|The Thyroid: Standing Between You and Thin|
For the past half dozen years, researchers at American Phytotherapy Research Laboratories (APRL) have expended a great deal of effort in search of effective fat management tools. Typically, past efforts have been simple-minded, partial and almost completely ineffective in producing long-term weight or fat loss without significant consequences to overall health. Although this was an unacceptable state of affairs, consumers were undaunted in their quest for tools to help them shed unwanted pounds of excess body fat. The current operating axiom has been that the effective control of body weight requires a multi-faceted approach.
Historically, however, multi-faceted approaches have been poorly received by the public due to either the dollar cost, the difficulty in compliance (i.e. sticking to it) or a combination of both reasons.
The discovery of the importance of brown adipose tissue has changed the entire outlook on fat management. For the first time in the history of weight loss research, real hope for the overweight population has arrived. Brown adipose tissue, or brown fat, is thought to be the key to effective management. In the thyroid organ, which is located at the base of the neck, a special protein ensures that dietary calories are converted to heat instead of energy. This process, called thermogenesis, is not regulated by need. Hence, brown fat is able to consume dietary calories fairly continuously or as long as there are some molecules to feed. It's for this reason that some thin people stay thin no matter how much they eat. When metabolism in brown adipose tissue slows down, the body has a greater tendency to store dietary calories.
Given the simplicity of the concept, brown adipose tissue thermogenesis (BATT) has become a major focus in obesity research. At APRL, researchers have been searching for methods to improve BATT. These methods include stimulating the tissue, improving the duration of activity in the tissue and removing blocks to such activity.
Along the way, scientists have noticed that individuals with certain metabolic problems are inherently less able to profit from manipulation of BATT. One of these problems is poor thyroid activity. While the thyroid does not participate directly in BATT, it does play a permissive role. It is like a school teacher who, while not engaging directly in play at recess, nevertheless gives permission for the children to so engage themselves. They thyroid is also involved in lipolysis, which is the breaking up of stored and dietary fat into small droplets called free fatty acids. These tiny fat droplets are the fuel that runs all cells of the body including brown adipose tissue cells.
The thyroid does not have to be very far off its normal course to affect BATT efficiency. In fact, any deviation from a normal healthy state of activity in the thyroid can adversely affect BATT.
Researchers have discovered two important facts - when people get adequate thyroid hormone by prescription, BATT increases dramatically; and when a certain regimen of nutrients are consumed, BATT benefits greatly. The first finding was expected, but the second discovery developed slowly and contained some surprises. Researchers did not set out to create a thyroid hormone or to even stimulate the thyroid to produce more hormone. Rather, they reasoned that, like any other part of the body, the thyroid might suffer from periodic or permanent deficiencies due to illness, diet, poor nutrition, environmental toxins or even genetic lesions. Also, like in other parts of the body, it may respond to nutritional manipulation.
The search for nutrients that would impact thyroid health encompassed some materials that simply reduced stress to the thyroid or helped to address some of the problems that occur when the health of the thyroid begins to fail. Some choices were obvious, Kelp, for example, provides numerous micronutrients, chief of which is iodine, that can improve the health of the thyroid. Other plant materials were also indicated as helpful including horsetail grass, gentian root, blue flag, nettles and radish extract.
Additionally, supplemental amounts of a few key minerals were administered to determine their value. Those providing the greatest degree of aid were zinc, selenium, magnesium, copper and molybdenum. Furthermore, a deficiency in tyrosine, an amino acid that binds with iodine and carries it to the thyroid cells, could be the primary cause of poor thyroid health.
Finally, researchers reasoned that a packet of a few key vitamins would benefit the thyroid and might slow the aging process in this crucial gland. Without vitamin B2, for example, the thyroid may terminate production of hormones. Also, vitamin B3 binds iodine to tyrosine so that it is more readily absorbed by the thyroid. Scientists also found it helpful to include vitamins whose effectiveness decreases directly because of poor thyroid health. Thus, their research was an effort to reverse certain kinds of damage that occur due to thyroid deficiencies. The combined group of vitamins included in the packet was restricted to vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, biotin folic acid, vitamins A, C, E and beta carotene (beta carotene is not converted to vitamin A when the thyroid is active)
The nutritional thyroid "cocktail" described above has been extremely beneficial to individuals with decreased thyroid health, mainly mild to moderate hypothyroidism. It has not completely eliminated the pool of people whose brown adipose tissue does not respond to direct manipulation, but it has greatly reduced the number of on non-responders.
If you are having trouble losing weight regardless of what the products might be that you are taking, the key may be as simple as enhancing the health of the thyroid through a simple nutritional supplement like the one reported herein. For best fat loss results, researchers recommend combining products that carry the APRL seal and that supply nutrition directly to the BATT organ as well as a supplement that offers nutrition for your thyroid. Meanwhile, researchers will continue in their quest to solve the fat management riddles.
Daniel Mowrey, Ph.D, is the author of Fat Management: The Thermogenic Factor, and is president of the American Phytochemical Research Laboratory.