The Stress Factor - July 2017

By Brad King

Picture of women

Most people these days will tell you that they are stressed! Chronic stress has been linked to North America's five leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung disease, accidents and cirrhosis of the liver, but I have seen much evidence that also implicates stress in the number one cause of disease (and death) these days--obesity.

Author and stress researcher Kenneth Pelletier has contended that, in America, between 80-90% of all illness is linked to stress and that 75-90% of all visits to the doctor are for stress and anxiety-related concerns. 1 Many people realize how detrimental the effects of excess stress can be to their overall health profile, but very few associate everyday stresses with their ever expanding waist lines. During a stress response -- whether actual or perceived -- your adrenal glands pump out numerous stress-hormones, the most powerful of which is cortisol.

Many diseases and cases of obesity have been blamed on excess cortisol production. Cortisol is produced along the same biochemical pathway as many other hormones, and during stressful times (whether real or imagined), excess cortisol is manufactured at the expense of other healthful hormones like dihydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)--your premiere anti-aging hormone--and testosterone.

Both DHEA and testosterone are needed to maintain and grow muscle tissue--the key metabolic engine that drives metabolism (which is even more important to women due to the fact that women normally only produce one tenth the testosterone of a man). Without muscle, fat cannot be burned. The longer you maintain a stress response, the more body fat you accumulate--especially in the abdominal cavity.2,3 By the way, abdominal fat is also the most dangerous form of fat your body carries, due to the fact that it impacts the major organs and can easily increase your susceptibility to heart disease and diabetes.

Cortisol can also lead to unhealthy weight gain by affecting the degree to which you crave certain foods. 4 Constant stress can easily deplete levels of a neuropeptide called serotonin. Research shows us that when serotonin levels are low or when they are unable to remain in their special pockets called synaptic junctions, a condition called "Emotional Eating" ensues and chronic cravings for sweet and starchy foods (yes, the very foods responsible for easy fat storage) become next to impossible to ignore.5,6 After all, we don't call these types of foods comfort foods for nothing.

One of the main reasons for this is because chronic stress reduces the levels of the amino acid tryptophan, which is essential to the production of serotonin. Stress can deplete tryptophan levels by up to 90 percent in excessive situations, leaving very little for serotonin production and therefore craving control.

Thankfully, nature has once again provided a means to an end--in this case, an end to constant Emotional Eating and self medication through foods that are almost guaranteed to inflate your fat cells. Alpha-lactalbumin to the rescue Because of its extremely high ratio of tryptophan, alpha-lactalbumin, from whey protein, has shown great promise in improving our ability to deal with excessive stress, reduce Emotional Eating and elevate our moods.

A double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2000 showed that high alpha-lactalbumin whey isolates given to 29 excessively stressed subjects, raised their plasma tryptophan levels by 48% opposed to a casein diet. In the stress-vulnerable subjects, this increase in plasma tryptophan was accompanied by a decrease in cortisol and a reduced depressive state. The researchers concluded that consuming alpha-lactalbumin-rich whey protein increased plasma tryptophan ratios and, in stress-vulnerable subjects, improved their ability to deal with excessive stress by altering their serotonin levels. 7

So if your goal is to get lean and maintain an optimal metabolism, stay as far away as possible from chronic everyday stress--and try supplementing with a high quality alpha-lactalbumin rich whey protein.

 

References: 1. Pelletier, Kenneth. Mind as Healer, Mind as Slayer. New York: Delta, 1992. 2. Bjorntorp P, Rosmond R, Neuroendocrine abnormalities in visceral obesity. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord 2000 Jun; 24 Suppl 2:S80-5. 3. Marin, P., et al. "Cortisol Secretion in Relation to Body Fat Distribution in Obese Premenopausal Women." Metabolism 41, no. 8 (August 1992):882-886. 4. Rosmond, R, Bouchard, C, & Björntorp, P; 5-HT2A Receptor Gene Promoter Polymorphism in Relation to Abdominal Obesity and Cortisol Obesity Research 10:585-589 (2002) 5. Gibson EL. Emotional influences on food choice: sensory, physiological and psychological pathways. Physiol Behav. 2006 Aug 30;89(1):53-61. 6. Oliver G, Wardle J, Gibson EL. Stress and food choice: a laboratory study. Psychosom Med. 2000 Nov;62(6):853-65. 7. Markus, R.C., et al. "The Bovine Protein Alpha-lactoalbumin Increases the Plasma Ratio of Tryptophan to the Other Large Neutral Amino Acids, and in Vulnerable Subjects Raises Brain Serotonin Activity, Reduces Cortisol Concentration, and Improves Mood under Stress." Amer J Clin Nut 71, no. 6: 1536-1544.




Brad KingBrad's Bio: Performance Nutritionist Nutritional Researcher - Brad King Website


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Wellness Tip
Breakfast Fast Food
Fast food breakfasts can be killers. According to our dietitian, some egg and sausage biscuit meals contain as many as 600 calories and 40 grams of fat! An English muffin with egg and Canadian bacon, although not "lite", is clearly a better option. It has about 385 calories and 20 grams of fat. In either case, try for balance in the rest of your day and week. Include plenty of fruit, vegetables and physical activity.


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Recipe
Tuscan Leek, Potatoe & Bean Soup
Category: Soup
Description: Welcome those crisp winter days with a pot of hearty Tuscan bean soup. Leeks are a unique combination of flavonoids and sulfur-containing nutrients, the allium vegetables belong in your diet on a regular basis. Like their allium cousins, onions and garlic, let leeks sit for at least 5 minutes after cutting and before cooking to enhance their health-promoting qualities.
A good source of dietary fiber, leeks also contain goodly amounts of folic acid, calcium, potassium, and vitamin C. Easier to digest than standard onions, leeks have laxative, antiseptic, diuretic, and anti-arthritic properties.
Leeks contain many noteworthy flavonoid anti-oxidants, minerals, and vitamins that have proven health benefits.
Leeks are low in calories. 100 g fresh stalks contain 61 calories. Further, their elongated stalks provide good amounts of soluble and insoluble fiber.
Laboratory studies show that allicin reduces cholesterol production by inhibiting HMG-CoA reductase enzyme in the liver cells. Further, it also found to have anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal activities.
Allicin also decreases blood vessel stiffness by release of nitric oxide (NO); thereby bring reduction in the total blood pressure. It also blocks platelet clot formation and has fibrinolytic action in the blood vessels, which helps decrease overall risk of coronary artery disease (CAD), peripheral vascular diseases (PVD), and stroke.
Leeks are great source of minerals and vitamins that are essential for optimum health. Their leafy stems indeed contain several vital vitamins such as pyridoxine, folic acid, niacin, riboflavin, and thiamin in healthy proportions. 100 g fresh stalks provide 64 µg of folates. Folic acid is essential for DNA synthesis and cell division. Their adequate levels in the diet during pregnancy can help prevent neural tube defects in the newborn babies.
In addition, leeks are one of the good source of vitamin A (1667 IU or 55% of RDA per 100 g) and other flavonoid phenolic anti-oxidants such as carotenes, xanthin, and lutein. They also have some other essential vitamins such as vitamin C, K, and vitamin E. Vitamin C helps body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals. Further, its stalks have small amounts of minerals such as potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and selenium.
Often overlooked in leeks is their important concentration of the B vitamin folate. Folate is present in leeks in one of its bioactive forms (5-methyltetrahydrofolate, or 5MTHF) and it is present throughout the plant (including the full leaf portion, not only the lower leaf and bulb).
Fresh leeks should be stored unwashed and untrimmed in the refrigerator, where they will keep fresh for between one and two weeks. Wrapping them loosely in a plastic bag will help them to retain moisture.
Tips for Preparing Leeks - Cut off green tops of leeks and remove outer tough leaves. Cut off root and cut leeks in half lengthwise. Fan out the leeks and rinse well under running water, leaving them intact. Cut leeks into 2-inch lengths. Holding the leek sections cut side up, cut lengthwise so that you end up with thin strips, known as the chiffonade cut, slicing until you reach the green portion. Make sure slices are cut very thin to shorten cooking time. Let leeks sit for at least 5 minutes before cooking.
With a more delicate and sweeter flavor than onions, leeks add a subtle touch to recipes without overpowering the other flavors that are present. Although leeks are available throughout the year they are in season from the fall through the early part of spring when they are at their best.
Full Recipe


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