Green Tea: Alternative Weight Loss Mechanisms

Green tea has been shown to cause weight loss in humans and animals. A number of biochemical mechanisms have been identified and these likely contribute to the ability of green tea to accelerate fat loss. For example, green tea contains caffeine, and caffeine has been evidenced to accelerate fat loss due to its ability to activate the central nervous system. Two other components of green tea have also been identified that may contribute to the fat loss observed in green tea drinkers, and these components are L-theanine and catechins, both of which work by unknown mechanisms. However, an often overlooked principle of drinking green tea is that it is not taken with milk or sugar. Therefore those that consume green tea in place of black tea are likely reducing their intake of either milk or sugar or both. This could result in a drink with no energy content associated with it (green tea) being substituted for a drink that is associated with an energy intake (black tea with milk or sugar), and this could contribute to the weight loss effects. 

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Intermittent Fasting: Improved Mood?

Intermittent fasting is the use of repeated cycles of fasting, whereby food is eliminated for varying lengths of time. One of the metabolic consequences of this is a significant reduction in inflammatory pathways. It has been speculated that this reduction in inflammation is the pivotal factor in the health effects of such diets. It is known that inflammatory pathways are activated in mood disorders such as anxiety and depression, and this is thought to relate to the downstream effects of stress hormones, which activate inflammatory pathways in the brain causing a change to brain chemistry. Animal models show that intermittent fasting may provide significant health effects particularly when combined with other nutritional strategies. For example in rats, intermittent fasting along with the Ayurvedic herbs Withania somnifera and Tinospora cordifolia conferred significant protection from the development of anxious behaviour following exposure to experimental stress, perhaps through a downregulation of systemic inflammation.  

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Singh, H., Kaur, T., Manchanda, S. and Kaur, G. 2017. Intermittent fasting combined with supplementation with Ayurvedic herbs reduces anxiety in middle aged female rats by anti-inflammatory pathways. Biogerontology. 18(4): 601-614
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Intermittent Fasting: Main Metabolic Effects

There are a number of forms of intermittent fasting, but the generally accepted definition is one which involves deliberate repeated cycles energy restriction for a defined period of time, ranging from hours to weeks. While some forms of fasting eliminate all food intake, other forms can be more selective on the types of foods they eliminate, although in general for fasting to occur, most forms of energy should be eliminated. The metabolic effects of intermittent fasting are generally accepted to centre on reductions to the levels of circulating insulin and blood glucose. This change is very likely responsible for the weight loss associated with intermittent fasting. Significant reductions in the levels of various circulating inflammatory markers are also often observed, and this may be responsible for many of the health benefits of intermittent fasting. Also present are changes to levels of leptin, adiponectin and circulating lipids but the degree of improvement is likely related to the degree of body fat loss and the length of the fast. 

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Patterson, R. E. and Sears, D. D. 2017. Metabolic effects of intermittent fasting. Annual Review of Nutrition. 37
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Is fasting Neuroprotective?

A number of therapeutic effects of energy restriction and fasting have been identified and these relate to a wide range of conditions, including mood disorders. The underlying mechanism for this appears to be a reduction in immune system activation and significant reduction in inflammatory processes. One way to explain this might relate to the reduction in oxidation of energy during energy restriction. The oxidation of energy results in the generation of cellular free radicals, and this requires control via antioxidant defences. As free radical numbers decline, free radical defences improve and the balance between oxidation and antioxidation favours the latter. One consequence of this is a significant reduction in cellular oxidative stress, which may reduce inflammatory pathways. As the brain is made up of mainly lipids it is very susceptible to oxidative stress. Energy restriction may therefore reduce the oxidative stress placed on brain tissue, and this may have positive effects on overall mood. 

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Maalouf, M. A., Rho, J. M. and Mattson, M. P. 2009. The neuroprotective properties of calorie restriction, the ketogenic diet, and ketone bodies. Brain Research Reviews. 59(2): 293
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Insulin Resistance and Depression

Insulin resistance causes widespread metabolic changes that lead to significant disease development, including mood disorders. Insulin resistance is an underlying factor in the development of diabetes and it is known that diabetic individuals are at a higher risk of developing mood disorders such as depression, compared to non-diabetic individuals. Studies have demonstrated a positive correlation between the development of insulin resistance and the development of depression but care must be taken when considering the cause and effect. It is known that insulin has a large number of functions in the brain and so it stands to reason that a dysfunction in the insulin system could trigger mental health problems. Alternatively, another factor related to both mental health and insulin resistance could be causative. One thing is clear, a healthy lifestyle, that includes a healthy diet, is able to protect from both depression and insulin resistance, giving a clue that poor diet could be the controlling factor. 

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RdB

Timonen, M., Laakso, M., Jokelainen, J., Rajala, U., Meyer-Rochow, V. B. and Keinänen-Kiukaanniemi, S. (2004). Insulin resistance and depression: cross sectional study. British Medical HJournal. 330(7481): 17-18
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Mood Elevation from Fasting?

Deliberate avoidance of food for prolonged periods are common throughout the world for health and religious reasons. Studies have investigated the effects of fasting on healthy humans and shown that there are certain health benefits to many types of fasting. A number of chronic diseases have been shown to improve with fasting, and in particular diseases associated with chronic pain including arthritis, respond well to fasting. A number of factors might be responsible for the pain relieving effects of fasting including the avoidance of allergens that are often triggers for inflammatory conditions. Increases in brain levels of opioids, serotonin and other neurotransmitters may also play a role as certain downstream effects of fasting, including a lowering of insulin and raising of ketone body production may both affect the brain. The mood elevating effects of fasting, particularly in chronic pain sufferers has been consistently reported and fasting may therefore significantly improve the quality of life in such individuals. 

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RdB

Michalsen, A. 2010. Prolonged Fasting as a Method of Mood Enhancement in Chronic Pain Syndromes: A Review of Clinical Evidence and Mechanisms. Current Pain and Headache Reports. 14(2): 80-87
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Intermittent Fasting: Anti-Inflammatory, Pro-Immunity Diet

Intermittent fasting describes the style of fasting where there is a repeated cycle of fasting, followed by non-fasting behaviour. The exact definition of intermittent fasting varies because the cycle length is not defined, but every person intermittently fasts to some degree because they cannot eat when they sleep. Breakfast is named because it is a meal that breaks the fast. Intermittent fasting is usually defined as a cycle of 1 day where for most of the day no food is consumed, followed by a period where all the food for the day is taken is a compressed and shorter period. Evidence suggests that this sort of intermittent fasting may have particular health effects including a reduction in inflammation and an increase in general immunity. The exact reasons for this are not known, but it is known that food results in the production of free radicals due to the natural oxidation of the energy. Extending the periods of no food consumption may  cause a reduction in the generation of free radicals and their pro-inflammatory effect. 

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Kacimi, S., Ref’at, A., Fararjeh, M. A., Bustanji, Y. K., Mohammad, M. K. and Salem, M. L. 2012. Intermittent fasting during Ramadan attenuates proinflammatory cytokines and immune cells in healthy subjects. Nutrition Research. 32(12): 947-955
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Ketosis: Mood Elevating Effects?

A ketogenic diet is one that eliminates food sources of carbohydrate, forcing the body to adapt to the changes by producing ketones. When ketone production is accelerated a state of ketosis exists, and the purpose of ketones are to facilitate energy production in tissues that may normally rely on carbohydrate sources for energy, particularly the brain. That the brain can use ketones as a source of energy in the absence of carbohydrates, may suggest that the change in fuel source could lead to changes in mental state. In fact, ketosis is associated with elevations in nood, which may suggest that ketones are able to modulate mood in a beneficial way, or that carbohydrate foods are associated with low mood. In some individuals, ketones provide a more stable and consistent source of energy for brain tissue, and this may explain the mood elevating effects of ketones experienced by some individuals. One possibility is that ketones reduce intracellular sodium concentrations, something known to cause mood stabilisation. 

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RdB

El-Mallakh, R. S. and Paskitti, M. E. 2001. The ketogenic diet may have mood-stabilizing properties. Medical Hypotheses. 57(6): 724-726
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Cortisol and The Metabolic Syndrome

The metabolic syndrome is a complex disorder characterised by insulin resistance. A number of physical and mental changes are known to occur with development of the disorder including obesity, mood depression, lethargy, cardiovascular deterioration and overeating. One association that has been consistently shown with the metabolic disorder is the presence of inflammation and elevated cortisol. Both inflammation and cortisol are known contributory factors in the development of mood disorders such as anxiety and depression, and so it could be that these factors are partly responsible for the mood depression in those with metabolic syndrome. The central factor that links low mood, high cortisol levels, inflammation and the metabolic syndrome is poor diet. It could be therefore that those that eat the Western diet are simply causing wide scale deterioration of their bodies through the use of poor quality foods, and mood depression is one of a number of symptoms that result from this abuse. 

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RdB

Almadi, T., Cathers, I. and Chow, C. M. 2013. Associations among work‐related stress, cortisol, inflammation, and metabolic syndrome. Psychophysiology. 50(9): 821-830
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Magnolia and Phellodendron: Anti-Stress Herbs

Magnolia (Magnolia officinalis) bark contains an active ingredient called honokiol which may possess anxiolytic effects. Phellodendron (Phellodendron amurense) bark contains another phytochemical called berberine that may also possess anxiolytic effects. Researchers have investigated the effects of magnolia and phellodendron for their ability to alter the mood state of healthy humans. In one study researchers administered a combination of magnolia and phellodendron (500 mg per day, containing 1.5% honokiol and 0.1% berberine) to a group of athletes for 4 weeks. The results of the study showed that the supplement was significantly able to reduce stress (−11%), tension (−13%), depression (−20%), anger (−42%), fatigue (−31%), and confusion (−27%) while at the same time increase mood (+11%) and vigor (+18%). Magnolia and phellodendron may therefore be useful herbal treatments for mildly stressed individuals and may have a particular application to athletes undergoing training.  

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RdB

Talbott, S. M., Talbott, J. A. and Pugh, M. 2013. Effect of Magnolia officinalis and Phellodendron amurense (Relora®) on cortisol and psychological mood state in moderately stressed subjects. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 10(1): 37
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