Myth Buster Do fat burning hormones exist?

Myth Buster Do fat burning hormones exist?

Myth Buster Do fat burning hormones exist?

Myths in relation to weight loss, weight gain, hormones and burning fat fly around in coffee shops, work places and homes all day, every day. Clinical Director and Integrative Naturopathic Practitioner, Heyltje Vaneveld has answered the tough questions in regards to fat burning hormones, metabolism and if fat burning foods exist.

To find out about your hormones and the vital role they play in your body as well as to find a professional complementary healthcare practitioner visit The website contains credible, easy to read information to help educate you about hormones, the role they play in our health and the importance of consulting a professional complementary healthcare practitioner who can assess your hormone health and advise of a suitable complementary treatment plan.

Interview with Heyltje Vaneveld

Heyltje Vaneveld, Clinical Director and Integrative Naturopathic Practitioner, Salus - Integrative Medicine Specialists: 1002 High Street Armadale, Victoria or Phone: 03 9500 8870

Question: First and foremost, do fat burning hormones exist?

Heyltje Vaneveld:

Question: Does most of the body's large number of hormones indirectly influence fat burning and fat storage?

Heyltje Vaneveld: Does the body produce a hormone that has as its sole purpose - fat burning, no it does not. From an evolutionary point of view, the emphasis has been on preserving body fat and storing food/fuel, not burning it. That we no longer eat or live like our ancestors, the hunter/gatherer creates problems of excess rather than 'famine'. We still have the hunter/gatherer genome, and it takes thousands of years for genes to evolve in response to environmental change, therefore at this stage we do not have a gene or hormone that in itself promotes fat burning.

Question: Can foods trigger fat burning hormones in our body?

Heyltje Vaneveld: Yes, absolutely.

The hormones closely associated with these functions are: Insulin, leptin, resistin, thyroxine, and cortisol.

Leptin is referred to as the fat hormone because it is produced in the body's white fat (adipose) tissue. It is released into the bloodstream after eating a meal, once in the circulation it travels to the brain where it delivers a message of fullness and satiety, therefore feeding or searching for food can cease.

The hormone leptin is similar to the hormone insulin; lifestyle and diet easily disrupt them, this is referred to as leptin and insulin resistance respectively.

Resistance to leptin and insulin, results in errors of feeding behaviours. These hormones exert control over the amount we eat, how energy is used from food and how that energy is stored. Ultimately any food not used for energy will be removed from circulation and stored as fat on and within the body.

To date drug manipulation of leptin levels to increase fat burning have not been successful and more research is underway.

Controlling these two hormones relies heavily on adhering to a healthy lifestyle, including paying particular attention to ones diet and recognizing the early signs of disruption.

The early indicators are:
Needing to eat every two hours to control blood sugar
Using carbohydrate foods to pick up energy through the day
Relying on stimulants including caffeine and nicotine to increase energy levels
Feeling tired through the day
Falling asleep or wanting to dose off through the day
Losing energy completely at the end of the day and therefore losing the evening hours
Body fat creeping on, yet exercise levels haven't changed
Body composition analysis reveals higher fat levels in ratio to muscle tissue
Thinking, alertness and clarity of thought become variable.

Both leptin and insulin resistance will contribute to an increase in abdominal (visceral) fat, increased hunger or need to eat to maintain fluctuating energy levels, increased blood glucose levels, pre-diabetes, increased blood pressure and fluid retention, and a general acceleration of premature ageing.

Question: Are there such things as fat burning foods?

Heyltje Vaneveld: To date there is no scientific studies to prove that fat burning foods exist and that these foods would have the same fat burning effect on all people.

To be considered a potential fat burning food the following characteristics are present:
High fibre, complex carbohydrate, low glycemic index, vegetable,
Raw, high protein content, essential fatty acids, saturated fats,
Possibly natural caffeine content.

The foods representing the above are considered whole foods, they are in the closest state to what is grown, free from additional sugars, salts, preservatives, fats are not removed, meats and poultry are grass fed in contrast to grain fed, foods have not been taken to high temperatures or hydrogenised thus maintaining the essential nutrients.

Whole foods maintain their compatibility with the digestive process and retain nutrient value. The body recognises whole foods and when consumed the blood sugar remains stable, food converts to fuel efficiently and minimal errors of digestion and storage occur.

Foods containing high levels of caffeine, preservatives, or Monosodium Glutamate disrupt the nervous system and increase nervous system activity; whether this results in fat loss is questionable and doubtful. The side effects of using this approach outweigh any small advantage that may occur, therefore is never recommended. Most pharmaceutical drugs used for weight loss increase nervous system activity, promoting restlessness, nervousness, changes in bowel, and insomnia.

Question: How can our hormones work against us to make us gain weight?

Heyltje Vaneveld: Errors in metabolism and/or any hormonal imbalance can result in changes to the body composition. A body composition analysis is a valuable tool that can measure the lean muscle mass, energy output and efficiency from the muscle, the total fat mass, and percentage of fat over a predicted protective range for women and men, fluid retention and cellular hydration. This test is called Bio-Impedance Analysis and is widely available. It is extremely useful in designing a correct eating and exercise plan to improve body composition issues.

Our lean muscle mass is governed by hormones in the body and maintained by eating the correct ratio of the macronutrients, which are protein, carbohydrates, fats and oil.

Women who follow a low-fat diet have difficulty maintaining the lean muscle mass and research has proven that following a low fat diet to lose fat will actually increase fat gain over a period of time.

The loss of muscle mass for women results in easy fat gain, cycles of tiredness, cravings for carbohydrates and sweets, and further hormonal imbalances.

The thyroid is often blamed for increased weight gain and a sluggish or slow metabolism. It is true that the thyroid affects virtually all metabolic processes, but thyroid health and function can easily be compromised by environmental toxins and dietary errors. It is well recognized that gluten sensitivity will inhibit thyroid function. Many fat soluble toxins impair thyroid function. High levels of stress undermine thyroid function by increasing the hormone cortisol, which is antagonistic to the thyroid hormone, thyroxine. When the thyroid is under functioning, states of fatigue, poor concentration and motivation are very common. A comprehensive thyroid examination is justified if one suspects it is involved in general hormonal imbalance.

Question: How can females effectively burn fat?

Heyltje Vaneveld: Impaired liver detoxification is caused by a wide range of dietary, environmental and inherited factors, and readily contributes to changes in hormone activity and easy fat gain.

Women are very familiar with premenstrual symptoms which typically reveal an imbalance between the two female hormones, oestrogen and progesterone. High levels of oestrogen to progesterone typically results in fluid retention, abdominal bloating and fat gain. It is important to assess the liver function particularly if women have both PMT and weight issues. An experienced practitioner will always include liver support in their protocols. There are excellent tests available for measuring liver function and your practitioner can organise them for you.

It is more difficult for women to maintain the balance between fat storage and fat burning, and unfortunately it requires a fair commitment to a lifestyle that adheres to the sound principles of a whole food diet, with emphasis on low glycemic index carbohydrates, adequate protein, good choice saturated and essential fatty acids, regular exercise including aerobic and strength training, sufficient sleep and rest, and the correction of subtle but compromising hormonal imbalances as they occur.

Question: Is a women every too young or too old to use hormone replacements?

Heyltje Vaneveld: Women are never too old to positively support or enhance hormone function, be this through lifestyle practices or nutritional supplementation.

As we have learned our hormones set the tone of our experiences and therefore women will want to pursue a life of happiness, energy, and well-being.

The hormones that become more important to us as we age, both for men and women are not so much the reproductive hormones but the thyroid and adrenal hormones, the androgen hormones cortisol, testosterone and DHEA, the sleep hormone, melatonin, and our ability to maintain healthy levels of insulin.

A comprehensive hormonal assessment at the life stages of menopause and andropause provides an opportune time to check the levels of the hormones stated above and this is often included in an anti-ageing assessment available from an integrated healthcare practitioner.

Question: What alternatives do women have in terms of hormone imbalance treatment?

Heyltje Vaneveld: Hormonal imbalances ultimately represent the culmination of both lifestyle and inherited issues. Every individual woman will have a unique history and series of life events that have contributed to her situation. Clinical symptoms will be different for each woman and the treatment approach therefore is dynamic and based on highest priority yet individualised.

Any hormonal imbalance is firstly assessed via blood or salvia analysis and a personal history/examination that reveals how the imbalance is impacting on day to day activities. A body composition analysis is performed to determine what dietary design is required, what focus exercise needs to address, whether detoxification is a priority and so forth.

Lifestyle, diet, exercise and rest/relaxation need to be discussed as these have major impacts on hormonal balance.

Complementary medicine practitioners utilise a wide range of interventions that positively support the mind/body and encourage resilience and wellness.

Always consult your complementary healthcare practitioner who will assess your hormones accordingly and advise of a suitable complementary medicine treatment (plan). To find a complementary healthcare practitioner and learn more about good hormone health visit

Interview by Brooke Hunter