A brief analysis of the physiological mechanism of excess carbohydrate intake.
What happens when we eat more carbohydrates than our actual calorie need per day?
The analysis that follows is written in a language that is not purely medical (for one, I personally am not a medical doctor) but will use technical terms in a colloquial context that are easy to understand and that even the less experienced in the field can “grasp”.
VLDL (Very Low-Density Lipoprotein). We’re off to a great start, huh?!
No panic, nothing too complicated!
This is a molecule formed by Palmitic Acid and Glycerol, which is created once the liver’s glycogen reserves are full, i.e. when the excess carbohydrates (e.g. the huge dish of pasta for lunch) are converted into fat under the form of a short-chain saturated fat (please forgive me for repeating myself), namely the Palmitic Acid.
So, schematically speaking:
1> You eat carbohydrates (in excess) 2> Palmitic Acid forms 3> Palmitic Acid binds to Glycerol 4> VLDL is born, which goes through your bloodstream 5> It settles (fatty pockets) if not used as an energy source – that is if you don’t exercise!
This is what happens physiologically when excess carbohydrates are too many and our body cannot use them. But it’s not over, yet.
Enter Leptin – As if VLDL wasn’t enough…
This is a protein hormone that tells the brain when “we are full” and no longer need to eat; therefore, I quote from Wikipedia: ‘(…) issues with the synthesis and secretion of Leptin lead to a lack of appetite control and can induce obesity, as the individual acts as if the organism were IN A PERMANENT FASTING STATE’.
I’m sure someone is wondering “So?? What’s Leptin got to do with it?!” It has a lot to do with it. Unfortunately, the Palmitic Acid we’ve talked about above – which has powerful effects on metabolism and the hormonal system – REDUCES ITS SENSITIVITY, i.e. it reduces its production.
Such a disaster!!! What happens is, the brain becomes “resistant” to Leptin, the “I’m full” signal is lost, we are still hungry despite high glucose levels and we keep eating in excess compared to what we actually need.
As if that were not enough, we develop a “craving for sweets”, precisely because we cannot feel the Leptin telling us that we’re full and we’ve had enough.
Let’s take a step back to sum up and clarify: Palmitic Acid, which causes brain resistance to Leptin and prevents us from feeling full, is produced from excess carbohydrates!
It all gets worse when our insulin sensitivity is reduced: the liver becomes insulin-resistant and blood glucose levels keep rising. Next thing you know muscles are “drowning” in glucose.
As the liver becomes insulin-resistant, some cells perceive it as a lack of sugar in the blood, so the body secretes Cortisol (stress hormone). At this point, it’s like adding fuel to the fire. But that’s another story…
P.S. The usual question after reading an article like this one or after a discussion on nutrition is “So… what do I eat??
Answer: “That’s for nutritionists to tell us!” 😉
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Till next time!
Wellness Escapes® Staff