Magic Weight Loss Pill, take III

It's been awhile since we've had a post about a Magic Weight Loss Pill. (See here and here for earlier posts.) The Magic Weight Loss Pills crowd was feeling neglected.

Weight loss is simple arithmetic. Everyone says so.
Calories In = Calories Out.
Make sure your Calories Out are more than your Calories In and you'll lose weight.

What's so difficult? It's not le science rockette. Or... is it?

[Warning: post contains the words "Calculus" and "Weight Loss" and "Metabolism." Tomatoes might also be involved at some point.]

The tricky part about arithmetic like Calories In = Calories Out is that it doesn't always add up when you're talking about the human body.

[A horde of angry nay sayers rise up, pitch forks in hand, torches blazing, ready to dispute the previous sentence. Merry types faster to get her point in before the riot begins and people start throwing tomatoes.]

Rather than arithmetic, it's more like calculus.

Note: My definition of calculus does not really have much to do with asymptotes or any other kind of totes. Rather, it's shorthand for "any kind of math that I do not want to deal with, thankyouverymuch and please make all this math go away now."

Fail credit: / CC BY 2.0

The Calories In = Calories Out equation can fall down when it comes to the Calories Out part.

[Some of the crowd stops, fruit/vegetable in hand, to consider this. Then from somewhere in the back of the crowd sails one tomato splat]

In other words, while number crunchers can weigh every infinitesimal spec of protein, fat, or carbohydrate that crosses your lips, physiologists are still trying to measure all the variables that explain why some humans burn off calories faster (or slower) than others.

Different people burn calories at different rates. You cannot simply look up "calories burned" on a chart and assume that that number applies to you.

[Another splat]

Some other possible reasons you might not have lost weight even if you've been limiting your calories and working out regularly:

- You've built muscle instead
- If a female between puberty and menopause, TOM
- You might have worked the muscles so hard that inflammation has set in, which would result in water retention
- Your thyroid might be out of whack

[Another splat]

Why yes, I do have a link at this point:

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh showed that overweight people who do not lose weight when they follow an exercise program are likely to suffer from low thyroid function, and therefore should be able to lose weight if they take thyroid hormones (Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, February 2009).

Dr. Mirkin explains the science behind the study thusly:

"When you eat, blood sugar levels rise. Your pancreas responds by releasing insulin into your bloodstream which drives sugar into cells where it can be used for energy. As you gain weight, fat cells fill with fat. This blocks insulin receptors so your cells cannot respond adequately to insulin and blood sugar rises to higher levels. This causes your pancreas to release even more insulin....

"...muscles become extraordinarily responsive to insulin when you exercise so you need far less insulin to drive sugar from your bloodstream into cells. Insulin levels go way down with exercise, but the effect gradually tapers off in about 18 hours. So you have to exercise every day to maintain the benefit of lowered insulin levels, and overweight people who exercise every day usually lose weight.

"However, some overweight people cannot lose weight no matter how much they exercise. This study shows that many of these people have low thyroid function which prevents the cells from responding to insulin and drives both insulin and blood sugar to very high levels."

[The ellipses (...) are where I cut part of the article out. These tomatoes are getting pretty hard to dodge, and I want to finish this post and go clean up. Want to read the part that I snipped out? The link above has it in all its tomato-free glory. Duck! splat]

This is not to say that taking a magic hypothyroid pill will magically make the weight drop off. What the study suggests is that a thyroid pill can level the playing field (to mix a metaphor) and make your personal Calories Out closer to the average.

Is this a cheat, an excuse, or a possible solution?

Your thoughts?

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