Metabolism includes all the chemical reactions that occur in the body to maintain a balance. Metabolism is the combination of various functions in your body. The rate at which these processes occur is termed your metabolic rate. The food you eat is broken down and converted into energy. The breakdown of nutrients present in food and the formation of useful products for energy is metabolism. Your body breaks down nutrients into food and converts them into energy or heat. The extra nutrients are stored as fat for later use.
Metabolism is broadly categorized into:
1. Anabolism - the body utilizes the energy from nutrient breakdown to form complex molecules needed for daily functioning
2. Catabolism - the breakdown of food components or nutrients into simpler form to produce the energy needed for daily functioning
Some people have a faster metabolism than others. It varies from person to person, depending on a lot of factors.
Resting Metabolic Rate, or RMR for short, is the rate at which your body burns energy when at rest. Knowing your RMR will help you understand the energy needed by your body to perform basic life-sustaining functions like breathing, circulating blood, nutrient processing, cell growth, and functioning.
Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) and RMR are slightly different. BMR is the minimum rate at which your body burns just enough calories to exist. RMR is a good estimate of your BMR.
By knowing your metabolic rate, you understand how many calories you burn and what your calorie intake needs to be to remain fit. It can help you devise a diet and exercise plan to remain healthy, stay fit and perform better.
Exercise helps you maintain weight and also can help change your metabolic rate. By building muscle through exercise, you can increase your BMR. The more intense your workout is, the longer your body takes to recover, the metabolism will increase more.
Exercises that increase muscle mass can help increase the resting metabolic rate also. The effect of exercise on metabolic rate increases with an increase in the intensity of the training.
The BMR of an average man is around 7,100 kJ per day, while that of a woman is 5,900 kJ per day. The expenditure of energy is continuous during the day; the rate varies and is found to be at its lowest early in the morning.
BMR is usually estimated through the Harris-Benedict formula revised in 1990. The formula is gender-specific. You can calculate it on your own. All you need is your weight, height, age, and a little bit of math. The formula is given below.
BMR = (10 × weight in kg) + (6.25 × height in cm) - (5 × age in years) - 161
BMR = (10 × weight in kg) + (6.25 × height in cm) - (5 × age in years) + 5
The UCP1gene encodes the uncoupling protein, which plays a role in generating heat by allowing fast substrate oxidation and lower ATP production in brown adipose tissue. It is responsible for adaptation to cold climates. Variants in this gene are associated with metabolism.
rs1800592 is an SNP found in the UCP1 gene. The A allele is associated with a higher metabolic rate and slower weight gain compared to the G allele.
The GPR158 gene encodes a protein called G-protein coupled receptor 158, which is highly expressed in the brain. It is known to influence the risk of obesity in mice. Variants in this gene are found to be associated with energy expenditure.
rs11014566 is an SNP in the GPR158 gene. People with the GG genotype were found to have lower energy expenditure, higher BMI, and higher fat mass compared to people with the AA genotype. This is seen in American Indians.
A number of factors other than genetics influences metabolic rate. These include
- Age: Metabolism decreases with age due to gain in fat, loss of muscle, and decrease in physical activity. This means that the metabolic rate will also decrease with age.
- Gender: Generally, men have a faster metabolism than women because they tend to have more lean body mass and testosterone and lesser estrogen.
- Drugs: Nicotine and caffeine tend to increase metabolic rate.
- Body composition: Larger people tend to have a higher RMR. People with more lean muscle tissue and lesser fat have a higher RMR.
- Diet: A balanced diet can help you achieve optimal RMR. Fasting, starving, or crash dieting leads to loss of lean muscle mass and a decrease in RMR.
- Body temperature: Increase in body temperature increases RMR.
- Physical activity: Exercise done regularly increases muscle mass and can increase your RMR also.
Working out can help you stay fit and healthy and increase your metabolism, thereby increasing the resting metabolic rate. Here are a few things that you can do to increase metabolic rate:
- Include plenty of proteins in your meal. It leads to a rise in the thermic effect of food, which is the extra calories needed to digest and absorb the nutrients in food. It also prevents muscle loss due to dieting and increases your metabolism.
- HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) workouts involve quick and intense energy bursts. Research shows that it helps boost metabolic rate after training.
- Lifting weights helps build and maintain muscle mass and increase metabolic rate. It also helps combat the drop in metabolism that occurs after weight loss.
- According to a review, resistance training can reduce fat mass and improve lean body mass, resulting in an increase in basal metabolic rate.
- Make sure you get adequate sleep. Sleep deprivation has negative effects on metabolism and is a risk factor for obesity.
- Research shows that drinking coffee can increase your metabolism and promote the burning of fats.
Fats are an essential component of your diet, and omega-3, 6, and 9 are important dietary fats. Each of these fatty acids has health benefits when consumed in the right balance. Any imbalance in these fatty acids can result in many health conditions and diseases.
Omega-3 (alpha-linolenic acid) and omega-6 (linoleic acid) fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids. Numbers 3 and 6 in the name of these fatty acids indicate the position of the final double bond in the chemical structure of the fatty acids. They are known as ‘poly’ unsaturated because they have many double bonds. Both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are termed essential acids because our body cannot produce them. They need to be obtained through diet or supplements.
It is important to maintain a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. One must consume more omega-3 than omega-6. A reversed ratio of these fatty acids can result in chronic inflammation and diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, atherosclerosis, etc. This occurs because linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid compete for metabolism by the enzyme delta-6-desaturase. A higher intake of linoleic acid or omega-6 can reduce the amount of the delta-6-desaturase enzyme left for the metabolism of alpha-linoleic acid or omega-3. This can cause chronic health conditions in the body. Therefore, it is important to maintain a healthy ‘ideal’ ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Both omega-3 and 6-fatty acids are required by our body, and they play different roles. Both these essential fatty acids can be used to produce other fatty acids. They are also required for growth and repair in the body.
Omega-3 fatty acids form an integral part of cell membranes. The omega-3 fatty acid is known to have anti-inflammatory properties, regulates blood pressure, and prevents fatal heart diseases. In fact, studies are focused on studying how omega-3 can protect one from diabetes and some types of cancer.
Omega-6 fatty acids are said to provide energy and linoleic acid is the most common omega-6 fatty acid. Excessive consumption of omega-6 can cause increased blood pressure, the formation of blood clots, and increased water retention.
Health Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids:
- Help fight depression
- Promote brain health during pregnancy and right after birth
- Improve vision
- Reduce the risk of heart diseases
- Reduce symptoms of metabolic syndrome
- Help fight inflammation
- Prevent autoimmune diseases
- Reduce inflammation and inflammatory conditions in the body
- God for your joints
- Known to improve sleep
- Reduce the risk of cancer
Health Benefits of Omega-6 Fatty Acids:
There are no specific numbers of Recommended Dietary Intake(RDI) of omega-3 fatty acids, but the Adequate Intake of this essential fatty acid as given by the Board of Institute of Medicine is:
- Adult Males: 1.6 g/day
- Adult Females: 1.1 g/day
- Pregnancy: 1.4 g/day
- Lactation: 1.3 g/day
According to the Food and Nutrition Board of the US Institute of Medicine, the Adequate Intake of omega-6 fatty acid for 19-50 years age group is:
The FADS2 or the Fatty Acid Desaturase 2 Gene provides instructions for the preparation of the delta-6-desaturase enzyme. Delta-5 and delta-6-desaturase are the enzymes that are part of the slowest step in the production of polyunsaturated omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
rs3834458 is a single nucleotide polymorphism or SNP in the FADS2 gene. The T allele of this SNP plays a role in the reduced activity of delta-6-desaturase. This may lead to higher omega-3 and omega-6 levels in the body.
Mutations or changes in the MTHFR or methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase gene results in an excessive build-up of homocysteine in the blood and reduces levels of folates and other vitamins.
rs4846052 is an SNP located on chromosome 1 and associated with the _MTHFR _ gene. The different forms or genotypes (TT, CT, and CC) of this SNP were associated with PUFA levels in red blood cells (RBCs). Higher levels of RBC DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid is an omega-3 fatty acid), EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid is an omega-3 fatty acid), ARA (Arachidonic acid is a polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid), and linoleic acid (omega-6 fatty acid) and were observed for the TT genotype versus TC and CC genotypes.
While the metabolism of these fatty acids is dependent upon genetics, there are few non-genetic factors that affect one’s omega-3 and omega-6 levels in the body.
Since diet is the primary source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, the levels of these fatty acids and their right ratio is dependent upon the foods consumed by an individual.
Many conditions like pregnancy or other metabolic disorders require an additional supplement of omega-3 and omega-6 to maintain their optimum levels in the blood. Therefore, in these individuals, the supplements influence the levels of omega-3 and omega-6.
Regular exercise and workouts help maintain the right ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the blood.
Many systemic conditions can alter the metabolism of omega-3 and omega-6, thereby affecting their levels in the body.
Though omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are essential, you will be surprised to know that nearly 90% of the population falls short of their target intake. A reduced level of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids results in a deficiency. Common deficiency symptoms of these fatty acids include:
- Changes in skin, hair, and nails
- Decreased concentration and attentive power
- Leg cramps and joint aches
- Changes in the menstrual cycle in women
- An increased risk of cardiovascular diseases
- Feeling low and depressed
The goal here is to maintain a healthy omega-3/omega-6 ratio. Here are a few recommendations to improve your omega-3 and omega-6 levels:
When an individual feels low or encounters negative emotions, the feeling is often accompanied by emptiness. Food is believed to fill that void by providing temporary pleasure and satisfaction. This practice of reaching out to food to suppress or soothe our negative thoughts can be called emotional eating.
Finding comfort in food might seem normal but can lead to several complications if the individual loses control over how much or what he eats.
Conditions like compulsive eating or binge-eating are subtypes of emotional eating. They occur only in extreme cases, wherein the individual bing-eats large portions as opposed to what’s optimum. About 3.5% of women and 2% of men in the US are diagnosed with binge-eating disorder at some point in their life.
So, it is clear that overeating is linked to emotional eating, but there is more to it; mind you, emotional eating is a very broad term. The interplay of foods and moods is extensive. We all enjoy a variety of foods at different time points. When people find themselves in a negative space, they automatically reach out to a candy bar or sugary snack to combat negativity.
But, one can argue that eating indulgent foods can also be triggered during events of happiness, and that is partially true. However, we are more likely to pick grapes over chocolates when in a neutral mood. This is because we often think of the long-term perspective when we are happy and the present/near-term events when we are sad. And, in such times, we tend to indulge in quick pleasures to absolve ourselves of the momentary pain.
Emotional eating is triggered by certain reward systems in the brain. Let’s understand how these psychological factors alter our eating episodes. Motivation (wanting), outcome (liking), memory (learning), habituation (adapting) are the four factors that respond to cues like food, alcohol, drug, money, etc.
Poor food memory is known to alter food consumption levels; sugary or carbohydrate-rich items, especially, tend to impair memory, leading to vicious cycles of overeating. This is because our brain remembers the satiating effects of a particular meal and registers an expectation in the future food intake. This influence in our eating experiences, therefore, plays a role in decision making during mealtime.
One of the main properties of food is its palatability that produces a sense of pleasure and addiction. Overeating of palatable foods can be triggered by the failure to downregulate the “wanting” and “liking” of the foods we consume.
Coupled with emotional biases, we tend to binge-eat without attending to our “wants” and “likes.” Many research studies suggest that obese people, more often than not, pay little attention to their food cues, while leaner people show a larger bias to their food cues. Their food consumption is a function of eating to satiety; in other words, they eat food only when hungry.
Appetitive responses to different foods vary and are habituated as they are eaten. It is a simple form of learning that limits the quantity or size of food that we eat. As we consume newer food varieties, we take more than optimum quantities and lose habitation, leading to increased meal sizes and overeating.
Dopamine, the ‘happy hormone,’ is an important neurotransmitter crucial for emotional and mental wellbeing. The DRD2 gene encodes the D2 Dopamine receptor. DRD2 variants can affect the D2 receptor activity and result in addictive or reward-dependent behaviors. Individuals carrying this variation run the risk of over-eating disorders as well as obesity. Such individuals consume palatable foods to compensate for the improper functioning of dopamine, especially during emotional times.
rs1800497 is an SNP in the DRD2 gene. It is also known as the TaqIA (or Taq1A) polymorphism. The A1 or the T allele of this SNP is associated with a reduced number of dopamine binding sites in the brain.
According to a study, the presence of even one copy of the A1 or T allele was associated with an increased risk for emotional eating.
### ADIPOQ Gene and Emotional Eating
Adiponectin is a 247-amino acid peptide that circulates in large amounts in plasma. The adipocytes (fat cells) play a crucial role in multiple functions like anti-inflammation, cardioprotection, etc., and it is known to regulate energy homeostasis and feeding behavior. Altered circulating adiponectin levels can lead to human eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa (binge eating). Not only does it alter the eating cycles, but it is also observed to have effects on the psychological functioning and emotional health of humans.
rs1501299 is an SNP in the ADIPOQ gene. It is also annotated as c.276G>T.
A study analyzed the emotional eating behavior in young Nigerian adults. It was found that the T-allele in rs1501299 was associated with a decreased risk for emotional eating in the codominant condition - that is, GT when compared to GG and TT types.
Basically, any negative emotion is a contributor to emotional eating.
- Can be a symptom of atypical depression
- Uncontrolled stress can trigger the release of cortisol hormone, which can amp up your appetite
- An inability to express your emotions can lead to you stuffing them down. This can lead to uncomfortable feelings that may make you combat them with food.
- Childhood habits of being rewarded with foods like ice cream when on good behavior often get carried over to adulthood.
- Overindulging in food can often happen when others around you also overeat. This is often seen in social gatherings.
By not indulging in the ‘trigger emotions,’ even the most painful situations can be handled with ease. Following these tips can help reduce those curveballs and curb your intentions of excessive eating:
Practice mindful eating
When we feed our emotions with food, we do so in a quick manner to bulldoze through the pain, but we can certainly regulate that feeling by consciously judging our own decisions just seconds before eating. So, slow down, savor your food, and practice mindful eating.
Make daily exercise part of the routine because physical activities can do wonders to your body and mind and act as a powerful stress-buster. Getting into a habit of exercising can help balance out your emotional triggers.
Avoid binge-eating while working
This often becomes a habit whereby people eat mindlessly while working or watching movies, and this can disrupt your attention towards the type or quantity of food that you consume. Over time, it is easy to get habituated to eating without a conscious mind. Avoid doing this to regulate eating habits.
Connect with important people
Connecting with people that are positive and are mindful can help you become more watchful of your eating habits.
Lower the intake of sugary substances
These high carbs, sugary foods can impair the hypothalamus’s function in encoding memory based on foods, leading to either improper eating or binge-eating in the subsequent intakes.
Make time for relaxation
To decompress and unwind, break from responsibilities, and relax; this can awaken you from your daily hustle and stress.
Unlike most amino acids, homocysteine is a harmful amino acid that is not involved in protein synthesis. It is usually formed in the body.
This harmful amino acid is converted into either cysteine or methionine, amino acids that are safe for the body. There are different interdependent pathways involved in the conversion of homocysteine. B complex vitamins are involved in these pathways.
The normal range of homocysteine levels in the blood is less than 15 micromoles per liter (mcmol/L) of blood. Some people have higher levels of homocysteine, and this leads to hyperhomocysteinemia. High levels of homocysteine are further divided into three categories
- Moderate: 15-30 mcmol/L
- Intermediate: 30-100 mcmol/L
- Severe: Levels greater than 100 mcmol/L
High levels of homocysteine are linked to an increased risk of heart disease and certain vitamin deficiencies.
Elevated levels of homocysteine in the blood are harmful to the body. This condition is termed hyperhomocysteinemia.
According to a review published in 2017 in the journal Nutrition and Metabolism, higher homocysteine levels may be a risk factor for developing certain conditions like heart disease or nutritional deficiencies.
Other potential conditions associated with hyperhomocysteinemia include dementia, stroke, atherosclerosis, blood clot formation, heart attack, hypothyroidism, and epilepsy.
A family history of hyperhomocysteinemia can increase your risk of the condition. Some of the genes needed for the breakdown of homocysteine are mentioned below.
The MTHFR gene contains instructions for the production of an enzyme known as methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase. This enzyme is involved in the processing of amino acids through the MTHFR pathway. In this pathway, a compound known as 5,10-methylenetetrahydrofolate is converted into 5-methyltetrahydrofolate, which is the active form of vitamin B9. This conversion is needed for the conversion of homocysteine into methionine. Changes (or variations) in this gene can affect enzyme activity and homocysteine levels.
rs1801133is a well-known single-nucleotide polymorphism or SNP found in the MTHFR gene. There are three forms (or genotypes) of this SNP:
- TT - 10-20% efficiency of folic acid processing, higher levels of homocysteine, lower levels of vitamin B12 and folate.
- CT - 65% efficiency of folic acid processing
- CC - highest efficiency of folic acid processing
People with the CC genotype are found to have normal homocysteine levels.
The MTR gene contains instructions for the production of the enzyme methionine synthase. This enzyme is needed for the conversion of homocysteine into methionine. This enzyme requires a form of vitamin B12 to function properly.
rs2275565 is an SNP found in the MTR gene. The T allele is found to be the risk allele and is associated with higher levels of homocysteine.
The BHMT gene contains instructions for the production of an enzyme known as Betaine-Homocysteine S-Methyltransferase. This enzyme is needed for the conversion of homocysteine into methionine.
rs3733890 is an SNP found in the BHMT gene. The A allele is found to be the risk allele and plays a role in elevated homocysteine levels.
Vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and folate deficiency are the common causes of high homocysteine levels. These vitamins are involved in the pathways responsible for the conversion of homocysteine into safer amino acids, methionine and cysteine.
Other underlying health conditions
Kidney disease, psoriasis, Crohn’s disease, and low thyroid hormone levels can lead to high levels of homocysteine.
Levels of homocysteine may also increase with age. A study reported that homocysteine levels were higher in patients above 65 years of age.
The symptoms vary from person to person and maybe very minimal in certain cases. Symptoms are more prevalent in children when compared to adults. The symptoms usually depend on the underlying vitamin deficiency that results in higher homocysteine levels. Common symptoms include:
- Pale skin
If you have been diagnosed with a vitamin deficiency causing an increase in homocysteine levels, change your diet to include rich sources of vitamin B and folic acid.
Folate-rich foods include:
- Kidney beans, soybeans
- Leafy greens, asparagus, broccoli, root vegetables
- Citrus fruits, papaya, avocado, banana
- Salmon, beef liver
- Nuts and seed
- Fortified breakfast cereals
Vitamin B6-rich foods include:
- Chicken, turkey
- Soya beans
- Fortified breakfast cereals
Vitamin B12-rich foods include:
- Dairy products
- Organ meat
- Fortified breakfast cereals
Doctors may also recommend supplements to meet your vitamin needs.
If people have hyperhomocysteinemia as a result of an underlying health condition, treatment is focused on managing that condition.
A simple blood test is usually recommended to test for homocysteine levels in the blood. Blood tests can detect any vitamin deficiencies that you might have. Based on the results, your doctor may recommend additional tests to find the underlying cause.
Vitamin B2, also called riboflavin, is an essential nutrient needed for human health. It is one of the eight B vitamins. All the B vitamins are important for good health. Vitamin B2 is a water-soluble vitamin. Being a water-soluble vitamin, it can be excreted out of the body easily. Your body only stores a small amount of riboflavin, and hence, you need to include riboflavin in your diet every day.
Vitamin B2 plays a role in
- Maintaining tissues
- Energy metabolism
- Secretion of mucus that prevents dryness induced oil secretion that leads to acne
- Absorption of zinc, which is essential for the skin
- Maintaining the structural integrity of the skin
- Protects cells from oxidative damage
- Maintenance of red blood cells
- Keeping the skin healthy
The recommended daily intake of vitamin B2 is as follows:
1.3 mg for healthy men
1.1 mg for healthy women
1.4 mg for pregnant women
1.6 mg for lactating women
0.3 mg for infants up to 6 months
0.4 mg for infants between 6-12 months
0.5 mg for 1-3-year-old children
0.6 mg for 4-8-year-old children
0.9 mg for 9-13-year-old children
1.3 mg for 14-18-year-old males
1.0 mg for 14-18-year-old females
People of certain genetic types may need more vitamin B2 due to the inefficient transport in their bodies. Certain genes can help determine your risk for vitamin deficiency.
The MTHFR gene produces an enzyme called methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase. This enzyme is involved in the methylation cycle. MTHFR activates 5, 10-methylene TetraHydroFolate(THF) to 5-methyl THF, and this is needed for the conversion of homocysteine to methionine.
This protein is also involved in the conversion of folate to SAMe, which is involved in the methylation of DNA as it is the universal methylation donor. The methylation cycle is essential for various functions in the body.
Vitamin B2 is involved in the metabolism of homocysteine along with Vitamin B1. Vitamin B2 deficiency can lead to high levels of homocysteine, which is a harmful amino acid.
rs1801133 is a single nucleotide polymorphism or SNP found in the MTFHR gene.It is also referred to as C677T. The T allele decreases enzyme activity, with only a 10-20% efficiency in folate processing and leads to high levels of 0f homocysteine in the body.
Vitamin B2 deficiency is not very common in the US as most of the food items like milk and whole-grain cereals, which are widely consumed, contain good levels of vitamin B2.
Vitamin B2 deficiency can lead to
- Cracked lips
- Itching of skin
- Scrotal Dermatitis
- Inflammation of mouth lining
- Inflammation of the tongue
- Scaly skin
- Hair loss
- Reproductive problems
Certain food items contain vitamin B2. These include:
- Kidney and liver meat, lean meats
- Green vegetables like broccoli and spinach
- Cereals, grains, and bread
- Milk and yogurt
- Lima beans and peas
Riboflavin is water-soluble. While cooking food, especially boiling, vitamin content may reduce. Make sure to include a daily supply of vitamin B2 rich foods to keep your skin healthy. A balanced diet is always important to keep your skin and other parts of the body healthy.
Your doctor may prescribe certain vitamin B2 supplements to overcome your deficiency apart from your diet.
Cilantro is a herb popularly used in cooking. The names cilantro and coriander are commonly used interchangeably. Both cilantro and coriander come from the same plant species, Coriandrum sativum. The nutrient profiles of the plant and seed are different.
In North America, cilantro refers to the leaves and stem, while coriander refers to the seeds. In other countries like India, coriander refers to the leaves and stem, and the seeds are called coriander seeds. Cilantro is the Spanish word for coriander.
Cilantro has a fragrant, citrusy flavor. The coriander seeds have a warm, spicy, earthy aroma with a hint of citrus. It is usually paired with cumin and used as a base ingredient for making spice mixes.
Even though cilantro is properly used in several cuisines all over the world, some people do not like the taste of it. They find the taste soapy and revolting. This is termed as Cilantro Taste Aversion.
Even the famous American chef, Julia Child, did not have a liking for cilantro. She said the best way to deal with it in food is to pick it up and throw it on the floor.
Cilantro contains several aldehydes. Aldehydes taste soapy in nature. People with cilantro taste aversion perceive the taste of these aldehydes found in cilantro.
The number of people with this aversion is less in Central America and India, where this herb is very popular. Nearly 20% of the East Asian population are found to experience the soapy-taste of cilantro.
Why do some people hate the taste of cilantro but others don’t?
The answer to this question lies in genes.
Cilantro taste preference can be explained by genetics. The olfactory receptors influence our sense of smell, which directly alters our taste perception. Variations in olfactory-receptor genes can affect the way we perceive the taste of certain food items.
The OR6A2 gene is an olfactory-receptor gene. It carries instructions for the production of Olfactory Receptor Family 6 Subfamily A Member 2 protein. This protein has a high-binding affinity to soapy-flavored aldehydes like the ones found in cilantro. Individuals with an aversion to the taste of cilantro are found to have a variation in this gene.
rs72921001 is a single nucleotide polymorphism or SNP in the OR6A2 gene. Individuals with the A allele of this gene are at a lower risk of detecting a soapy taste.
The best way to deal with the soapy taste of cilantro is to avoid using it in meals or picking it out of your plate as Julia Child said.
Some restaurants use a mix of parsley, tarragon, and dill. Lime of lemon zest can be used to substitute for the bright, citrusy flavor of cilantro. Carrot tops, mint, basil, or Thai basil are also used in certain dishes.
Microgreens are becoming increasingly popular. Micro cilantro tastes less soapy than mature cilantro leaves. Coriander seeds may also have a more palatable flavor compared to cilantro.
Crushing cilantro may help eliminate the soapy-tasting aldehydes. Using cilantro in chutneys and sauces dampens the soapy flavor and can help you get used to the herb.
Adiponectin is a protein hormone secreted primarily by adipocytes or fat cells. Adipocytes are found in the adipose tissue. Certain other cell types in the muscle and brain can also produce this hormone.
This hormone plays a role in the metabolism of lipids and glucose. Adiponectin also influences the body’s response to insulin and can reduce cholesterol buildup in the arteries and inflammation.
The reference range for adiponectin levels is based on the Body Mass Index.
1. BMI <25 - Males: 4-26 mcg/mL and females: 5-37 mcg/mL
2. BMI 25-30 - Males: 4-20 mcg/mL and females: 5-28 mcg/mL
3. BMI >30 - Males: 2-20 mcg/mL and females: 4-22 mcg/mL
Research shows that genetic changes can affect adiponectin levels. A few of the genes influencing adiponectin levels are described below.
The ADIPOQ gene carries instructions to produce the protein hormone, adiponectin. Variants or changes in this gene affect adiponectin levels.
rs17366568 is a single-nucleotide polymorphism or SNP found in the ADIPOQ gene.People with the A allele were found to have lower adiponectin levels.
rs6773957 is an SNP in the ADIPOQ gene. People with the G allele were found to have lower levels of adiponectin, and people with the A allele were found to have higher levels of adiponectin.
The PAPD4 gene carries instructions for the production of a protein known as PAP-Associated Domain-Containing Protein 4. This protein is an RNA polymerase.
rs13358260 is an SNP in the PAPD4 gene. The C allele is found to affect serum adiponectin levels.
The KCNK9 gene carries instructions for the production of a protein called TASK3. This protein is a potassium channel and is involved in the transport of potassium ions in and out of cells.
rs2468677 is an SNP in the KCNK9 gene. The G allele is found to affect serum adiponectin levels.
Hypoadiponectinemia is a clinical term that refers to low levels of adiponectin in the body. Lower levels of adiponectin are found in people with obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.
Visceral fat is a type of fat found in the body. Also known as belly fat, it is stored in the abdominal region and around all the major organs like the liver, kidneys, intestines, pancreas, and heart. Accumulation of visceral fat can increase the risk of developing insulin resistance, diabetes, heart disease, low levels of HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol), high blood pressure, and even some cancers.
Studies show that higher levels of adiponectin have a protective effect and lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Higher levels of adiponectin also promote the synthesis of good cholesterol, HDL cholesterol in the body.
A review published in the international journal of inflammation reported that higher levels of adiponectin are found in cases of heart failure, hypertension, and chronic inflammatory autoimmune diseases like SLE, type 1 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Changing your diet to follow a healthy and balanced diet is a means of managing adiponectin levels.
- Monounsaturated fats such as fish oil, avocados, olive oil, omega-3 can boost adiponectin levels.
- Make sure you include enough sources of dietary fiber in your meal.
- People who regularly consume caffeine are found to have higher adiponectin levels.
- Curcumin, found in turmeric, can boost adiponectin levels.
- Moderate consumption of ethanol-containing beverages is found to increase adiponectin levels depending on the type of beverage and gender.
- Resveratrol, a compound found in grapes, stimulates the production of adiponectin.
- Zinc supplementation can also restore adiponectin levels to normal in patients with type 2 diabetes.
- A study shows that limiting consumption of carbohydrates to dinner time can increase adiponectin levels and lower the risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Adiponectin levels are determined using a blood test. Levels in the blood are measured using a method called ELISA (Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay). ELISA is a plate-based assay technique in which antibodies are usually used to detect the target molecule, such as proteins.
Your doctor may ask you to test for adiponectin levels as a biomarker for certain metabolic disorders like type 2 diabetes.
Body mass index or (BMI) is an indicator of your body fat, which is calculated based on your height and weight.
This number is used to classify individuals into different groups – optimum weight, underweight, overweight, or obese.
BMI can be used as a screening test rather than a diagnostic test.
Several factors, such as age, sex, disease, genetics, and lifestyle, affect BMI measurements, and thus, normative standards must be applied for specific groups and individuals.
Both high and low BMI can cause health issues. BMI has proven to be a very useful tool to screen for weight problems in both adults and children. However, it does come with a few caveats:
1. BMI does not furnish information such as the mass of fat in different regions of the body.
2. BMI tends to overestimate the amount of body fat in people who are very muscular - that is, it does not differentiate between lean body mass and body fat mass.
3. BMI may also underestimate the amount of body fat in older adults and other people who have lost muscle mass.
To calculate the BMI using the metric system, you need to divide your weight (in kilograms) by the square of your height (in meters):
WEIGHT(Kg) / [HEIGHT(meters)]^2
Since height is usually measured in centimeters, the formula can be written as:
[WEIGHT(Kg) / HEIGHT (cm)/ HEIGHT(cm)] x 10,000
To calculate the BMI in the English system, the formula is:
WEIGHT(lb) / [HEIGHT(in)]^2 x 703
Before the BMI calculation, the weight needs to be converted into decimal values in case it is given in terms of ounces.
In order to calculate an individual’s BMI, his/her weight(in kgs) must be divided by the square of his/her height(in meters).
Based on the above-mentioned calculation, individuals are categorized as:
- <18.5: Underweight
- 18.5 to 25: Normal
- 25 to 30: Overweight
- 30 or higher: Obese
Based on BMI, obese individuals are further classified as:
- 30 to 35: Mild obesity
- 35 to 40: Moderate obesity
- 40 or higher: Extreme or severe obesity
Unlike in the case of adults, BMI measurements during childhood and adolescence take age and sex into consideration. The BMI is calculated the same way by measuring height and weight. This is then plotted on a sex and age-specific chart. This will indicate whether the child’s weight is within a healthy range.
- Below the 5th percentile: Underweight
- 5th percentile to less than the 85th percentile: Healthy weight
- 85th to less than the 95th percentile: Overweight
- Equal to or greater than the 95th percentile: Obesity
FTO or Fat mass and obesity-associated gene, as the name suggests, is linked to body weight. It contains instructions for producing a protein known as alpha-ketoglutarate-dependent dioxygenase FTO.
The FTO gene is one of the most researched genes for obesity.
rs9939609 is an SNP in the FTO gene. It has been linked to an increase in total body fat levels. According to a study conducted, the presence of the AA allele in this SNP has been shown to contribute to obesity and increased BMI, irrespective of how the adipose (fat) tissue distribution is.
Factors influencing an individual’s BMI, like insulin sensitivity and plasma cholesterol levels, are also associated with the SNP rs9939609.
The BDNF gene contains instructions to produce the protein by Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor. This protein is found in the brain and spinal cord. It is especially found in the regions of the brain that control eating, drinking, and body weight. Hence, this protein influences all of these functions.
rs6265, also known as Val66Met, is a Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) in the BDNF gene. A study carried out a detailed examination of eating behavior in persons with different Val66Met types (Val-Val or GG, Val-Met or AG, and Met-Met or AA). It was discovered that people who have the Met-Met (AA) type had a lower BMI than those with the Val-Met (AG) or the Val-Val (GG) genotype.
Certain factors can predispose you to a higher BMI. The good news is that most of these factors are modifiable and can be worked around to achieve the ideal BMI.
Adults who have a normal BMI often start to gain weight in young adulthood and continue to gain weight until they are ages 60 to 65. In addition, children who have obesity are more likely to have obesity as adults.
Women are likely to accumulate fat near their hips and buttock areas. Men build up fat around their abdomen (belly) region.
Women tend to build up fat in their hips and buttocks. Extra fat, particularly if it is around the abdomen, may put people at risk of health problems even if they have a normal weight.
In American adults, the prevalence of obesity is the highest in African Americans, followed by Hispanics/Latinos, then Caucasians. This is true for men and women.
Needless to say, dietary habits influence your body weight. High-calorie and high-sugar foods increase your risk for overweight and obesity.
Other factors that influence your BMI include your levels of physical activity, your work environment, and your family habits and culture.
High BMI and obesity can increase the risk of many chronic health conditions, including:
- High blood pressure
- Type 2 diabetes
- Liver disease
- Cardiovascular disease
- Musculoskeletal problems
Being underweight and have insufficient fat in your body can also lead to health complications like:
- Bone loss and osteoporosis
- Decreased immune function
One of the prime reasons for this is that BMI doesn’t differentiate between muscle and fat.
It may not be accurate, especially if you are in one of the following groups:
Athletes: Athletes tend to have higher bone mass and lean muscle mass. As a result, they may have higher BMI.
But this increased lean muscle mass can actually be healthy as it helps boost metabolism and prevent heart diseases and diabetes.
Pregnant or breastfeeding women: Most of the weight gain during pregnancy is to provide nourishment for the growing fetus and is usually not an indication of bad health or obesity.
Older people: In people who are 65 or older, a BMI of less than 23 is associated with health risks. The ideal BMI for this age group is considered to be 27.
Alternative Ways To Measure Body Fat
- Waist circumference
- Waist to height ratio
- Body fat percentage
- Waist to hip ratio
Nicotine is a nitrogen-containing chemical and is a highly addictive substance. It is mainly found in tobacco and is primarily consumed by inhaling the smoke of tobacco cigarettes. Nicotine produces ‘pleasurable and pleasing’ effects on the brain. With regular smoking, you tend to get used to these positive feelings. Going without a smoke can make you experience unwanted effects - this indicates nicotine dependence.
According to the CDC, smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. A study even suggests the smoking is responsible for 1 in every 5 deaths in the U.S..
## Symptoms of Nicotine Dependence
The symptoms vary amongst individuals and also differ based on the level of dependence. Some signs to watch out for include:
- A history of at least one unsuccessful attempt to quit smoking
- Withdrawal symptoms like irritability, mood swings, insomnia, restlessness, increased hunger, and anxiety
- Social withdrawal - an unwillingness to participate in any activities or go to any places that discourage smoking.
The addictive quality of nicotine is what causes nicotine dependence. Nicotine triggers the release of the happy hormone, dopamine. This pleasure response is what smokers chase after. Smoking also increases the heart rate, which in turn boosts the noradrenaline hormone. The increased hormone levels enhance mood and concentration.
People who smoke nicotine start craving the dopamine rush. When they abstain from smoking for a few hours, the hormone levels start to drop, and they start to experience undesired effects like irritability and anxiety.
Nicotiana tabacum is the type of nicotine found in tobacco plants. The tobacco plant has been used for its medicinal benefits for at least 200 years.
“It is thought that Christopher Columbus, while exploring America for the first time, discovered tobacco.
Using tobacco for smoking started and spread rapidly over the 1600s. When it was introduced in Europe, some saw its medicinal purpose, while others viewed it as a toxic, addictive substance.
Tobacco usage exploded when cigarette-making machines were introduced in the 1880s. Only in 1964, a study established a link between smoking and heart and lung cancer was published. 30 years later, in 1994, the U.S. FDA recognized nicotine as a drug with addictive properties. Finally, only in 2009, the Supreme Court granted the FDA control to establish some nicotine regulations.
A person may have smoked cigarettes in his youth and would’ve had no trouble stopping it after. Another person may enjoy recreational smoke but not feel the need to smoke a few every day. Yet another person continues to smoke a pack a day and cannot seem to quit this habit.
So, what contributes to these differences in smoking patterns? Why are the pleasure-inducing effects of nicotine evident in some and not in others?
Some studies have revealed that the differences in response to nicotine can be attributed to changes in some genes involved in the production of receptors to which nicotine binds to.
Let’s dilute this further. Nicotine has a similar structure to the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is known to influence memory, arousal, attention, and mood. Nicotine binds to a type of acetylcholine receptors called the nicotine acetylcholine receptors or nAch. nAch receptor has 5 subunits. These subunits are produced by certain genes. Any changes in these genes can alter the structure of the subunits, which in turn can alter the nAch structure. These alterations modify how you respond to nicotine.
The CHRNA5 gene contains instructions for producing the α5 subunit of the nAch receptor. Certain changes or mutations in this gene alter the α5 subunit and makes the nAch receptor channels more/less sensitive to nicotine.
rs16969968 is an SNP in the CHRNA5 gene. It influences the pleasurable effects of nicotine. The A allele has been associated with “enhanced pleasurable responses” to a person’s first cigarette. The A allele carriers are at an increased risk for nicotine addiction, compared to the G allele carriers.
Interestingly, the A allele has also been associated with lower risk for cocaine dependence!
The CHRNB3 gene contains instructions for producing the β3 subunit of the nAch receptor. This gene has been identified to predispose an individual to nicotine addiction.
rs10958726 is an SNP in the CHRNB3 gene. The T allele of this SNP has been associated with increased risk of nicotine dependence.
Several other genes like CHRNG, CHRNA4, CYP2B6, and FMO also influence the risk of nicotine dependence.
Age: According to a study, the chances of developing nicotine dependence is higher when the age of onset of smoking is before 21, especially between 18-20 years.
Peers: People who grow up with smoking parents or spend more time around friends who smoke are more likely to get into the habit of smoking and may eventually develop nicotine addiction.
Substance usage: People who consume alcohol or drugs are more likely to become nicotine dependent. The reverse relationship is also true! In fact, according to a study conducted to evaluate concurrent use of alcohol and cigarettes, approximately one-third of current drinkers smoked, whereas approximately 95 percent of current smokers used alcohol.
Mental illness: People with mental troubles like depression, PTSD, or schizophrenia are more likely to be smokers than other people. A study that looked at depression and nicotine dependence from adolescence to young adulthood concluded that depression is a prominent risk factor for nicotine dependence, and the adolescent and youth population exhibiting depression symptoms constitute an important group that requires smoking intervention.
Mental illness: People with mental troubles like depression, PTSD, or schizophrenia are more likely to be smokers than other people. A study that looked at depression and nicotine dependence from adolescence to young adulthood concluded that depression is a prominent risk factor for nicotine dependence, and the adolescent and youth population exhibiting depression symptoms constitute an important group that requires smoking intervention.
Using tobacco can lead to grave health complications. Nicotine dependence has been tied to increased risk of various health conditions.
Tobacco smoking, to date, remains the most established contributor to lung carcinogenesis or lung cancer. Recent studies suggest that nicotine, in small quantities, accelerates cell growth and in large quantities becomes toxic to cells. Nicotine also decreases the levels of CHK2, a protein that acts as a tumor suppressor. Further, it lowers the effects of anti-cancer treatments. Smoking contributes to 30% of all deaths due to cancer!
Cigarette smoking remains the leading cause of COPD in the U.S. A CDC analysis revealed that the prevalence of COPD in adults was 15.2% among current cigarette smokers, compared to 2.8% among adults who never smoked!
Smoking causes damage to the heart and blood vessels. It also alters your blood chemistry, contributing to plaque build-up. In the U.S., smoking accounted for 33% of all deaths caused due to cardiovascular diseases.
Research shows that nicotine influences the activity of pancreas. The usage of nicotine leads to decreased production of insulin by the pancreas. Thus, the blood sugar levels are poorly regulated, leading to diabetes. Smokers with diabetes may require higher doses of insulin to keep their blood sugar levels in check.
Tobacco smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of both morbidities and mortality of newborns. Nicotine damages the developing lungs and brain of the fetus. Common birth defects caused due to nicotine are cleft lip and cleft palate. Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) has been suggested for pregnant women who are unable to quit smoking. However, the safety of NRT to the developing fetus has not been well-documented yet.
Nicotine withdrawal is the set of symptoms one experiences upon stopping tobacco usage. It can start as early as 30 minutes from the last usage. The range and severity of symptoms can depend on how long the person has been smoking and how often they have smoked. Some symptoms include:
- Increased craving for nicotine
- Increased hunger and appetite
- Mood swings
- Nausea and vomiting
- Tingling feelings in hands and feet
- Difficulty in concentrating
Owing to the withdrawal symptoms, quitting smoking can be very challenging. The following are the basics of any de-addiction program which can help you overcome nicotine addiction.
- Staying away from triggers
- Support of friends and family
- Other support groups
- Web-based programs
There are also other specific ways that can help you gradually become nicotine-independent.
It is the process of administering the nicotine that your brain demands in a safer way by avoiding all the other harmful substances present in cigarettes. This also provides relief from the withdrawal symptoms. NRT supplies lower doses of nicotine at slower rates. Some of the commonly available NRTs include:
- Nicotine gums
- Nicotine patches
- Nicotine nasal spray
- Nicotine inhaler
- Nicotine lozenges
All of these are generally available over the counter and do not require prescriptions.
There are certain medications available that do not contain nicotine but are designed to produce the same effects of nicotine on the brain. They help decrease cravings and alleviate other withdrawal symptoms. Some examples of these medications include Chantix and Zyban.
In 2009, the FDA mandated the makers of such medications to put a black box, warning the users about the possible dangerous psychological effects, including agitation, depression, and suicidal thoughts.
CBT trains smokers to cope with the symptoms of withdrawal. CBT has known to achieve twice the success rate when it comes to quitting smoking (compared to people who didn’t receive CBT).
The traditional Mediterranean diet includes the healthy diet followed by people from countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, including Italy, Greece, France, Spain, and several other countries in the 1960s. The Mediterranean diet proposed now is inspired by the traditional dietary pattern followed in these countries.
The modern Mediterranean diet is recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans as one of the healthy eating plans that can promote heart health and help prevent chronic disease. This diet is recognized as a healthy and sustainable dietary eating pattern by the World Health Organization.
The term “Mediterranean diet” is generic. There is no one standard Mediterranean diet. It differs in each country that lies on the borders of the Mediterranean Sea. There are some common factors in all the different eating styles that are considered typical of this diet.
This diet is high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and olive oil. Dairy products, eggs, fish, and poultry are included in low to moderate amounts. Meals are mainly built around minimally processed plant-based foods. Healthy fats, including olive oil, fatty fish like mackerel, are also included. Red meat is not very common. A glass of red wine along with family and friends is also a common feature of this diet.
Genes can affect the way your body adapts to this diet. People with certain variants of the FTO gene respond differently to the Meditteranean diet and have more weight loss compared to normal.
The FTOgene carries instructions for the production of the Fat Mass and Obesity-Associated protein. Variations in this gene have been linked to obesity, diabetes.
rs9939609is an SNP in the FTO gene. Generally, carriers of the A allele have an increased risk of obesity and higher weight gain, and carriers of the TT genotype have a lower risk of obesity and weight gain. A study done with high cardiovascular risk subjects aged 55-80 reported that a 3-year intervention with the Mediterranean style diet resulted in individuals with the A allele having a lower body weight gain compared to those with the TT genotype.
A study done in the North American region of Canada analyzed the factors influencing the dietary response to a Mediterranean diet intervention mainly in women. Some of them include:
Having children: Women without children followed the dietary advice more closely when compared to women with children.
Shopping habits: Women who planned their food purchases in the beginning based on weekly discounts followed the dietary advice more closely.
High-risk populations, individuals at higher risk of heart diseases or other conditions were found to follow the diet better compared to healthy individuals.
Food preferences of other family members
Motivation: Attending a group session or talking to a nutritionist about following the diet can be useful.
There is no hard and fast rule with the Mediterranean diet. Various eating styles influence this diet. It basically includes minimally processed plant-based foods, a source of healthy fats, a reduced amount of red meat, and low amounts of added sugar.
Below is a list of what foods you can include as part of this diet and what to avoid. This is not an exhaustive list. There are several sources that give you a sample plan of the Mediterranean diet and walk you through it.
What to include
- Fish and seafood twice a week
- Fruits and vegetables
- Nuts and seeds
- Whole grains
- Healthy fats like olive oil
- Herbs and spices to add flavor
- Moderate amounts of red wine instead of other liquor (This is not mandatory, people who suffer from alcoholism can avoid it.)
- More amount of fluids like water
What to avoid
- Beverages with added sugar
- Processed food, including processed meat
- Refined grains
- Refined oil that is a source of unhealthy fat
- Food items that are high-fat and high-sugar
Sample diet plan: