Tag Archives: weight gain

Can a Blood Test Identify Those Who Need T3 for Proper Treatment of Hypothyroidism?


Dr. Gary Pepper and Dr. Paul Aoun discuss recent findings about thyroid hormone treatment at the 15th International Thyroid Congress

Dr. Gary Pepper and Dr. Paul Aoun discuss recent findings about thyroid hormone treatment at the 15th International Thyroid Congress

By Gary Pepper, M.D.

According to experts, 10 to 20% of hypothyroid individuals fail to respond completely to T4-only (levothyroxine, Synthroid) treatment. Dr. Anthony Bianco, the president of the American Thyroid Association, and his associates believe this is due to genetic variations in the way thyroid hormone is converted in the body from T4 into T3. T3 is the much more potent form of thyroid hormone and unless the cells of the body receive enough T3, normal function cannot be achieved and symptoms of low thyroid such as fatigue, mental fogginess, constipation, muscle aches etc, persist. Based on the research conducted by Dr. Bianco and colleagues it is thought that in those with the genetic trait making T4 treatment ineffective, blood tests would show low T3 levels. Continue reading

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Tara Struggles with Persistent Symptoms of Hypothyroidism and Her Medical Care


Sad LadyMetabolism.com received this message from one of our readers. Her story seems typical of the sort of dilemma so many people face today. The best advice usually comes from others who face the same problem. It would be helpful to hear what others would do in her situation.

Tara’s message;

I was diagnosed with Grave’s Disease in 2009, I had RAI in 2011, after my daughter turned 3 months. Being pregnant with Severe Grave’s was the scariest thing in my life at the time. I gained weight prior to my pregnancy, during, and after RAI. My family doctor told me no matter how much you ate while severe Hyperthyroid you should have been anorexic, so something else is wrong. Continue reading

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Obesity Related Type 2 Diabetes is More Severe in Teens than Adults


Overweight TeenObesity Related Type 2 Diabetes is More Severe in Teens than Adults

by Gary Pepper, M.D. and Andrew Levine, Pre-Med, Univ of Central Florida

The recently published TODAY study found obesity related type-2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) is more severe as a teen than as an adult, and high risk of developing diabetes could be tied to weight gain at an early age.

Between 2004 and 2009 the “Treatment Options for Type 2 Diabetes in Youth Study Group” (TODAY) gathered 700 participants who met the American Diabetes Association’s criteria for this disease.  The participants were monitored for between two to six years.  TODAY’s goal was to assess treatment options and the clinical progression of obesity related T2DM in youth.  The mean age of the 700 participants in the TODAY study was thirteen, the majority being female. Sixty percent of the 700 participants were African American or Hispanic, with the remainder being Caucasian. The mean duration of diabetes for the study’s’ participants was less than seven months. A major worrisome finding from the study is a majority of participants were also discovered to have dyslipidemia, an abnormally high amount of fats (cholesterol, triglycerides) in the blood, as well as high blood pressure (hypertension). Continue reading

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What is Metabolism?


CHAPTER 1

What Is Metabolism?

“I’ve searched the web but found nothing that tells me how to

distinguish if my metabolism is healthy. I’ve found plenty of

ways to tell me how to improve my metabolism but nothing

that explains what is normal. Are there outward signs that

will tell you if your metabolism is healthy?”

Metabolism.com member

      According to Webster’s Dictionary, metabolism is “the chemical and  physical processes continuously going on in living organisms.” But when most people think about metabolism they focus on one specific process—the process that releases and stores energy from the food we eat. This is because this type of metabolism not only affects how efficiently your body burns fuel but also influences how easily our bodies gain or lose weight.

 Turning Food into Energy

In simple terms, your metabolism is the rate at which your body breaks down nutrients from the foods you eat and converts them into a form the body can use. After you’ve eaten a bowl of cereal or a sandwich, chemicals produced in the digestive tract, known as enzymes, break down all of the complex molecules that make up the food into smaller, more usable nutrients. Proteins are broken down into amino acids, fats into fatty acids, and carbohydrates into simple sugars like glucose. These nutrients are then absorbed into the blood where they are transported all over the body.

 At this point the nutrients can be used in different processes. Amino acids are usually used to build and repair tissues, while glucose enters cells and is metabolized for energy. Any extra nutrients left over after these processes are generally stored in body tissues, especially the liver, muscles and body fat, and used for energy at a later date if the body needs it. (Think of it like a squirrel stocking up nuts for the winter.)

In this way, the process of metabolism really is a balancing act between two very different types of activities: (1) building up body tissues and energy stores, and (2) breaking down energy-rich nutrients, body tissues and energy stores to produce fuel that will power the body. Continue reading

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Why Emotions Trigger Food Cravings


The old saying, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” implies there is a deep connection between emotions and eating. My guess is  no one is really surprised by this idea. Both men and woman can identify ways in which their mood and appetite are intertwined and it is no mere quirk of man’s personality that this is true.

Evolution tells us that we were born to eat. The earliest creatures in the world’s history were simple eating machines. Their bodies consisted of an entrance for food, a digestive tract and an exit for refuse. In order to become more efficient at getting food creatures developed a system to locate food and to move toward it. This system is known as a nervous system. The first creature to have this ability is the worm. Eventually the nervous system controlling the digestive system (enteric nervous system) began to sprout nodes which were early brains.  As time went on and the brain became better developed it split off from the nervous system that controlled the digestive tract. Everything that followed in evolution, has served the purpose of developing  increasingly efficient brains (central nervous system) for acquiring the fuel of life.

Another example of how deeply connected the gut and brain are, is to look at the development of the fetus. When a human fetus is still just a lump of jelly, the digestive  and nervous systems are one structure. Soon this organ splits into two, one to become our gastrointestinal tract and the other the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system). Even though they become physically separated the chemical signals used by the gut and nervous system remain virtually identical. These chemicals comprise the groups known as neurotransmitters and hormones.

The same chemicals in the digestive tract that cause the intestines to twist and convulse (peristalsis), in the brain stimulate the emotion of anxiety. This explains why people get “butterflies” in the stomach or diarrhea when they are nervous.  The brain chemicals involved in depression can cause constipation.  The syndrome of irritable bowel disease (IBS) with its cycles of diarrhea and constipation is thought to be a reflection of an emotional rollercoaster.  The chemical relationship between mood and appetite is even more complex but no less real. One of the most common side effect of mood altering drugs is increased appetite and weight gain. Just ask anyone who has been on an anti-depressant drug such as Prozac, Zoloft or Abilify.  The chemical in marihuana that gets people high is famous for triggering the eating binge called “the munchies”.

Appetite suppressant drugs often have effects on mood and can be the source of major side effects. One new generation of appetite suppressants being developed, Acomplia, failed to be approved by the FDA because it caused severe depression and suicidal thinking.

In the next part of this series we will look at ways we can influence the brain to control our appetite.

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Infertility to Acne: Treatment and Prevention of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Part 2


Worried about pregnancyIn part one of this series we looked at the cause of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and the many complications it causes. Weight gain, acne, excess hair growth on the face and body,  high cholesterol and high blood sugar due to insulin resistance are among the problems associated with PCOS.  One particular area of concern for PCOS sufferers is infertility due to lack of ovulation. PCOS is the cause of anovulatory infertility in  3 out of 4 cases. Before the acceptance of medical therapy for infertility due to PCOS  a surgical approach referred to as a wedge resection of the ovary was performed which allowed patients with PCOS to ovulate and conceive normally. Low success rates with this procedure, complications of surgery and improved medical therapies have all resulted in the end of this type of treatment in most situations.  At present, treatment of infertility associated with PCOS generally consists of using a drug to combat insulin resistance known as metformin often in combination with the fertility drug clomid, which has a high rate of success.

Treatment of the excess hair growth associated with PCOS often consists of using the drug spironalactone and the use of birth control pills. Spironalactone is a very interesting drug used for decades as a salt depleting diuretic but also has an effect to block the action of the male hormone testosterone. The action of spironalactone to block testosterone was discovered when it was noticed that men using this diuretic developed tender nipples and breast enlargement (gynecomastia). Oral contraceptive agents are also useful to combat hirsutism because these agents also cause reduce testosterone levels by putting the ovary in a dormant “resting” state.  Cosmetic procedures are always another option to treat unwanted hair growth. Laser hair removal appears to be replacing the older modality of electrolysis for this purpose.

Can PCOS be cured? Once PCOS develops it can be controlled but not cured unless the ovaries are removed. At menopause  PCOS-related problems diminish as the ovary stops making sex hormones including testosterone which is one of the culprits during the reproductive years. A recent study published this year in the journal Pediatric Endocrinology showed that using metformin treatment in pre-adolescent girls thought to be at risk for PCOS reduces the risk and/or the severity of PCOS in later years. It may do this by blocking fat accumulation in the abdomen and liver which seems to set off the insulin resistance. Metformin is not FDA approved for this purpose and as a generic drug there is little profit potential in developing this treatment. I expect it will be many years before preventive therapy for PCOS will come before the FDA for approval .

This information is strictly for educational purposes. Due to high risk of toxicity of medical therapy in young women who can potentially become fertile under treatment for PCOS, no drug should be taken without the close supervision of a physician. The reader agrees to the Terms of Service of this website, metabolism.com

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SweetiePie Doesn’t Need a Shrink to Quit Smoking


Many members here at metabolism.com have shared their thoughts and experience on ways to stop smoking. There have been many who feel defeated because they can’t beat the weight gain that accompanies their efforts. SweetiePie has a clear message about how not to beat yourself up while achieving the goal of a smoke free (and healthier) life.

Here’s what SweetiePie has to say;

Hello:

55 Year old female here, 200 lbs, hypothyroid smoke free for 6 months. Feeling great about being smoke free and this time its permanent and for real.

I have quit smoking and relapsed so many times in my life. And dieting, on again and off again for 40 years. Pfffft…..This time what prompted me to go to the doctor and quit was that my heart feels heavy and hurts sometimes. Not angina yet, but scary and depressing. I’m fine, it turns out, but I definitely needed to quit smoking and still need to exercise more and lose weight . I am no expert in the weight loss department, having had limited success with that over the years. I can see from this interesting thread that I am not as weight conscious as most of you, but I still thought I’d share what my doctors told me because it may help and inspire you the way it did to me: When I tried to bring up the weight gain and the overweight with doctors heres what they said: CARDIOLOGIST told me I’d have to be about 100 lbs over my ideal weight of 145 for the weight to be as stressful and damaging on my heart and cardiovascular as SMOKING, GP #1 told me the key was, instead of focusing on an ideal weight and size, was to focus on preventing DIABETES through NONSMOKING, AND EXERCISE just as important as wholesome diet, and GP #2 (I moved and needed a new doctor for my thyroid perscription) told me, after my bloodwork tested all ok, “why don’t you just forget about losing weight for a little while and focus on quitting SMOKING? Well, I took all of that advice, and this time, it worked! I’ve really kicked the smoking habit and finally found freedom from that deadly addiction. The “permission” from doctors to stop beating myself up about my weight freed me up mentally to do what I needed to do (giving myself plenty of rewards, including food treats and being lazy treats!) in order to become smoke free and never going back! I am ready now to step up to exercise and weight loss this year with the same strategy: Increased exercise first, food modification instead of deprivation. The reason for my post is to say stick with it but your QUIT is SO IMPORTANT – don’t ever let your desire to be thinner or to get back down to an ideal outweigh your resolve to stay SMOKE FREE. SMOKING is the singlemost damaging behavior -don’t lose sight of that! Never take another puff! Oh, btw I gained about 5% while quitting and my first goal is to go back down 5%.

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Avandia Law Suit Brings Out the Opportunists


The lawsuits against Avandia are being prepared and opportunists are lining up for a payday. Unfortunately, everyone else will wind up a loser, and here’s why.

Avandia, one of only two available medicines with unique properties to treat diabetes, was approved in 1999. From the very first day Avandia was approved a heated debate arose whether Avandia or its sister drug, Actos, was the better drug for diabetes treatment. Both had similar abilities to lower blood sugar and both had the same downside of causing significant weight gain and fluid retention. Avandia showed a slightly worse effect on cholesterol profiles which convinced many diabetes specialists to choose Actos over Avandia. The choice between drugs has also been heavily influenced by cost considerations such as whether the drug was covered by the patient’s insurance carrier. I personally treated numerous patients with both drugs and found them about equal in all respects.

The lawsuits against Avandia will contend that the medication caused heart attack or stroke. The truth of this contention is very much in question, but the murkiness of the water doesn’t stop the lawyers from trying to take a bite out of the flesh of GSK (GlaxoSmithKline), the maker of Avandia.

Several years ago research studies seemed to indicate a small increased risk of heart attacks in users of Avandia. Ever since there has been a heated debate about whether this was a true risk or just the result of overly aggressive interpretation of the available data. There are two major analyzes on the subject of heart attack risk with Avandia. One, written by a doctor on the payroll of a competing drug company, looked at results from 14 thousand patients on Avandia and found a small increased risk of heart attack or stroke and the other study analyzed another 14 thousand Avandia users and found no such association. Under pressure from the public, in 2007 the FDA placed a strong warning on the label of Avandia regarding the possibility of the drug causing heart disease, but Avandia was permitted to remain on the market. The FDA warning was updated and upgraded in 2010. The publicity surrounding Avandia’s potential risks basically halted the use of the drug in the U.S.

Now enter the opportunists. Advertisements fill my email in-box from lawyers looking for customers who want to sue the drug manufacturer in class action law suits. Try goggling “Avandia side-effects” and you will find the first several pages of results are ads looking for lawsuit clients. In the last month I received two requests for patient records from these lawyers. Both patients had heart disease at the time they started the medication. One patient who recently died was over 80 years old, and the other who had significant heart disease and other diabetes complication to begin with, is still alive more than 7 years after treatment with Avandia. I wonder how much benefit these patients received from the medication which allowed them to survive as long as they did despite all the other problems they had related to their diabetes.

Why should you care about whether a small army of opportunists each get a few thousand dollars from the drug manufacturer and a few lawyers become millionaires? Because it is just this sort of legal action which is convincing drug makers to back away from developing other potential diabetes treatments. It takes a decade and a billion dollars to bring a new drug in front of the FDA. This doesn’t include the cost of developing drugs which fail to even make it to FDA review. Then the FDA approval process is tortuous and uncertain. Passing this hurdle, any new drug can come under attack (like Avandia) for “possible” side effects making the company vulnerable to devastating legal costs and bad publicity. It isn’t economically feasible to develop new diabetes drugs in the United States. As a result, new drug development is grinding to a halt. We will all suffer due to lack of innovation, not only for diabetes treatment but for treatment of many other dangerous diseases.

Gary Pepper, M.D.
Editor in Chief, Metabolism.com

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How Greg Stopped Smoking and Overcame His Weight Gain Issues


In this emotional blog posted to metabolism.com, Greg (from Tampa) shares insights from his personal struggle to stop smoking and deal with the weight fluctuations that accompanied those efforts. Not everyone can achieve this kind of success but, according to Greg, by keeping your eye on the prize you can get through the worst of it.

Greg writes:

I hope what I am about to write will be an inspiration for those who are truly serious about quitting AND losing weight. I have now been almost five months without a cigarette (the longest I have EVER lasted) and unlike every other time I tried quitting, this time I FEEL its for good. Truthfully, no temptations other than a quick subconscious glance (like noticing cleavage on a woman)!

Every time I quit in the past, I gained at least five pounds, then lost it as soon as I started smoking again. This time I tried a different strategy overall and it has made a world of difference. Instead of making my goal “quitting smoking and holding weight”, I made my goal far more ambitious: “quitting smoking and losing weight..gaining muscle, and looking 100% better overall.”

I am now 42. About ten years ago (while I was still smoking), before I met my wife, I lost about 20 lbs (and 12% bodyfat) in four months by simply using a bodybuilder’s type workout (3-5 set pyramid, every five days upper body and lower alternating), light-medium cardio two to three days per week, plus eating on the “Zone Diet” (40 Protein/40 Carb/20 Fat) and five time per day. The results were so dramatic and so fast that one of my teachers at college thought I was sick or on drugs.

When I quit smoking in October, I started the same routine. At first, my goal was to hold weight only…not to gain. But now, four and a half months later, I went from 200 lbs to 184 lbs and over 29% bodyfat to under 22% bodyfat. Now that’s not nearly as dramatic as the last transformation when I was 32 and smoking, but hell, at 42 and no longer smoking I am beating the monster and looking and feeling better every day.

Truth be told, if I was smoking and my metabolism was up, I’d probably be losing faster. But who cares, the fact is I’m clean of smokes and feeling and looking better than I did this time last year.

This isn’t a pitch for supplements, a workout program, or any other BS. I am just saying, if you truly want to quit AND lose weight, it is possible even at 42. Just be smart about it AND totally committed. I think this time what made the big diffrence was making my mind up that I will settle for nothing less. Now, four and a half months into my quit, my goal is 170 lbs and 12% bodyfat. F#@k smoking! F$#k gaining weight! I want to breathe a full breath of air and see a six pack of abs in the mirror!

Anyone who tells you that gaining weight is the price of quitting is lying or, more likely, just doesn’t know otherwise yet. Keep the faith!

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Can Actos Really Prevent Type 2 Diabetes?


Diagnosing diabetes is simple. If the blood sugar is found to be elevated you are diabetic. Increasing or decreasing the cut off level between normal and diabetic will dramatically change the number of people diagnosed with diabetes. In 1997 the American Diabetes Association lowered the criterion of diabetes (type 2) to a fasting blood sugar above 126 mg/dl instead of 140 mg/dl. Suddenly 1.7 million Americans became “diabetic” under the new definition.

In the latest issue (March 24, 2011) of the New England Journal of Medicine research was published stating that Actos (pioglitazone), a popular medication used to treat type 2 diabetes, could substantially reduce the percentage of people at high risk for developing diabetes who progress to actual diabetes. 600 people with a form of pre-diabetes known as impaired fasting blood sugar (fasting blood sugar levels between 95 and 125), were divided into one group given placebo and the other group given Actos. After 2.5 years Actos reduced the incidence of developing type 2 diabetes by 72% compared to placebo. Initially, I was very impressed with these results.

Actos is the sister drug to Avandia and Rezulin. All of these drugs show similar ability to reduce blood sugar in diabetics. Rezulin and Avandia fell into disfavor due to the potential for side effects. Actos is considered safer.

It seems almost a little too obvious that if diabetes is defined as elevated blood sugar that if the test medication reduces blood sugar, diabetes can be “prevented”. Since Actos lowers blood sugar, the conclusion that Actos reduces the progression of pre-diabetes to actual diabetes seems inevitable. A substance that does not already lower blood sugar which prevented elevated blood sugar from developing would be far more impressive.

Side-effects of taking Actos need to be considered, as well. In this research study (New England J of Medicine 364; 12, 2011) the group taking Actos gained an average of about 9 pounds. That doesn’t include the 3% of test subjects who dropped out of the study because they gained too much weight. Edema (puffy ankles) was also more common in those taking Actos. We know that weight gain, particularly in pre-diabetics, is not a good thing. What are we hoping to accomplish by using Actos to prevent diabetes when at the same time, we make people chunkier and puffier?

To be fair, the family of medications known as “glitazones” which contain Actos, Avandia and Rezulin, have some intriguing properties. Years ago, the Triad Study, showed that women with gestational diabetes who received Rezulin, did not go on to develop type 2 diabetes nearly as often, even years after stopping this medication. This does seem like a true preventive benefit.

I am dubious about using Actos to prevent diabetes at this time. My patients, I suspect, will agree with that decision. I don’t think I would survive very long in practice, if my patients gain 10 or more pounds as I try to “prevent” their progression to diabetes.

This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advise or treatment. Always consult with your physician when deciding whether to use a prescription drug.

Gary Pepper, M.D.

Editor-in-Chief, Metabolism.com

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