Every person’s body chemistry is unique, but there are some overarching similarities and parallels that can be manipulated to encourage weight loss. A person with a high Body Mass Index (BMI) number where the majority comes from stored fat will seldom lose weight spontaneously. You can quickly calculate your BMI with this Calculator from the National Institutes of Health (nih.gov)
It is generally accepted that exercise only accounts for about 10-15% of weight loss for most people, and the most effective method is dietary control, accounting for 85-90% of weight loss. The problem is that weight loss can be a stubborn task when years of overeating have knocked our body chemistries out of kilter.
Many portions of our own chemistries, including Human Growth Factor (HGF), Insulin-like Growth Factor (IGF), carbohydrates, and Insulin itself, can lead to Insulin Resistance when they’re out of control. This puts people at risk for Type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and several other comorbidities. By putting them back into balance some weight loss can be achieved with far less stress or difficulty.
People’s expectations were grossly inflated by some bad science. It pushed HGH into the spotlight as a silver-bullet cure for obesity.
A 1990 study about the use of a synthetic HGH (injected) was published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). It seemed to show promising results such as nearly 9% muscle mass gain and 14% weight loss without any change in exercise or diet. No subsequent studies could replicate this result and the study was so abused for aiding online HGH sales that the NEJM denounced the article in 2003.
Similarly, injecting IGF, which does stimulate the creation of lean muscle mass, has many drawbacks. While lean muscle mass does burn more calories even when you are just sitting calmly, it will decrease without continuous exercise. Using IGF (especially outside the care of a doctor) can cause edema (swelling) in the extremities, headaches, joint pain, decreased blood sugar, other hormone dysfunctions, an enlarged heart, promote some types of cancer growth, and even acne. It is banned as a performance-enhancing drug (as is HGH) in most sports, including the Olympics.
During hard exercise HGH and IGF peak, and then persist for a short time post-exercise, but it is necessary to exercise to the point of fatigue to really achieve any noteworthy effect. During workouts, the person is quite literally damaging the muscles during exercise, and this is supposed to happen.
It is counterintuitive, but here is why: the body remodels the muscle tissue over time to make it bigger, stronger, and more resistant to that damage. That is why muscles get bigger. Similarly, if you never exercise, muscles will lose mass because the body doesn’t waste energy maintaining an unused system.
This is also part of the explanation as to why astronauts’ bones weaken when they spend a lot of time in orbit at the ISS. It’s a faster form of osteoporosis, as their bones shed phosphor and calcium they are not using for support against gravity. Depending on how long they are in orbit, it can take months or years to get it back once they return to Earth.
The Primary Cause of the Imbalance
Carbohydrates, which are the single largest contributor to obesity, allowed the powerful, expansive, and worldwide prevalence of human society. It’s true. 12,000 years ago, in the Fertile Crescent (Iraq, Iran, the Levant, and Turkey) full-on agriculture started. It also arose independently in Northern China, and parts of Central America. There is even evidence of it dating back to 23,000 years ago, but its use was sporadic and experimental in nature, used by fisher, hunter, and gatherer people.
Growing carbs like wild barley, oat, wheat, and teosinte (corn), made the food supply predictable in nature, so people could settle in one location, evolve leisure time, and build a stronger culture. Humanity owes its existence to easily obtained high-energy carbohydrate agriculture, despite the fact that carbs are an unnatural and unneeded foodstuff for humans.
We evolved to eat healthy fats and proteins, and our livers evolved to make the small amounts of carbohydrates that we actually need. From an evolutionary point of view, survival is the most important thing, and since carbs represent easily acquired energy, we evolved to crave these even more than our natural foods.
It would take a massive social movement to reduce our carb use, and that is not likely to happen in the foreseeable future. Instead, we need to check with our physicians and see how badly out-of-balance we might actually be, chemically speaking.
With the help of our doctors, there is an excellent chance that what we think currently regard as “permanent” fat could be shed by an entirely natural process as we come back into balance. When our bodies work as they should, and we don’t abuse carbohydrates, they can quickly normalize, shocking people who thought they would always be large.
HGH in injectable form is only available from a licensed physician with a prescription. It is generally given once per week and closely monitored.
Repeated studies show that powder and pill forms of HGH added to the diet do nothing at all, since they are fragile and easily digested in the gut. The FDA will not approve HGH for weight loss, not only because of the high monthly cost (>$1000), but because of long-term safety studies and low efficacy.
Lengthy HGH replacement therapy can result in significant fat loss and an increase in muscle mass, but it has the drawback of decreasing insulin sensitivity, and if insulin resistance is already present, it can exacerbate the condition.
There are strategies available to counter that stimulated insulin resistance response to HGH, including adding metformin, a drug therapy specifically designed to decrease sugar production by the liver. Metformin also increases sensitivity to insulin so the levels you have can accomplish more. As it does this, blood sugar levels begin to drop, too.
Alternatively, exogenous insulin itself can be added but is not recommended for non-diabetics (T1 or T2). Insulin’s function is to allow cells to absorb blood sugar, which if not used, is stored as fat. If your diet is rich in carbohydrates, it will add weight instead of decreasing it. As always, diet is a major contributing factor to the overall weight.
IGF (type 1) is made throughout the body, stimulated by the presence of HGH. It helps protect against cellular damage and helps the kidneys, heart, and immune system function well. The body may be capable of creating sufficient IGF in response to HGH therapy. Failing that, IGF therapy can be useful, too.
One of IGF’s most useful traits (according to an NIH-published study) is the ability to control insulin resistance. As diabetes progresses doctors and clinicians are in the habit of increasing the dose of insulin to remarkably high levels which can be unsustainable because insulin resistance increases in response to more insulin.
Instead, adding IGF to their care regimens would decrease that resistance, allowing the use of much less insulin. That, in turn, could make weight loss much easier to achieve. Again, however, this should be done under the guidance of a physician.
Mimetic substances mimic or emulate the effects of something else. Some mimetics can separate the glucose reduction function in insulin from its weight-gain function. Mouse models with insulin receptor sites in the brain can resist weight gain despite their diet when insulin is made available to their brains.
Insulin is a large molecule, however, and can only pass through the Blood Brain Barrier (BBB) with difficulty. Mimetic insulin molecules can be much smaller and have a significantly increased chance of reaching the brain’s receptor sites. If this works in humans as well as it does in the mouse models this could be an effective treatment for us. Further details are available in this study report.
In many studies of flies, worms, and mice, increased IGF levels led to a 50% shorter lifespan, and reduced levels of IGF enhanced lifespan by about 33%. It’s important to note that these studies are based on short-lived animals so more generations can be used and a large body of results can be obtained.
A human would not use either HGH or IGF for their entire lives, but extended use should be considered a significant risk. This is why it is important to work with a physician that understands the therapies and the consequences as well as the upside.
As previously mentioned, while these therapies do not cause cancer, IGF-1 can help certain cancers (breast, colorectal, lung, ovarian, and prostate) grow more efficiently because that is what it does with a regular tissue in the body, causing children to grow to become adults. In fact, as the IGF levels decrease with age, the cancer risk drops for the elderly, particularly post-menopausal women.
Levels of IGF beyond our body’s needs result in pathologies such as:
- Swelling of the eyes (retinal edema)
- Impaired glucose metabolism
- Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
- Reduced sexual function
- Severe muscle soreness
Overuse of HGH can result in Acromegaly, the fast growth of tissues and bones often leading to abnormally large hands and feet. This can occur at any age when HGH is misused. Additionally, this can shorten lifespan by about ten years, if untreated.
In smaller doses, HGH can cause cardiovascular problems as well as diabetes. And, since effective use requires injections, there is the danger of blood clots and dosing errors.
Your coach may be perfect, but you should be aware that some may only be interested in winning medals and championships; “that guy” selling supplements down in the gym is only interested in profit. Neither is particularly interested in your welfare compared to how they will personally benefit from you misusing chemistries you don’t fully understand.
With people like that, you shouldn’t ask yourself “What’s in it for me?” Instead, you should ask yourself “What’s in it for them?”
Obtaining a healthy weight is always a great idea, but you really need to consider the methodologies available to you. Strength training is fantastic; it releases chemicals in your brain that make you feel good all the time and allow you to cope with stress more easily. When you feel great, you treat yourself better and make better choices.
Still, the number one way to lose excess weight is through a proper diet. Carbs literally made human society possible; we wouldn’t be where we are without them. Now that we are mature as a race, however, it’s time to cut back on carbohydrates and embrace healthy fats and proteins while following the advice of our modern physicians.
A low-carb diet embraced as a lifestyle change can leave you feeling great for the rest of your (much longer) life!