My amygdala told me to do it!

Feb 2012 268

Burning fat!

by cheri sabraw

At the risk of alienating all of you, I am going to quote from Fat Chance.  I will paraphrase Dr. Lustig’s paragraph (p.71)  after you read it.

The Limbic Triangle: Disordered Eating, Obesity, and Disease.

These three brain pathways (hunger, reward, stress) drive hyperinsulinemia (excess insulin levels), resulting in obesity and metabolic syndrome. We call this model the “limbic triangle”—similar to the Bermuda Triangle: once you get in, you can’t get out. Chronic insulin action at the VMH inhibits leptin signaling, which is interpreted as starvation. This decreases SNS activity (sloth) and increases vagal activity (hunger). In the VTA, chronic insulin deregulates hedonic reward pathways by inhibiting leptin signaling (reward). You want to eat more, especially high-fat and high-sugar treats, which results in excessive energy intake. Chronic activation of the amygdala increases levels of cortisol (stress).By itself, this promotes excess food intake and insulin resistance, ratcheting up insulin levels and accelerating weight gain.This what is going on in virtually every obese individual.

Now, for my translation:

Either hunger, reward, and/or stress contribute to your pancreas producing more insulin    (a hormone) than you need. Insulin that is not burned is immediately stored in your fat cells, the number of which is determined by the time you are two. They are like balloons, hoping you will fill them with fat (storage) and forget to burn the fat off through activity. Excess insulin levels produce weight gain and obesity.

When your pancreas is overworked from sugar consumption and is producing more insulin than your body needs, the VMH, (the ventromedial hypthalamus)-which is like a CEO that balances your energy expenditure with your energy storage-begins to inhibit the  hormone called leptin, a protein which tells your hypothalamus that you have enough energy stored in your fat cells (so you are not hungry).  When  this happens, your hypothalamus tells your body it needs food for storage.

Your SNS ( sympathetic nervous system) slows (stops burning fat) because it has been told you are hungry. Feed me, it says. I need energy!! This imbalance is like that little sugar-devil on your shoulder that commands you consume more sugary (energy producing) foods.

When this syndrome becomes chronic, your amygydala ( an area of your brain) tells your adrenal gland  to produce more cortisol, the hormone that prepares your body for dealing with stress. This vicious cycle causes you to eat more and creates insulin resistance, which in turn, produces obesity.

As Dr. Lustig cleverly writes: “Desserts is Stressed spelled backwards.


Your insulin levels determine whether you will store or burn fat. Too much insulin creates insulin resistance, so you continue to store fat in those balloons.

You can take one small step today: reduce your sugar intake.

If I have made any errors, please let me know.

About Cheri

Writer, artist, cable television host, grandmother to four!
This entry was posted in Education, Life and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to My amygdala told me to do it!

  1. potsoc says:

    The good Doctor is wrong on (at least) one point: I was on cruise ship that entered the Bermuda triangle on a beautiful sunny day…and we all came out of it intact, ship included.

    • Cheri says:

      Ha! Were you worried about entering the Bermuda Triangle? I suppose the danger also has to do with the time of the year. I read Nathanial Philbrick’s book about the whaling industry in Nantucket. (Very tough book to read when you think about how many sperm whales were harpooned in the 19th century. The whalers were fearful of all things Bermuda Triangle.

  2. shoreacres says:

    The dynamics of the process described above reminded me of a similar cycle I’d forgotten about: the drama queen syndrome. It is possible for people to become addicted to their own adrenalin. Let the level fall (as it does on most ordinary days in most ordinary lives) and there will be an attempt to feel the adrenalin rush again by whomping up another “situation.”

    That could explain a few things about social media, at minimum. Perhaps politics, too.

    You did a great job of summing up the good doctor’s argument. It did amuse me that the child in the photo vaguely resembles a TeleTubbie. Appropriate, given the subject matter.

    • Cheri says:

      Ah yes, the drama queen (and king) syndrome. In my 42 years of teaching, from 4th graders to college students, I have observed a number of such royalty in action–mainly from junior high girls. At the adult level, I would imagine that yes, it must have hormonal design.
      As far as the TeleTubbie in the picture, well, that is Buzz Lightyear! I happen to know him.

  3. JFB says:

    You might want someone as smart as Muni to “proof read” this, however you appeared to summarize it well.
    Bottom line: I hear many aging, sick people in my office say I wish I listened to you when you said cut the sugar AND salt waaaay down. Can’t go wrong with following that advice.

    • Cheri says:

      I was hoping Muni would read this and weigh in. I think I paraphrased correctly. Why don’t you run this by your climbing buddy? The famous Doctor B?

  4. Glenys says:

    Your interpretation appears very good, Cheri, although I am not qualified to say. Insulin is a hormone that tells the liver how to metabolise the sugar. Type 2 diabetics become resistant to insulin because they work it too hard with their sugar intake. Roughly speaking!

    I am glad you have seen for yourself the advantages of cutting back on sugar which contains no goodness and loads of calories.

    This is a huge subject and unless people are prepared to discover the dangers to their health by learning about the way sugar is metabolized by the liver, it is not easy to persuade them. In the UK the media have finally picked up on the danger of sugar and recently a sugar tax was put on soft drinks. Many health programmes also refer to Dr Lustig’s research to prove it. Only yesterday Sarah Wilson who has sold thousands of a cook book, “I quit sugar for life”, was on the radio answering questions and her knowledge is exactly what Prof. Lustig lectures on.

    Because sugar is a poison it ages the body as Lustig explains and hence the immune system is destroyed resulting in numerous illnesses even without susceptible genes. Many get frustrated about repeated claims of dangerous foods scares but this is different.

    As mentioned before it was the an English professor who first researched sugar 50 years ago and his theory was that it was the main cause of a number of illnesses especially heart disease because of the dangerous type of fatty deposits it created in the arteries. Unfortunately another scientist who discredited him and claimed it was the fat and not the sugar, Yudkin’s book then went out of publication, although now republished by Professor Lustig. The book is Pure White and Deadly by Professor John Yudkin. The food industry brought in low fat foods adding sugar to improve flavour. Fat can be harmful but sugar is the real danger. The food industry are not interested in health but profit.

    It is not necessary to be deprived of a sweet treat if you use a natural sweetener such as stevia powder or liquid or zylotol which I prefer and there is another sold on amazon which I also like. These are a bit more expensive. Also many cook books are available. I make loads of jams and have a good recipe if anyone wants it. I use vegetable gelatine as a thickener and store jam in kilner jars which you boil to seal. For afternoon tea we often have scones made with one ounce of zylotol instead of caster sugar, topped with butter and homemade sugar free jams such as white or red current jam. Clotted cream is even nicer! We have loads of berry fruit in the garden so I make lots of different types of jams and well as fruit pies.

    Since changing from eating so much sugar and meat, we now eat more than ever including loads of roughage and never put on any weight! Professor Lustig also explains how soluble and insoluble fibre actually keeps the body well and builds up good bowel bacteria.

  5. Cheri says:

    Dear Glenys,, Thank you for your extensive comment which is much more thorough than mine. You added a necessary piece–that sugar is metabolized in the liver. When the liver gets on overload, it sends the excess to the pancreas, where, as I understand it, the over-production of insulin begins.
    I bought Stevia and Ron is using it in his coffee. That’s a start.

    Yesterday, instead of eating a proper lunch while he was out running errands, he went to a drive-through ice cream store and had a frosty….

    • Glenys says:

      Dear Cheri,
      Stevia can taste bitter although the drops are better and available from amazon.  I would try Zylitol or  Erythritol both natural and preferable to sugar. I have also used this to make sugar free lemon curd and then used the lemon curd in a Mary Berry ice cream. Again I can give you the recipe.  Pea ice cream is also interesting!

      • Cheri says:

        Pea Ice Cream!! Now that would be a conversation piece and yes, I would like the recipe to the sugar-free lemon curd. Thank you, Glenys!

        • Glenys says:

          As I have such a sweet tooth I have learnt how to compensate and substitute sugar for a safe alternative and you cannot tell the difference. I have had to experiment with different recipes to get results since sugar is a thickener and a preservative.

          Here the recipe for sugar free lemon curd. The last two batches have been perfect so this is how I make it. Any recipe will do but halve the sugar quantity for the alternative and add stevia extract drops to get the sweetness perfected.

          Method : Use a heatproof bowl, set over a pan of simmering water, and add zest and juice of 4 unwaxed lemons and 100grams of unsalted butter cut into cubes plus 100 grams of zylitol and 30 drops of stevia concentrate extract (both available from amazon); use a whisk to stir until butter has melted. If it is not sweet enough simply add another 5 drops of extract.

          Mix 3 large free range eggs and one yolk lightly together with a fork before putting it into the lemon mixture; let it cook for 10 min or a few min more whisking regularly which keeps it light; when thicker and custard-like it is done.

          Remove from the heat and stir occasionally as it cools before pouring into clean jars (makes 2 small jam jars) and then keep in the fridge. You can have it on scones, toast or even with yogurt or ice cream.

          I am today experimenting making marrow and ginger jam using my basic sugar free, gelatin jam recipe and will be interested to see if it is as good as my others.

          Another sugar natural substitute is Erythritol again available from amazon in 1.7kg tubs. I have researched the safety of these and am satisfied. Lustig also says stevia is safe and Erythritol is mainly made from stevia.

          • Cheri says:

            You are amazing, Glenys. I am thinking that you might write a publish a small cookbook. Now, since I love waffles and just bought a new waffle iron, can you shed some light on maple syrup substitutes? Let us know how the marrow and ginger jam turned out!

            • Glenys says:

              I do not know of a maple syrup substitute, although I do use pure Canadian maple syrup very occasionally.

              If you make a loose xylitol jam it is a delicious alternative to all sugar spreads, so you could try it on a waffle.

              This is the universal jam recipe which I used for the marrow and ginger jam and it turned out well.

              1. In a pan over medium/low heat, heat the fruit (I do small batches of about a pound) add a little water, unless the fruit is frozen or already have lots of water, like strawberries, when you need no more water. Cook for about 10 minutes or until fruit is mushy or very soft, stir occasionally.

              2. If the fruit has seeds you may wish to strain it (I only do this with blackberries). For every cup and a half of this softened fruit you have to add the following ingredients, whisk together and bring to simmer for 2-3 minutes before bottling in screw-top kilner jars.

              3. Ingredients:
              Three quarters of a cup of birchwood xylitol or to taste.
              Four teaspoons of stevia granules (I also add stevia extract drops, about ten to perfect it)
              Two tablespoons of lemon juice
              Two and a half teaspoons of gelatine (if after making the jam it is too runny, reboil adding more gelatine. Blueberries thicken well and may need even less)

              4. Before bottling leave some in a dish to see how thick it sets when cooled to decide upon extra gelatine. Once you are happy and have bottled place the jars in a pan with water half way up the sides and simmer for ten minutes.

              5. From Amazon you can get waxed paper circles for the top of the jam before you tighten the jar, which might need an extra turn after 4 above. Store in a cool place and watch for mould, which is rare but comes off with the waxed paper.

              There are already plenty of cookbooks on the market, and it looks like Professor Lustig has helped with one.

              • Cheri says:

                Hi Glenys, Once again, thank you for taking the time to write this detailed comment with the jam recipe. I have printed it out! Love, Cheri

  6. Christopher says:

    OK OK I get it. Sugar is bad for you. However, people have always eaten (consumed) sugar, and many have lived long lives despite this.

    Would, then, totally eschewing (sic) sugar necessarily make your life longer? Maybe yes. Maybe no. Whatever the eventuality, your life will certainly seem longer.

  7. Cyberquill says:

    Dessert is tressed spelled backward, which means that sugar must be good for the hair.

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