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Eating Healthy and Not Losing Weight? These 5 Surprising Factors May be Preventing Your Weight Loss
If you are eating healthy and exercising regularly, you may be frustrated that the number on the scale isn't going down. However, there is more to the story than simple calorie intake. Take a look at some of the most surprising causes of weight gain below.
Studies show that obesity is on the rise in the United States. More adults and even children are heavier than ever before. In fact, data from the Centers for Disease Control shows that the obesity rate has doubled for children and adults, and quadrupled for teens. The number of obese adults is around 30 percent, the number of obese children is around 18 percent, and the number of obese teens is around 21 percent.
A recent health report by investigative reporter Martha Rosenberg stated that between 1960 and 2000, the weight of the average adult American increased by 24 pounds. Although the increased diet of processed foods largely contributes to this increase in weight, there may also be other causes, including hidden factors that are slowing down your thyroid. Rosenberg found several surprising science-based reasons for why today’s children and adults weigh more than ever.
Find out why below.
Antibiotics are effective at destroying bacteria, but scientific studies have found that when antibiotics kill bad bacteria, they also kill beneficial bacteria. Recent studies have found an even more surprising link between antibiotic use and weight gain. An article published in March 2014 in The New York Times published the result of several dubious studies conducted on humans and animals during the early years of antibiotic use.
In the 1940s, the article reported, some farmers fed their animals antibiotics specifically so that they would gain weight and produce more meat. In the 1950s, several scientists conducted unethical experiments on special needs children in Guatemala. The children fed antibiotics gained about 6.5 pounds per year versus the control group who gained just under 2 pounds a year.
In the 1970s, an antibiotic test was carried out on several hundred U.S. Navy recruits. The men were given an antibiotic supplement every day for 7 weeks. The men who took the antibiotics gained significantly more weight than the control group.
In 2011, a study from Denmark published in the Journal of Obesity examined the weight gain of 28,000 infants below the age of 6 months who were given antibiotics versus infants who did not receive antibiotics before 6 months of age. The infants who received antibiotics were more likely to be overweight at age 7 than children who had not received antibiotics. This weight gain had nothing to do with the weight of the parents, the researchers found.
According to numerous animal studies, mice fed doses of antibiotics similar to the range of what the average American child would receive gained more weight and had lower T-cell levels. T-cells regulate the body’s immune response. Other studies have linked low t-cells to an increase in weight gain.
Antibiotic researchers report that many children receive up to 20 doses of antibiotics during childhood. However, even children who do not take antibiotics for medicine are still exposed to antibiotics fed to animals. Data from the Food and Drug Administration states that about 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States are given to animals. Not all antibiotic use is bad, and antibiotics can be extremely beneficial for killing harmful bacteria in the body.
However, many doctors will prescribe antibiotics for viral infections and antibiotics will do nothing to destroy viruses. Taking antibiotics when not necessary will destroy the balance of bacterial in the stomach and intestines that are vital for regulating the immune system.
Studies on bacteria have found that the right balance of bacteria in the intestines can help prevent a variety of diseases including cancer and obesity. According to the studies, individuals who are obese have about 20 percent more of the bacteria firmicutes and 90 percent less of the bacteria bacteroidetes. Firmicutes are a bacteria that break down sugar and turn them into fat. A higher concentration of bacteroidetes may counteract some of the fat-storing properties of the firmicutes bacteria.
Artificial sweeteners are chemicals adapted to taste sweet without offering any calories along with the sweetness. These sweeteners were designed to help people “cheat” on diets so that they could lose weight while still enjoying sweet foods. However, recent studies indicate that artificial sweeteners may hurt more than they help. According to numerous studies, artificial sweeteners stimulate fat storage, increase appetite, and may make the person consuming the fake sugar crave more carbs and sugar.
A 2011 study conducted by the University of Texas Health Science examined 474 people who drank two or more artificially sweetened beverages per day. The individuals who consumed the artificial sweetener gained 5 times as much weight as the individuals drinking beverages sweetened with regular sugar. Several studies have shown that artificial sweeteners disrupt the thyroid and slow the metabolism. The three most common sweeteners, acesulfame potassium and aspartame, have been shown to slow metabolic function in numerous studies.
Another side effect of chemical sweeteners is that they train people to crave real sweets because the body recognizes that the artificial sweeteners do not contain the ingredients the body is looking for (a fast source of energy).
In 2010, a review of studies on artificial sweeteners published in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine found that overall, artificial sweetener use promoted weight gain. The review indicated that the rise in artificial sweetener use may be one reason behind the increases in weight gain. The review authors stated, “Several large scale prospective cohort studies found positive correlation between artificial sweetener use and weight gain.”
An endocrine disruptor is a chemical that mimics sex hormones (commonly estrogen) and can cause hormonal imbalances. Commonly, these disruptors are found in plastic products. Bisphenol-A (BPA), PCBs, triclosan, phthalates, fire retardants, and pesticides are common sources of endocrine disruption. Not only do these ingredients interfere with sexual health, but they are also linked with a rise in other health problems including diabetes and obesity.
A study from 2003, published in the journal Toxicological Sciences, indicated that a higher presence of endocrine disruptors during fetal development were more likely to lead to the weight gain of the babies when they reached adulthood. According to the study authors, “the current epidemic in obesity cannot be explained solely by alterations in food intake and/or decrease in exercise.” Just like antibiotics, some of these endocrine disruptors are used to increase weight in animals.
Pesticides used on produce may also cause weight gain. A common pesticide, glyphosate, can also contribute to weight gain by destroying healthy gut bacteria. A 2013 study published in the journal Entropy found that glyphosate disrupts the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut and allows pathogens to overtake the intestines. It may also increase the damaging effects of other chemicals and toxins in the body.
Because farmers make more money the more an animal weighs, a lot of farmers offer weight-gaining ingredients to their animals’ food. The weight-gain drug called Ractopamine is one of the worst culprits, according to studies.
One study of particular note, conducted in Canada in the 1990s, found that ractopamine caused elevated heart rates, rapid heartbeat, birth defects, and other adverse symptoms in monkeys. Ractopamine is banned in many other countries, including the European Union, China, and Russia. These countries refuse to purchase meat from the United States due to the use of ractopamine. Data from the FDA shows that around 80 percent of pigs, 30 percent of cattle, and some turkeys in the United States are fed ractopamine.
Other European countries have also banned a variety of other growth hormones used in the United States, including melengestrol, zeranol, and trenbolone acetate. These hormones obviously cause weight gain, but may also cause birth defects, damage reproductive function, and encourage the growth of tumors.
Certain ingredients commonly consumed in the United States are also linked with lowering the metabolism and damaging thyroid function. Both endocrine-disruptors and growth hormones slow the thyroid. Additionally, the thyroid is highly sensitive to inflammation, which is caused by many common food ingredients like plant-based oils, soy, gluten, and junk food. Even fluoride, commonly added to water in the United States, has been linked with a sluggish thyroid. In fact, studies show that in the past, fluoride was used to treat overactive thyroids during the 1930s.
The data above shows that there are many factors that contribute to a healthy weight. In general, if you have a thyroid that is out of balance, then you will have trouble losing weight no matter how healthy of a lifestyle you live. Certain diet changes can influence the health of your thyroid (such as eliminating junk food and inflaming foods), but until the other causes of thyroid disruption and weight gain are addressed, you will likely be unable to see the results that you desire.
It is more important to focus on the quality and health of food rather than a simple calorie number. Take a look below at a few ways you can implement to avoid the sneaky causes of weight gain and improve your thyroid health once and for all.
If you try to avoid all “bad” foods, then you will probably give up in frustration after just a few weeks. The key to maintaining a healthy diet is to focus on the foods that you can eat and realizing that few foods are actually bad when eaten in the correct amount. A balance of healthy ingredients combined with anti-inflammatory foods will go a long way toward maintaining a healthy weight.
Chemicals and artificial hormones are some of the worst offenders for weight gain and thyroid suppression. Cutting back on the amount of these chemicals in your life will benefit any weight loss efforts. Avoiding chemicals is not always easy, but here are a few simple tips to try:
Because it is impossible to remove all sources of unhealthy ingredients from diet and from the products used in our home, supplementing can be a beneficial way to counteract some of the dangers presented by the modern lifestyle. Some essential supplements for thyroid health include:
Probiotics: Modern food and water contain traces of antibiotics even if you do not take antibiotics on a regular basis. Eating a probiotic regularly can help keep the right balance in the intestines and prevent weight gain related to bacterial overgrowth. You can also eat fermented foods prepared at home for an additional probiotic boost.
B Vitamins: The proper intake of B vitamins is essential for maximum thyroid function. According to Thyroid UK, B vitamins are useful in promoting healthy thyroid function and are necessary to absorb other thyroid-benefiting ingredients like iodine.
Iodine: Iodine is essential for the health of the thyroid. Studies show that a deficiency in iodine can disrupt thyroid function. However, it is important to monitor iodine consumption if you plan to supplement because too much iodine can also be damaging. Studies show that the daily dosage from all sources should not exceed 600 mcg per day.
Magnesium and Zinc: These two minerals are extremely important for thyroid function and immune system function. Studies show that individuals with sluggish thyroids are more likely to have low zinc and magnesium levels.
Some studies have indicated that vitamin D is an essential regulator in thyroid function. Vitamin D balances Th1 and Th2 cells by influencing Th3 cells in the thyroid. Absorbing a higher amount of vitamin D can help regulate the immune system and the thyroid and promote healthy thyroid function. Exercise has been proven to increase thyroid function in numerous studies, so combining the power of vitamin D from the sun with exercise will provide the biggest benefit.
It may seem like a hopeless cause, but it is possible to improve a sluggish thyroid. In addition to eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly, it is important to consider the hidden factors that may slow down the thyroid and lead to weight gain. Antibiotics, growth hormones, pesticides, chemicals, and artificial sweeteners all reduce thyroid function and lead to faster weight gain. By avoiding these ingredients and providing thyroid-boosting ingredients and actions you can significantly increase the speed of your thyroid- leading to weight loss and improved health.
Kung JW et al. Mild iodine deficiency and thyroid disorders in Hong Kong. Hong Kong Med J 2001 Dec;7(4):414-20.
Dolev E et al. Alterations in magnesium and zinc metabolism in thyroid disease. Metabolism 1988 Jan;37(1):61-7.
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