Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Newly-Discovered Hormone Produced By High-Fat, Low-Carb Diet 'Breaks Down Fat'

Drs. Maratos-Flier and Kliewer found the hormone behind Atkins diet

We have seen some truly remarkable research come out in favor of the Atkins low-carb diet this year, most notably the Stanford JAMA study from March 2007 showing it as the superior diet for weight and health.

People who are livin' la vida low-carb already naturally accept the physiology behind this way of eating as an excellent way to burn stored fat through the use of ketosis and that those ketone bodies become our source of energy rather than carbohydrates. We've even had studies showing a low-carb diet burns twice as much stored fat as a low-fat diet.

But now we read in this MedPage Today column that two different researcher teams have stumbled upon what one of them describe as a "serendipitous" discovery of a hormone in their studies that actually works as the very mechanism behind why fat-burning is so functional on a low-carb diet.

The lead researcher on the first team, led by Dr. Eleftheria Maratos-Flier who serves as an investigator in the department of endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center as well as an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, saw something peculiar happen to mice over a 30-day period that she fed a high-fat, low-carb diet--their lipid profile remained constant and didn't go up!

This coincides with a study conducted by Dr. Jeff Volek and Dr. Stephen Phinney that found people who ate a diet higher in saturated fat did not have an elevated presence of saturated fat in their blood--as has been previously theorized. This is why fat consumed does not make you fat.

Dr. Maratos-Flier says this seemingly contradictory finding has to do with a hormone called FGF21, or fibroblast growth factor 21. It is found in the liver and is responsible for producing ketones when people consume a low-carb diet. These ketone bodies are then used to provide as much as 70 percent of the energy needs of someone eating this way.

This discovery did not go unnoticed by the researchers. Unfortunately, instead of promoting the Atkins diet as a means for lowering body fat, they instead turned to the possibilities this discovery could have on future pharmaceutical opportunities.

"We think these findings would increase the desirability of a drug that (might work through this mechanism) to increase fat oxidation in the liver," Dr. Maratos-Flier said.

WHAT IN THE WORLD?!?! Why try to make a pill that will replicate what the Atkins diet has already been shown to do a beautiful job of doing, Dr. Maratos-Flier? This is just more irresponsible extrapolations pulled from an excellent study showing a high-fat, low-carb diet is beneficial. Get your head out of the sand already!

She does acknowledge that this switch to fat-burning mode in the mice only happened when FGF21 was found in higher concentration--on either a low-carb diet or during starvation. Contrary to what the naysayers say, these two are NOT the same.

The lead researcher on the second team, Dr. Steven Kliewer who is a professor of molecular biology at the Dallas, TX-based University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, also found FGF21 breaks down stored fat in animals consuming a high-fat, low-carb diet as well as fasting.

"[A high-fat, low-carb diet] turned on a starvation response, even when the animals were feeding," Dr. Kliewer noticed. "They switched from using carbohydrates to fat stores as an energy supply."

Dr. Kliewer said this is a natural reaction in animals to a shortage of food which causes them to move less and sleep more in order to store up energy.

He was surprised that a single hormone could literally "flip the whole metabolic profile" and that it can actually serve as a balancing mechanism for consuming too many calories.

"What's really exciting is that mice with excess FGF21--even when they are fed--look like they are fasted," Dr. Kliewer found.

Somewhere up in heaven today, Dr. Atkins has got to be smiling from ear to ear. This exactly what he was talking about when he described his diet as giving people a "metabolic advantage." The fact that science is just now catching up to what the late great Dr. Robert C. Atkins was sharing decades ago proves he was a man long before his time.

Dr. Kliewer admitted that this fat-burning process "makes sense" when you stop and think about it.

"During fasting, the liver hormone communicates with adipose tissue to send fat to the liver," he said. "It turns on the metabolism of fat into ketone bodies--and at the same time, it sensitizes the animals to going into torpor to conserve energy."

He added that there is an "obvious possibility that FGF21 accounts for the proposed positive effect of the Atkins diet—including weight loss and an increase in [HDL] ‘good’ cholesterol."

While Dr. Kliewer states that FGF21 might explain why the Atkins diet works, Dr. Maratos-Flier brought up the ridiculous argument that this is only true in mice right now and it is unclear of the impact on humans.

Good grief, lady! Can't you even put out the notion that it is even POSSIBLE the same results could be true in humans as well? Sheeez! To her credit, Dr. Maratos-Flier is planning on study FGF21 levels in human subjects next over just a few days. How about long-term studies of weeks, months, and years, too, Dr. Maratos-Flier?

Both of these studies were funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as well as Takeda Pharmaceuticals, the Robert A. Welch Foundation, the Betty Van Andel Foundation, the Smith Family Foundation Pinnacle Program Project Award from the American Diabetes Association, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

The results of these studies were published in the June 2007 issue of the scientific journal Cell Metabolism. Check out the abstract for both studies by Dr. Maratos-Flier and Dr. Kliewer.

Describing this research as "the most exciting" study he has ever worked on, Dr. Kliewer wants to continue looking at the role of FGF21 in increasing lifespan.

"Starvation and restricted diet are linked to some fascinating physiology including longevity," he noted. "In the long term, I would like to investigate the role of FGF21 in aging, since caloric restriction has been linked to an extended life span in many species."

I don't know about the "caloric restriction" aspect of his research, but it certainly sounds fascinating to see a low-carb diet being observed in this manner. Who knows what the implications could be. We'll be watching, Dr. Kliewer!

You can e-mail each of the researchers about their studies by writing to them directly: Dr. Eleftheria Maratos-Flier at and Dr. Steven Kliewer at

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Blogger The Bunnell Farm said...

My theory all along has been that our bodies remove the fat in Ketosis as a way of getting rid of something that never should have been. Our bodies are trying to bring us back to normal. Sugar and modern hybrid carbohydrates are unnatural to our bodies and our bodies have no defense against this foreign invader that is giving our body a false signal and stores as fat. Sugar and carbohydrates are rare in our normal God given diet that the Earth produces naturally. So Ketosis in starvation would be normal to keep us alive. Ketosis in very low carb eating is getting rid of the fat our bodies shouldn't have had in the first place but our bodies couldn't get rid of it before because of all the foreign sugar in our bodies that doesn't exist in the real world, therefor our bodies can't fight it because it doesn't know how to. Just as soon as our bodies get all that poison away from it it immediately goes to getting rid of fat, even bypassing the meat and fat we are eating in favor of the stored fat because the stored fat will kill us because we can't run good or hunt good or do about anything because we are loaded down with fat. Natures balance is for us to live and live healthfully, all the fat on us from all the unnatural sugar and carbs is totally unnatural so our body gets rid of it. The exact same as starvation. Ketosis is keeping us alive. Making us better to live the longest and healthiest possible. A totally natural process that wouldn't exist except in starvation if the unnatural sugar and unnatural carbs didn't exist.

6/06/2007 9:08 PM  
Blogger Science4u1959 said...

Bunnel Farm clearly has a point here. I agree that our bodies have no defense (are not designed to cope) with excessive carbs from starches and sugars. And indeed human metabolism does not know what to do with it other than storing it as fat, as well as not knowing how to get rid of it. Unless we adopt a low-carb dietary regimen, that is.

It's heart-warming and wonderful indeed to see the late great Dr Atkins vindicated like this again and again. The critics, the media and naysayers will of course do everything they can to ignore, misrepresent and distort these truths, but the facts remain the facts. Sometimes there is some justice in this world.

Great post, Jimmy, and you made my day!

6/07/2007 8:14 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

I guess that's why it was so suprising about Jimmy's announcement for Kimkins. He's been attacked enough and I will certainly not contribute to that. However, he's not just a regular dieter, just trying to find his way.

He understands the science. He understands the role of dietary fat and also the necessity of eating it and burning it. It stands to reason that if we use fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates, we certainly need to burn the fat instead of storing it. Cutting fat and carbs will certainly allow us to lose weight, but at some point, maintenance will be staring us right in the face and we'll need fat to fuel those workouts.

I appreciate Jimmy Moore because he challenged me (not directly) to read the Atkins book, which I did in 2 days flat! He spoke of many people who think they are doing Atkins or any plan for that matter, but haven't took the time to understand the science.

Atkins has built-in ways to handle carb creep such as going back to your highly individualized CCLL or even induction if necessary. It was disappointing to read that he hadn't tried those things before switching, that's all.

Of course, it's easy for me to say that because I haven't been 410 pounds before or lost 180. I lost 50 and all these studies keep confirming what Dr. Atkins knew to be true.

By the way, ChocoPerfection is just as it's name implies. Thanks Jimmy!


6/07/2007 12:20 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

THANKS for your comments, Charles! Actually my Kimkins experience is more about getting me back focused on the basics of Atkins than anything. Yes, it is a bit lower in fat than what I was eating on Atkins, but not that much different than my weight loss in 2004. I appreciate your response! Glad you LOVE ChocoPerfection, too!

6/07/2007 12:39 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

I hope this helps to vindicate the low-carb WOE. As you said, Dr. Maratos-Flier seems to be taking it in the direction of another unecessary drug foisted on the public, while Dr. Kliewer sees the further implications such as longevity, which other studies (and Dr's Rosedale and Atkins) have already noted from the reduction of insulin. I hope they are not making the subject more complicated than it is, just so they don't have to admit the simple effectiveness of carb and insulin reduction. This WOE immediately reverses all symptoms of metabolic syndrome, regardless of FGF21. No study will ever improve on Volek and Feinman's simple findings.

6/07/2007 1:07 PM  

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