Tag Archives: hormones

The Paleo Diet Skinny on Fat: White Fat Vs Brown Fat

Fat gets a bad rap. Our societal standards for attractiveness promotes lean body types, leading to eating disorders and body image disturbances for men and women1 alike, leading most people to prefer to have as little body fat as possible.2 Although we know obesity is a huge risk factor for numerous diseases and conditions,3 there’s more to adipose tissue than meets than eye. In fact, body fat isn’t the biggest villain if we maintain healthy levels and stimulate the best kind of it.

Adipose tissue is critical to our survival, and a body without any body fat could lead to decreased fecundity and premature death. 4 Fat has a critical evolutionary function to store calories safely and abundantly so the energy can be used when food is scarce. Adipose tissue is also an insulator to our internal organs and provides cushioning to protect us from the environment, such as having a nice plush landing pad when we fall. Scientists have discovered that stored fat does more than sit around waiting to be used, it also metabolically active – that’s right fat can burn calories. 5

Scientists classify adipose tissue as an endocrine organ6 that releases over 20 different hormones and bioactive substances that control metabolism. For example, adipose tissue produces one form of estrogen, as well as leptin, a hormone that helps regulate appetite and hunger. It also contains receptors for insulin, growth hormone, adrenaline, and cortisol.7 The dysregulation of the bioactive substances, called adipocytokines, contributes directly to obesity-related diseases, such as atherosclerosis and inflammatory conditions. 8

There are two distinct types of adipose tissue found within the body, with completely different functions from one another. White fat, which is the one we normally want to reduce to improve our appearance, and brown fat, which is the beneficial one (we probably didn’t even know about) that we want to create more of.  Brown fat is composed of several small lipid droplets, compared to the white fat’s single lipid droplet, and it contains a large number of iron-containing mitochondria and tiny blood vessels,9 combining to give this fat its brownish color.10 These mitochondria consume fat and glucose11 to produce heat to generate warmth for the body as needed, while also increasing the metabolism12 by oxidizing white fat, and burning calories, without producing much ATP. 13 This activity is similar to how muscle functions compared to that of white fat.

Scientists discovered that lean people tend to have more brown fat than obese people and they are investigating how to increase a person’s brown fat or stimulate it to be more active.  In addition to the benefit of burning white fat, people with higher levels of brown adipose tissue demonstrate an inverse relationship with developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.14 When people overeat and under-exercise, they not only increase their total amount of white fat into unhealthy levels, but also it is distributed in a way to leads to metabolic15 and inflammatory diseases.16 Further, this behavior results in brown fat becoming dysfunctional and in turn unable to burn calories. Recent studies on brown adipose tissue have shown that a defect and dysregulation in this tissue is one probable cause of obesity.17

So, how do you boost brown fat generation? Focus on the pillars of your Paleo lifestyle. Regular exercise, adequate high-quality sleep, and consistent exposure to cold temperatures, such as exercising outdoors in cold weather or keeping the heat turned down in your home, have all been shown to contribute to healthy functioning and increased levels of brown fat, meanwhile keeping you white fat in check.18



[1] Thompson, J. Kevin, and Eric Stice. “Thin-ideal internalization: Mounting evidence for a new risk factor for body-image disturbance and eating pathology.” Current directions in psychological science 10.5 (2001): 181-183.

[2] Hellmich, Nanci. “Do thin models warp girls’ body image.” USA Today 26 (2006).

[3] Eckel, Robert H., and Ronald M. Krauss. “American Heart Association call to action: obesity as a major risk factor for coronary heart disease.” Circulation97.21 (1998): 2099-2100.

[4] Moitra, Jaideep, et al. “Life without white fat: a transgenic mouse.” Genes & development 12.20 (1998): 3168-3181.

[5] Addy, Carol, et al. “The acyclic CB1R inverse agonist taranabant mediates weight loss by increasing energy expenditure and decreasing caloric intake.”Cell metabolism 7.1 (2008): 68-78.

[6] Kershaw, Erin E., and Jeffrey S. Flier. “Adipose tissue as an endocrine organ.”The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 89.6 (2004): 2548-2556.

[7] Kershaw, Erin E., and Jeffrey S. Flier. “Adipose tissue as an endocrine organ.”The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 89.6 (2004): 2548-2556.

[8] Rosenow, Anja, et al. “Identification of novel human adipocyte secreted proteins by using SGBS cells.” Journal of proteome research 9.10 (2010): 5389-5401.

[9] Bartelt, Alexander, et al. “Brown adipose tissue activity controls triglyceride clearance.” Nature medicine 17.2 (2011): 200-205.

[10] Flatmark, Torgeir, Frank J. Ruzicka, and Helmut Beinert. “The pattern of iron—sulfur centers in brown adipose tissue mitochondria: Preponderance of ETF dehydrogenase and invariance with the thermogenic state.” FEBS letters 63.1 (1976): 51-55.

[11] Ouellet, Véronique, et al. “Brown adipose tissue oxidative metabolism contributes to energy expenditure during acute cold exposure in humans.” The Journal of clinical investigation 122.2 (2012): 545.

[12] Seale, Patrick, et al. “PRDM16 controls a brown fat/skeletal muscle switch.”Nature 454.7207 (2008): 961-967.

[13] Ouellet, Véronique, et al. “Brown adipose tissue oxidative metabolism contributes to energy expenditure during acute cold exposure in humans.” The Journal of clinical investigation 122.2 (2012): 545.

[14] Yilmaz, Y., et al. “Association between the presence of brown adipose tissue and non‐alcoholic fatty liver disease in adult humans.” Alimentary pharmacology & therapeutics 34.3 (2011): 318-323.

[15] Jensen, Michael D. “Role of body fat distribution and the metabolic complications of obesity.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism93.11_supplement_1 (2008): s57-s63.

[16] Lovejoy, Jennifer C., Steven R. Smith, and Jennifer C. Rood. “Comparison of Regional Fat Distribution and Health Risk Factors in Middle‐Aged White and African American Women: The Healthy Transitions Study.” Obesity research9.1 (2001): 10-16.

[17] Himms-Hagen, Jean. “Obesity may be due to a malfunctioning of brown fat.”Canadian Medical Association Journal 121.10 (1979): 1361.

[18] Ouellet, Véronique, et al. “Brown adipose tissue oxidative metabolism contributes to energy expenditure during acute cold exposure in humans.” The Journal of clinical investigation 122.2 (2012): 545.


Endocrinology: Dietary Intake and Hormones

Many individuals are aware of the vast health benefits when they modify their diet and adopt Paleo.1, 2, 3, 4 However, much of that awareness stems from how we feel overall, not specific recognition of a body process or system.5, 6, 7, 8 However, the hormones secreted by our endocrine system has vast importance to our overall physical health, mental health, and well being.9, 10 Pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Robert Lustig has made quite a splash in the nutrition world, assuming a notable role in battling the current pandemic of obesity and disease, which we all face.11, 12 My hope is more endocrinologists step up to the plate.

Endocrinology: Dietary Intake and Hormones

Endocrinology: Dietary Intake and Hormones

Gao, Y., et al. (2014), Hormones and diet, but not body weight, control hypothalamic microglial activity. Glia, 62: 17–25. doi: 10.1002/glia.22580

Endocrinology: Dietary Intake and Hormones

Coppari R, Ichinose M, Lee CE, et al. The hypothalamic arcuate nucleus: a key site for mediating leptin’s effects on glucose homeostasis and locomotor activity. Cell Metab. 2005;1(1):63-72.

If you look to the scientific literature, studies comparing hormonal responses to different dietary approaches are abundant.13, 14, 15 One study found that vegans had higher testosterone levels than vegetarians and meat-eaters, but this was offset by higher sex hormone binding globulin. In the same study, there were no differences between diet groups in free testosterone, androstanediol glucuronide or luteinizing hormone.16 Another study found a decrease in dietary fat content and an increase in the degree of unsaturation of fatty acids reduces the serum concentrations of androstenedione, testosterone and free testosterone among male participants.17 Small dietary considerations like substituting varying amounts of saturated fats to unsaturated fats, can have tremendous hormonal results.18, 19, 20

Other researchers have found that diet type, adipokines, and gut signals, affect the presence and activity levels of hypothalamic microglia in obesity. Body weight, however, did not play a role.21 This is important, because the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus plays a key role in sensing metabolic feedback and regulating energy homeostasis.22 The microglia have been found to be higher in number and more active in mice with high–fat diet induced obesity. This should make clear just how important hormonal response to diet can be. For better or worse, your hormones run your life. If they’re not happy and functioning well, you’re not happy and functioning well.

In fact, even scientists are somewhat baffled, as to the overall complexity and intricacies of the endocrine system, and, more specifically, how diet can affect it.23, 24, 25, 26 One recent study summed it up nicely:

“Research continues to unravel the pathways and mechanisms underlying the nutrient-induced and diet-induced regulation of energy intake, as well as the changes, both peripherally and in the central nervous system, brought about by the consumption of high-fat, energy-dense diets. Much further work is required to translate this knowledge into novel, and effective, approaches for the management and treatment of obesity and associated metabolic disorders.”27

It’s important to note here that, almost always, researchers refer to the typical Western diet which is actually high fat and high sugar, as simply ‘high fat.’28 This is extremely frustrating trend from a research point of view, as it clouds the public’s judgment.

Endocrinology: Dietary Intake and Hormones

Kuo LE, Chronic stress, combined with a high-fat/high-sugar diet, shifts sympathetic signaling toward neuropeptide Y and leads to obesity and the metabolic syndrome. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2008;1148:232-7.

Endocrinology: Dietary Intake and Hormones

So, Alexander, and Bernard Thorens. “Uric Acid Transport and Disease.” The Journal of Clinical Investigation 120.6 (2010): 1791–1799. PMC. Web. 12 Dec. 2014.

Just a few months ago, researchers found that uric acid may play a direct, causative role in the development of metabolic syndrome.29  The metabolic syndrome may be the biggest health problem for the world at large.30, 31 Since GLUT9, a glucose transporter, is part of the issue with uric acid, we must think about how this can affect our hormones, and how, by limiting glucose in the diet, we can help to better control our hormones.32 Thus, lowering our risk for disease.

Endocrinology: Dietary Intake and Hormones

Washington University in St. Louis. “New culprit identified in metabolic syndrome.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 August 2014.

Endocrinology: Dietary Intake and Hormones

So, Alexander, and Bernard Thorens. “Uric Acid Transport and Disease.” The Journal of Clinical Investigation 120.6 (2010): 1791–1799. PMC. Web. 12 Dec. 2014.

I know it may seem like a complex problem, but as scientific research progresses, the findings clearly show the benefits of a low stress, healthy, nutrient-rich and sleep filled, lifestyle.33, 34 This is shown in a variety of fields of research, not just in the scope of endocrinology. Though not all of the research in all fields has been conducted, no doubt the Paleo Diet and lifestyle is likely to come out on top.

Other research has shown a possible role of diet leading to alterations in serum testosterone and free testosterone during prolonged strength training. They concluded that diets with insufficient fat and/or excessive protein may compromise the anabolic hormonal environment.35 For men looking to keep their body healthy and muscular, especially over the course of a lifetime, this is vital information, and they should consider a Paleo Diet where proteins and fats are balanced.

Another interesting study showed increased levels of leptin, when subjects consumed most of their carbohydrates at dinner. This simple change shows how humans can feel more full, and thus, more easily stick to a diet and maintain weight loss, by manipulating your hormones through diet.36

If the issue of hormones and dietary intake seems complex, unclear, and confusing – you are correct. What is known, and clear in the scientific literature, is that eating whole, real foods, in healthy concentrations, and getting lots of sleep and limiting stress – is beneficial for your entire endocrine system. A Paleo Diet and lifestyle is the safest and easiest way to control your hormones, and improve your quality of life.


[1] Loncarević-vasiljković N, Pesić V, Tanić N, et al. Changes in markers of neuronal and glial plasticity after cortical injury induced by food restriction. Exp Neurol. 2009;220(1):198-206.

[2] Schoffen JP, Santi rampazzo AP, Cirilo CP, et al. Food restriction enhances oxidative status in aging rats with neuroprotective effects on myenteric neuron populations in the proximal colon. Exp Gerontol. 2014;51:54-64.

[3] Smulders TV, Shiflett MW, Sperling AJ, Devoogd TJ. Seasonal changes in neuron numbers in the hippocampal formation of a food-hoarding bird: the black-capped chickadee. J Neurobiol. 2000;44(4):414-22.

[4] Quercia S, Candela M, Giuliani C, et al. From lifetime to evolution: timescales of human gut microbiota adaptation. Front Microbiol. 2014;5:587.

[5] David LA, Maurice CF, Carmody RN, et al. Diet rapidly and reproducibly alters the human gut microbiome. Nature. 2014;505(7484):559-63.

[6] Weimer PJ, Waghorn GC, Odt CL, Mertens DR. Effect of diet on populations of three species of ruminal cellulolytic bacteria in lactating dairy cows. J Dairy Sci. 1999;82(1):122-34.

[7] Barkeling B, Linné Y, Lindroos AK, Birkhed D, Rooth P, Rössner S. Intake of sweet foods and counts of cariogenic microorganisms in relation to body mass index and psychometric variables in women. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2002;26(9):1239-44.

[8] Barella LF, Miranda RA, Franco CC, et al. Vagus nerve partially contributes to metabolic syndrome in high-fat diet fed young and adult rats. Exp Physiol. 2014;

[9] Keizer HA, Kuipers H, De haan J, Beckers E, Habets L. Multiple hormonal responses to physical exercise in eumenorrheic trained and untrained women. Int J Sports Med. 1987;8 Suppl 3:139-50.

[10] Available at: //www.psychologytoday.com/blog/attention-please/201310/hormone-imbalance-not-bipolar-disorder. Accessed December 1, 2014.

[11] Lustig RH. Fructose: it’s “alcohol without the buzz”. Adv Nutr. 2013;4(2):226-35.

[12] Swinburn BA, Sacks G, Hall KD, et al. The global obesity pandemic: shaped by global drivers and local environments. Lancet. 2011;378(9793):804-14.

[13] Gagnon J, Baggio LL, Drucker DJ, Brubaker PL. Ghrelin is a Novel Regulator of Glucagon-like Peptide-1 Secretion. Diabetes. 2014;

[14] Galland L. The Gut Microbiome and the Brain. J Med Food. 2014;


[16] Allen NE, Appleby PN, Davey GK, Key TJ. Hormones and diet: low insulin-like growth factor-I but normal bioavailable androgens in vegan men. Br J Cancer. 2000;83(1):95-7.

[17] Hämäläinen E, Adlercreutz H, Puska P, Pietinen P. Diet and serum sex hormones in healthy men. J Steroid Biochem. 1984;20(1):459-64.

[18] Mul JD, Begg DP, Barrera JG, et al. High-fat diet changes the temporal profile of GLP-1 receptor-mediated hypophagia in rats. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2013;305(1):R68-77.

[19] Massimino SP, Mcburney MI, Field CJ, et al. Fermentable dietary fiber increases GLP-1 secretion and improves glucose homeostasis despite increased intestinal glucose transport capacity in healthy dogs. J Nutr. 1998;128(10):1786-93.

[20] Prieto PG, Cancelas J, Villanueva-peñacarrillo ML, Valverde I, Malaisse WJ. Effects of an olive oil-enriched diet on plasma GLP-1 concentration and intestinal content, plasma insulin concentration, and glucose tolerance in normal rats. Endocrine. 2005;26(2):107-15.

[21] Gao Y, Ottaway N, Schriever SC, et al. Hormones and diet, but not body weight, control hypothalamic microglial activity. Glia. 2014;62(1):17-25.

[22] Coppari R, Ichinose M, Lee CE, et al. The hypothalamic arcuate nucleus: a key site for mediating leptin’s effects on glucose homeostasis and locomotor activity. Cell Metab. 2005;1(1):63-72.

[23] Myers MG, Leibel RL, Seeley RJ, Schwartz MW. Obesity and leptin resistance: distinguishing cause from effect. Trends Endocrinol Metab. 2010;21(11):643-51.

[24] Manninen AH. Metabolic effects of the very-low-carbohydrate diets: misunderstood “villains” of human metabolism. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2004;1(2):7-11.

[25] Betts JA, Richardson JD, Chowdhury EA, Holman GD, Tsintzas K, Thompson D. The causal role of breakfast in energy balance and health: a randomized controlled trial in lean adults. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014;100(2):539-547.

[26] Barrett JR. The science of soy: what do we really know?. Environ Health Perspect. 2006;114(6):A352-8.

[27] Feinle-bisset C. Modulation of hunger and satiety: hormones and diet. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2014;17(5):458-64.

[28] Kuo LE, Czarnecka M, Kitlinska JB, Tilan JU, Kvetnanský R, Zukowska Z. Chronic stress, combined with a high-fat/high-sugar diet, shifts sympathetic signaling toward neuropeptide Y and leads to obesity and the metabolic syndrome. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2008;1148:232-7.

[29] Debosch BJ, Kluth O, Fujiwara H, Schürmann A, Moley K. Early-onset metabolic syndrome in mice lacking the intestinal uric acid transporter SLC2A9. Nat Commun. 2014;5:4642.

[30] Lemieux MJ, Aljawadi A, Moustaid-moussa N. Nutrimetabolomics. Adv Nutr. 2014;5(6):792-4.

[31] Agrawal R, Gomez-pinilla F. ‘Metabolic syndrome’ in the brain: deficiency in omega-3 fatty acid exacerbates dysfunctions in insulin receptor signalling and cognition. J Physiol (Lond). 2012;590(Pt 10):2485-99.

[32] So A, Thorens B. Uric acid transport and disease. J Clin Invest. 2010;120(6):1791-9.

[33] Klonoff DC. The beneficial effects of a Paleolithic diet on type 2 diabetes and other risk factors for cardiovascular disease. J Diabetes Sci Technol. 2009;3(6):1229-32.

[34] Rupp TL, Wesensten NJ, Bliese PD, Balkin TJ. Banking sleep: realization of benefits during subsequent sleep restriction and recovery. Sleep. 2009;32(3):311-21.

[35] Sallinen J, Pakarinen A, Ahtiainen J, Kraemer WJ, Volek JS, Häkkinen K. Relationship between diet and serum anabolic hormone responses to heavy-resistance exercise in men. Int J Sports Med. 2004;25(8):627-33.

[36] Sofer S, Eliraz A, Kaplan S, et al. Greater weight loss and hormonal changes after 6 months diet with carbohydrates eaten mostly at dinner. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2011;19(10):2006-14.

Paleo and Breast Cancer Prevention: Is There a Link?

It’s no surprise that eating a diet rich in fresh vegetables, lean meats, wild fish and natural fats, and getting regular exercise is a healthier approach and will lend better odds to your longevity than what has, unfortunately, become the Standard American Approach.

It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and you might wonder if eating Paleo can prevent something as widespread as this disease.

Sometimes we need to read between the lines and set the word ‘Paleo’ aside for a moment. Return to the basics, precisely what “True Paleo” is all about.

So, rather than trying to find studies that prove “Paleo prevents breast cancer,” we can discover fact simply by referring to the natural foods that are the essence of the approach.

For example, Dr. Kristi Funk, a board-certified surgical breast specialist and founder of the Pink Lotus Breast Center discusses the ‘superfoods’ that may help prevent cancer as well as help patients while undergoing treatment in the Ultimate Breast Cancer Prevention Guide:

  1. Three cups of green tea a day can prevent breast cancer by as much as 50% because of its high EGCG antioxidant content. Squeeze a little lemon into your cup and increase the antioxidant power of your tea.
  1. Garlic is a good immunity booster that also has anti-inflammatory properties.
  1. Olive oil, borage oils and flaxseed oil contain monounsaturated fat, which can help suppress breast cancer.
  1. Turmeric helps decrease estrogen. As little as one teaspoon a day has been shown to reduce tumor growth. Get your daily dose by mixing it into salad dressings, rice or vegetable dishes.
  1. Cruciferous vegetables, such as kale, bok choy and Swiss chard bind estrogen in your GI tract and reduce tumor stimulation. They also detoxify the liver, which helps reduce the toxins flowing through your body that can irritate cells and turn them into early cancers.
  1. Seaweed/Kelp are high in iodine, this is another estrogen reducer.
  1. Vitamin D (2000 IU) Calcium-rich foods, such as sardines, salmon, milk and cheese are also highly recommended. Or, 15-20 minutes of sunshine every day can help every day can help you in getting your daily dose of Vitamin D, which can prevent tumor metastasis, reduce cancer cells and aid estrogen inhibitors.

In summary, Dr. Funk said, “All of these combined can decrease your breast cancer risk by up to 50%.”

Notice anything interesting about all the bullet points?

They’re all food. Real, fresh, unadulterated food that also happen to be Paleo-friendly.

We can also refer to The Paleo Diet, in which Dr. Cordain points out that grain and starch-based diets, which are the antithesis of a Paleo approach, may elevate the risk of breast cancer as they “elevate insulin, increases IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor one, a potent hormone in all tissues that regulates growth), lowers IGFBP-3 (insulin-like growth factor binding protein three) which causes the body to become less sensitive to one of its natural signals which limits growth.”1

Sadly, all those confusing messages in the media that ‘meat causes cancer’ or that we should ‘rely on a model such as the MyPlate template and be sure to include whole grains in our regular regime’ are just that – confusing messages that get easily taken out of context and may end up increasing your risk of becoming sick, despite the best of intentions.

So is Paleo the way to go?
I believe so.

Dr. Cordain sums it up best. “It’s almost certain that no single dietary element is responsible for all cancers, but with the low-glycemic Paleo Diet, high in lean protein and health promoting fruits and veggies, your risk of developing many types of cancers may be very much reduced.”2

It’s hard to imagine not being the healthiest you could potentially be when you’ve armed yourself with all the goodness of an eating plan based on those local, fresh, seasonal veggies, wild proteins and good fats, with a bit of those ‘superfoods’ thrown in for balance.

Collectively, they’ll all serve to create a strong immune system, balanced blood sugar levels, and a higher likelihood that you can remain cancer free.

I’ll leave you with a testimonial and let you make the call for yourself.

“Dear Paleo Diet Team,

I am a breast cancer survivor. I was first diagnosed with breast cancer on May 25, 2001: T1, Node Negative, Her2 positive and nuclear grade 3. I had a lumpectomy, aggressive chemotherapy and radiation. On March 26, 2004 my breast cancer returned to my L-1 disk in my spine. I had 6 months of weekly chemotherapy and radiation. By December 15, 2004 I was declared in remission.

Herceptin was part of the chemo protocol that I had received in 2004 and have been receiving it every three weeks since the beginning of January 2005. Tumor marker tests are also conducted every other month. Unfortunately, my tumor markers started rising and by the end of May tests the upward trend was disturbing.

I share this news with my pharmacist who is also a certified nutritionist on May 28th. He recommended that I immediately eliminate sugar and grains from my diet. I found your book, The Paleo Diet, and started to eliminate sugar, grains and dairy from my diet that day.

The results have been astonishing to say the least. On May 24, 2005 my CA 27 29 marker was 43 and as of October 24, 2005 is 24. My CA 15 3 marker was 28.6 on May 24, 2005 and is now 22.9. I am 100% convinced that it is a result of being a very compliant follower of the Paleo Diet. Cancer likes sugar. Sugar is not my friend and is an enemy to my health.

I am very thankful to a very astute and pharmacist/ certified nutritionist who is on top of the current diets and the effects on one’s health. We are what we eat. I do not miss any of the sweets that I craved so and love the fact that I have finally lost the 25 chemo/radiation weight that I could not lose no matter how much exercise or dieting I did since 2002. Fresh fruits, fresh vegetables and lean meats and fish are the mainstay of my current good health.

I continue to emphasize to my incredible team of physicians at Duke that the wonderful lower tumor marker results are a result of my new diet. Thank you for your book and I will continue to spread the message to my support group and other women I meet who have breast cancer. Mind, body and soul-keeping each healthy is essential to survive this terrible disease. The diet recommended to me on May 28, 2005 empowered me to continue doing everything possible to win this battle.




1. The Paleo Diet, by Dr. Loren Cordain (Wiley & Sons, 2002) pp 78-79

2. The Paleo Diet, by Dr. Loren Cordain (Wiley & Sons, 2002) p 80

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