabolism.

Damage occurs, and may be very difficult to resolve, if exposure to these chemicals occurs while in the womb21 and during the early years of life. Breast milk may contain numerous fat-soluble toxins22 depending upon the health of the mother. Such toxic exposure during formative years may influence gene settings in a way that predisposes future obesity (an adverse epigenetic change23). It has also been shown that when these chemicals disrupt thyroid hormone function24 during development they also adversely impact the development of the brain. A human study has confirmed the future risk of obesity25 in women whose mothers had high levels of the chemical compound DDE.

Toxins Pose a Major Challenge to Weight Loss

A variety of reasons toxins pose a major challenge to weight loss. A person who has too many toxins to process will make new fat cells and store those toxins along with fat in them. This is first a form of self-defense against being poisoned, and second, a strategy to get toxins out of the circulation and away from major organs. This means that some people will not be able to lose any weight at all, regardless of how little they eat, until the acute nature of their plumbing problems are addressed.

It is very clear that these toxins are released back into the circulation during weight loss. This is especially the case during significant weight loss26. During a weight loss of 12 percent of body weight toxins in the blood increased 23 percent - 51 percent, with the heaviest individuals releasing the most toxins27. Over a one year period of weight loss toxic exposure ranged up to a whopping 388 percent. Scientists have shown that such toxins can interfere with thyroid hormone28 function during weight loss. Human data shows that as the toxins go up in the blood during weight loss the levels of biologically active thyroid hormone (T3)29 go down. This data means that your plumbing and detoxification systems must be in good working condition for healthy weight loss – or possibly even to engage weight loss.

Toxins make you feel irritable. Many people report feeling “poisoned” at a certain point in their weight loss process. Such people will always feel better when they eat a lot of food, as the toxins are pulled out of their blood and placed back in fat – along with plenty of fat. With a little effort, most people can readily lose weight they have most recently gained. After that, people reach what I like to call it the "toxic plateau." This means that detoxification strategies may need to be adjusted if weight loss slows too much or stops. In my clinical experience, the difficult-to-lose pounds are typically toxic fat. Strategies to improve detoxification often enable weight loss to proceed. While overweight people who struggle to lose weight with a good diet and exercise have this problem to some degree, those who are the most overweight experience this issue to a greater degree.

Individuals with chemical sensitivity issues are extremely challenged. Virtually all individuals with chemical sensitivity are hyper-inflamed, have lost physical strength and fitness, and are either overweight or underweight. Oddly enough, being overweight is generally better than being underweight, because at least the backup system of stuffing toxins into fat still works. Underweight people usually have excessive damage to their white adipose tissue and can't store toxins in fat. This usually equates to more damage in their bodies from the toxins (including type 2 diabetes). However, as the weight is lost and the toxins come back into the blood, it is like a fresh new chemical exposure with a reaction.

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