In the midst of an obesity epidemic, practitioners can help advise patients on ways to potentially shift their lifestyles in a healthier direction.
Managing one’s weight can be easier said than done, and as many may already know, being overweight or obese can lead to a variety of health complications, including diabetes, arthritis and cardiovascular disease to name a few.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) data brief notes that the United States has an obesity rate of 39.8 percent, affecting about 93.3 million U.S. adults as of 2015-2016. And interestingly enough, the greatest prevalence is in middle-aged adults (40 to 59 years) at 42.8 percent.
It’s important to keep in mind however that being overweight versus obese have two different definitions. In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the body mass index (BMI) of adults 20 and older should run from 18.5-24.9 for it to be classified as normal weight, 25-29.9 to be considered overweight and 30 and above for obesity; the latter includes extreme obesity, which starts at a BMI of 40. The CDC also reported that for children and adolescents (ages 2-19), obesity rate stands at 18.5 percent, affecting about 13.7 million of them.
Despite these numbers, with the proper diet and lifestyle changes, practitioners can help guide patients of all ages towards not only a healthier weight, but an overall healthier life.
Properly managing one’s weight is a priority for a multitude of reasons, but it’s important to keep in mind that one’s health impacts the entire body.
“Perhaps the greatest threat to an individual’s long-term health is their weight, since it affects literally every bodily process and is the cause of untold human and financial toll,” said Joy Stephenson-Laws, president and founder of Proactive Health Labs, Inc. in California. “I really can’t stress this enough. Having a healthy weight is the first and most important step to getting and staying healthy.”
She noted that obesity is either the top cause of or a significant contributor to:
• Diabetes: Being obese makes it harder for your cells to use the insulin your body produces, which can result in diabetes, which carries its own set of health risks, including blindness and premature death.
• Cardiovascular disease: Being overweight places a lot of stress on the cardiovascular system, which can result in stroke, chronic heart disease and heart attack.
• Hypertension: The addition [al] fat tissue caused by obesity also needs nutrients, which is supplied by the blood; to meet this demand, the heart must pump more blood, which increases blood pressure.
• Joint damage: Being overweight accelerates the normal wear-and-tear on your joints, making it more likely that you will develop osteoarthritis; it also adds greatly to the pressure your knees have to bear (every pound of body weight place up to six pounds of pressure on your knees), which makes it 20 times more likely that you’ll need a knee replacement if you’re overweight.
For issues concerning obesity and morbid obesity (as opposed to weight again of a few pounds), gaining a significant amount of weight can impact diabetes-related issues (as noted previously by Stephenson-Laws), and psychological difficulties as well.
“Blood glucose issues are at the forefront, as the body’s resistance to insulin often precedes large weight gain and is a precursor to type 2 diabetes as well as metabolic syndrome, which includes visceral adiposity (central obesity); impaired lipids metabolism, generally resulting in elevated triglycerides and poor cholesterol ratios; and other factors associated with elevated risk of heart disease, such as high blood pressure and atherosclerosis,” noted Jodi Friedlander, curriculum researcher, writer and editor at Bauman College in California. “Unwanted weight gain often causes deep psychological pain and can result in self-consciousness, anxiety, self-loathing and a loss of social connection. Social connection has been shown to be a critical element for good health.”1
At the aforementioned Bauman College, they teach a program called Eating for Health, which “focuses on the nutrient-density of sustainably raised animal foods, organically grown produce and booster foods—foods and food concentrates that add flavor, color and nutrients to meals. Herbs and spices are examples of booster foods.” The school also emphasizes cooking and preparation methods that help students learn to create delicious meals while keeping the nutritional value of the foods intact.
“Eating for Health is a system, not a diet, around which one can construct a nutritious eating pattern and a healthy lifestyle,” Friedlander added. “With a whole foods approach to nutrition, it was developed to provide an alternative to one-size-fits-all dietary programs. Eating for Health is based on cutting-edge scientific research but with respect for global traditional eating patterns that have kept cultures healthy for millennia, and which are currently being validated through scientific research. Instead of being dogmatic, Eating for Health recommends person-centered food plans that emphasize flexibility, nourishment and deliciousness, rather than fad diets that work for some people some of the time.”
Several approaches have gained popularity (from keto to low-carb), as the “fad” diets have taken a backseat. “Trending methods for weight management include the keto diet, paleo (or ‘cave-man diet’), high-fat and protein low-carb diet, and plant-based eating, along with supplementing natural products like CBD,” noted Natalie Rasoulzadeh, marketing manager, Procana Laboratories (California). “These methods make sense to those looking to manage their weight in a healthier manner; they are scientifically proven and show no extreme dangers. These approaches promise a healthy lifestyle with less risk of relapse, being that they are wholesome, clean-eating methods. Fad diets and diet pills have been losing popularity, as Millennials educate themselves and use holistic, more natural approaches.”
And literally speaking, more innovative delivery methods are continuing to gain momentum, while pills, though still a classic, are slowing down.
“There is a significant trend in the natural medicine space toward more delivery formats for supplements. Pills are the staple, but people seem to be leaning toward trying powders and liquids more,” observed Adam Killpartrick, DC, CNS, a member of Natural Practitioner’s Editorial Advisory Board and chief science officer with the Vermont-based FoodScience Corporation. “There is both the desire for a more enjoyable experience as well as a need/want for convenience. Spray formats are hugely convenient and seem to be taking off right now. Plus, there is an opportunity to provide the user an experience that is enjoyable by way of great taste.”
In her practice at Steelsmith Natural Health Center in Hawaii, Laurie Steelsmith, ND, LAc likes to feature a comprehensive diet, exercise and lifestyle plan alongside conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).
As she described in an article on her website titled Lose Weight with CLA, “Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a naturally occurring fat found in the meat of grass-fed animals such as sheep and cattle. The highest concentration of CLA is found in kangaroo meat. Human beings produce some CLA in their bodies as well. CLA has recently become a popular weight-loss supplement. A number of studies show that it can reduce body fat, especially abdominal fat, while preserving lean muscle mass.”
Modere, a Utah-based manufacturer, happens to offer its Lean Body Sculpting System (LBSS), a collection of three products—Trim, Burn and Activate. According to Asma Ishaq, the company’s CEO, Trim features an “innovative, first-in-the world combination of two leading technologies—CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) and Modere’s exclusive Collagen/HA (hyaluronic acid) Matrix Technology.
“Body composition (the ratio of fat to muscle in the body) has recently been considered a better measure of overall health than the number on the scale. (Because muscle is denser than fat, a pound of muscle takes up less space than a pound of fat, which is why two people with the same height and weight might have vastly different body shapes. Body composition and body fat are important measurements when you are on a weight loss program.),” Ishaq added. “The three-part LBSS is an exclusive collection of products scientifically designed to promote lean body composition by helping to burn fat, lose inches and promote overall better health and fitness.”
Triphala, a mixture of various herbs in one, can also be beneficial, as it is applicable to not only digestive health, but issues related to weight management.
“Triphala is a combination of three herbs—Terminalia chebula (haritaki), Terminalia belerica (bahera) and Emblica officinalis (amla),” explained John Nowicki, ND, medical writer/researcher for Ayush Herbs, Inc. (Washington). “In ayurvedic medicine, triphala is classified as a tridoshic rasayana, as it promotes longevity and rejuvenation in patients of all constitutions and ages. Triphala has bowel-regulating properties and provides digestive and elimination support. It is also considered to be adaptogenic.
“In clinical studies,” he continued, “triphala has been shown to be an anti-obesity agent—reducing weight, skinfold thickness and circumference of the hips and waist in obese subjects.2,3 In a 12-week, double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled trial, human subjects treated with triphala lost approximately 5 kg compared with the placebo control group.4 Triphala has also been shown to have hypoglycemic activity. A clinical study of noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus patients revealed that supplementation with 5g of Triphala powder for 45 days significantly lowered blood glucose levels.”5
Rasoulzadeh noted that other substances could also play a role, such as probiotics, caffeine, matcha and grapefruit. Though it needs to be investigated further, CBD is even a possibility:
• Probiotics help optimize digestive and metabolic processes in the body.
• Caffeine can help with weight loss by activating the central nervous system, increasing fat oxidation and fluid loss, and can decrease weight gain over time. However, these effects decrease with caffeine tolerance.
• Matcha (green tea powder) contains caffeine as well as catechins, which is an antioxidant that may reduce weight, and provide a safe boost of energy. Caffeine combined with catechins significantly increases energy, metabolism, and fat oxidation.
• Grapefruit can boost energy and metabolism while reducing appetite. Enzymes in grapefruit help the body break down sugar, and many find that citrus scent can reduce sugar cravings.
• According to a study conducted in Korea, CBD can stimulate genes and proteins that enhance the breakdown and oxidation of fat, increases the body’s ability to burn calories by increasing the number and activity of mitochondria, and decreases the expression of proteins involved in fat cell generation (lipogenesis). However, more studies are needed to truly understand the effects.6
With the aforementioned obesity rate among U.S. adults being 39.8 percent, if this is any indicator of the market, there is continuous demand for products in this category.
“As the ‘thickening of America’ continues without any real end in sight and as people realize more and more the risks of being overweight, the market for natural and other weight-loss supplements will only to continue to expand,” Stephenson-Laws predicted. “According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), at least 15 percent of U.S. adults have used a weight-loss dietary supplement at some point and they are estimated to spend some $2.1 billion a year on the tablet, capsule and soft gel forms of these products. If you add in all weight loss products, Americans spend around $33 billion annually. Demand is so brisk that this market is estimated to grow at around 10 percent per year. Unfortunately, most people purchasing these products are looking for a miracle cure that will help them lose weight overnight without any effort or lifestyle change on their part, so they are bound to be discouraged, disappointed and frustrated.
“Add to this that, (again according to the NIH), the vast majority of products sold today—such as Garcinia cambogia, bitter orange and green tea extract—have not been proven to generate any weight loss at all (in fact some of them, especially those with simulants, can be downright dangerous),” she added. “So it’s important to keep in mind that just because a product says it is ‘natural’ does not mean that it is safe or effective! If someone decides to add a weight-loss product to their weight management program, they should first talk with their health care provider as well as do their homework not only on the product but also on the product manufacturer.”
Patients must be aware of these dangers, especially if they are looking to combat the plethora of conditions and causes that come with weight management. “The market for natural approaches for weight management and metabolism is strong and continues to be an area of significant focus both in the professional channel as well as at retail. Because there are so many varied underlying causes of obesity and weight issues and the fact that the rate of obesity continues to increase, patients and consumers are always seeking a product(s) that will work for their needs,” Dr. Killpartrick expressed.
One example of product demand involves Modere’s items, which as referenced earlier, specialize in weight management.
“Judging by the popularity of Modere’s top products—Trim and the Lean Body Sculpting System (LBSS)—the market for natural weight management supplements is strong and growing,” Ishaq said. “On the cutting edge of body composition products, Trim, which was launched in February of 2017, is our top-selling product. LBSS, which is comprised of Trim and two other scientifically designed, natural supplements, Burn and Activate, was launched in January 2018. LBSS has become the company’s top-selling weight management collection and is anticipated to significantly contribute to 2019 growth targets as the star system is launched in Modere’s world markets in response to demand generated by customers and the field.”
Dr. Steelsmith felt that the ketogenic diet, which is a low carbohydrate, high fat, protein diet, is trending currently, wanted to practice what she preached by going through the process herself.
“I did a two-month ketogenic diet in order to help my patients go on this diet,” she explained. “I didn’t need to lose weight, or change my weight, but I enjoyed exploring it. I created recipes, and figured out how to eat and feel satiated all the time. The experience taught me that this diet is doable and fun! I learned about monk fruit, and discovered new products. After the two months, I basically continued a paleo-diet but continue to incorporate many of the tips I learned on the keto diet.”
Bauman College’s focus primarily revolves around the different dietary options that are a patients’ disposal, all of which offer their respective benefits.
“As a nutrition school, with an emphasis on food and lifestyle rather than medicines and supplements,” said Friedlander, “Bauman College recognizes the power of whole foods nutrition and health-supportive lifestyle habits as the best foundation for optimal weight and health. Within this framework, there are many dietary options, from low-fat/high-carbohydrate diets to paleo to vegan and ketogenic diets. All have been shown to be helpful for the loss of body fat, no matter their macronutrient ratios. They all have one thing in common: whole foods nutrition. When people move from ingesting nutrient-poor and toxin-rich processed and fast foods to a diet that incorporates mostly fresh, whole foods, they achieve better health no matter what they weigh.
“Our work at Bauman College does not involve performing research studies, but we are readers and interpreters of high quality studies, which consistently find that the health-promoting factor in foods has to do with quality first and foremost. From there, ratios of protein, fat and carbohydrates do indeed matter for some people, but there is no set-in-stone ratio that works for everyone. Biochemical individuality and personal experimentation are key to uncovering the right mix for any given individual.”
Over the years, however, the approach to weight management has evolved into more of a biological focus.
“The ways in which we aim to support weight management has shifted from superficial approaches (such as low calorie, low fat diets) and moved more toward underlying physiological approaches that include enzyme and hormonal influence, just to name a couple,” explained Dr. Killpartrick. “This shift has occurred as a result of the short term nature of weight loss associated with fad diets. The mindset has changed as well, from people feeling like a ‘diet’ is going to be short term and something to help them lose weight, and then simply returning back to their old habits and ways of eating and then rapidly gaining the weight back. So, in essence, the mindset is now more leaning toward a lifestyle approach; and lifestyle approaches are more ‘big picture’ and include more physiology as opposed to only looking at the nutrient intake and caloric intake alone.”
Various diets have come and gone, but according to Rasoulzadeh, there is a recipe that ought to be followed.
“Over the years,” she concluded, “the evolution of weight management has been drastic. From 1920s’ ‘Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet’ Lucky Strike campaign, to 1950s’ cabbage soup diet, to extreme cases such as the Tapeworm diet, humans have tried it all. We tried meal replacement liquid diets, trendy cookie and lemonade diets, pills, supplements such as Ephedra (now banned by the FDA [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] due to side effects outweighing the benefits), and as of the late 90s/early 2000s, the low carb diets such as Atkins or South Beach… The list is endless.
“We live in a world where appearance matters, we want to feel and look good, yet we still want to consume the delicious sugary snacks and drinks. We are looking for an easy way, but the truth is, there is no easy way. These diets and shortcuts may or may not work, but the best way to maintain weight in a healthy manner is by living a life of daily physical activity and proper wholesome eating, and supplementing with natural products to give us that extra boost, not fad diets or medication. Those who partake in unhealthy weight management practices will most likely relapse.”
Disclaimer: Procana makes no claims to diagnose, treat or cure conditions and/or ailments. Research, studies and articles discussed are for informational purposes only. These statements have not been approved by the FDA. Please consult your physician to determine if Procana is right for you.
2 Paranjpeb, P., Patkic, P., & Patwardhana B. Ayurvedic treatment of obesity: A randomised double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 1990 April;29(1):1-11.
3 Kulkarni, P.H., & Paranjpe, P. Clinical assessment of Ayurvedic anti-obesity drugs: a double-blind placebo controlled trial. Journal of Natural and Integrated Medicine, 1990;32(1):7.
4 Kamali SH, Khalaj AR, Hasani-Ranjbar S, Esfehani MM, Kamalinejad M, Soheil O, Kamali SA. Efficacy of ‘Itrifal Saghir’, a combination of three medicinal plants in the treatment of obesity; A randomized controlled trial. Daru. 2012 Sep 10; 20(1):33.
5 Rajan SS, Antony S. Hypoglycemic effect of triphala on selected non insulin dependent Diabetes mellitus subjects. Anc Sci Life, 2008 Jan; 27(3):45-9.
Healthy Take Aways:
• The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) data brief notes that the United States has an obesity rate of 39.8 percent, affecting about 93.3 million U.S. adults as of 2015-2016. For children and adolescents (ages 2-19), the obesity rate stands at 18.5 percent.
• According to a study conducted in Korea, CBD can stimulate genes and proteins that enhance the breakdown and oxidation of fat, increases the body’s ability to burn calories by increasing the number and activity of mitochondria, and decreases the expression of proteins involved in fat cell generation (lipogenesis). However, more studies are needed to truly understand the effects.
For More Information:
Ayush Herbs, Inc., www.ayush.com
Bauman College, www.baumancollege.org
FoodScience Corporation, www.foodsciencecorp.com
Laurie Steelsmith, ND, LAc (Steelsmith Natural Health Center), www.drsteelsmith.com
Proactive Health Labs, Inc., www.phlabs.org
Procana Laboratories, www.procana.com