Weve all heard the stories that fat people tend to be happier.
The rolly-polly man whose belly jiggles with mirth is a classic
caricature of literature stage, and film.
This "jolly fat" hypothesis, as it's called, is supported by
population-based studies showing that obese men are much less likely to display symptoms of depression than men of
There aren't a lot of 'jolly fat" women around, though. In
industrialized societies, women are much more likely to be stigmatized for being overweight or obese than men
(Palinkas 1996). Researchers know that obese people of both sexes experience various forms of discrimination
and poor self-image. The reality is that whether you are a man or a woman, it's depressing carrying all
the extra weight around. But it's even more depressing trying to shed those pounds. In fact, studies show
that people get significantly more depressed after they have participated in weight-reduction programs or
had surgery for obesity (Palinkas 1996).
What's going on?
The answer may surprise you. Overweight people eat certain foods that
reduce depression or eliminate it altogether. What are those foods? Carbohydrates. Researchers
have found that obese carbohydrate cravers are significantly less depressed after eating a
carbohydrate-rich, protein-free meal than obese noncravers.
Carbohydrate craving is actually a form of self-medication that
temporarily relieves depression. Why?
Because carbohydrates increase levels of a key neurotransmitter in the
brain, called serotonin, which makes you feel "up," positive, and happy. However, too many
carbohydrates in your diet also make you fat. Is it possible to increase your serotonin levels without increasing your
carbohydrate intake? Can you get that same feel-good effect, plus suppress your appetite at the same time? The now
notorious Fen-Phen, the drug yanked from the market only months ago, also elevated serotonin levels. Many
of its users, however, ended up experiencing severe side effects, including deadly heart and valve
defects. Fortunately, there is a safer answer, courtesy of a remarkable nutrient from Mother Nature.
Before we look at this extract, let's get back to this intriguing
carbohydrate-serotonin connection. Serotonin in the brain affects what we choose to eat, and it creates feelings of
"fullness." If your serotonin levels are unbalanced or malfunctioning, you may be predisposed to obesity.
Tending to binge on carbohydrates in an unconscious attempt to boost your serotonin levels so you have that
"feel-good" attitude. The serotonin connection to obesity has been confirmed in medical research.
Scientists have discovered that many obese people have "serotonin hunger." They overeat
high-carbohydrate foods, particularly in the form of snacks, not because they are hungry or even because they like the taste, but
for their serotonin-mediated psychopharmacological effects. In the past few years, technology has
made it possible for researchers to finally understand the mechanism that causes us to gain or lose
weight. Basically, it all happens in the brain.
When you eat carbohydrates, they cause the production of insulin, which
allows an amino acid called tryptophan to enter the brain. Tryptophan stimulates the production of
the neurotransmitter called serotonin.
Serotonin makes us feel good. This change in mood is so subtle that we
are not consciously aware of it.
Apparently, people who are chronically overweight have become
subconsciously addicted to the serotonin-stimulated, happy, comfortable feeling.
Good Desire, Bad Outcome
Most snack foods, such as potato chips, pastries, and sweets, are
carbohydrates. The subconscious desire to feel good causes people to eat more carbohydrates. That same
desire causes people to eat more food than necessary, which becomes a habit. The calories in excess of our energy needs are stored as fat. (Protein does not stimulate production of serotonin, and people rarely over-indulge in protein-type
Fen-phen and Redux, the two diet drugs pulled from the market, worked
effectively as weight-loss drugs because they caused an increase in the production of serotonin. With plenty of
serotonin in the brain, people don't have much desire for carbohydrates and don't eat as much, so they lose
weight. Dr. Richard J. Wurtman, a scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, reported in the medical
journal Obesity Research that animals given serotonin-releasing drugs would not overindulge in carbohydrates when given the choice of carbohydrates and proteins. This indicates that elevated serotonin levels help decrease overconsumption of refined carbohydrates, which leads to overall reduction of fat-producing foods, thereby reducing calorie-related obesity.
But drugs are not the only substances that increase serotonin in the
brain. An extract from the plant Hypericum perforatum has been used for many years in Europe as an
A Safer Way to Lose Weight
In fact, according to Prevention magazine, doctors in Germany
prescribe Hypericum more often than all the antidepressant drugs (Prozac, Valium, etc.) combined because there are
no significant side effects, and Hypericum works better. Instead of flooding the body with
dangerous drugs to increase serotonin, Hypericum increases serotonin naturally by inhibiting an enzyme in the brain
called monoamine oxidase (MAO). This enzyme destroys serotonin and norepinephrine (another important brain
By taking Hypericum, you get the same positive end result as
with the deadly diet drugs~more serotonin and less desire for carbohydrates but without the dangerous side effects. Dr. S.
Perovic reported in the medical journal Drug Research that Hypericum also keeps serotonin active
between meals to further prevent snacking.
Most people view dieting and losing weight as a difficult chore that
will continue to make them miserable until they stop. Hypericum has just the opposite effect. You'll
feel happy, comfortable, and won't have to fight the cravings and hunger pains. Dr. E.U. Vorbach conducted a
double-blind study in which half the people were given a popular antidepressant drug and half were given Hypericum.
Hypericum reduced depression by 56%, whereas the drug only reduced it by 45%.
Difficult Vitamin to Get from Food
Another substance critical to maintaining elevated mood while you are
dieting is pyridoxine. This is one of the most difficult vitamins to get from food because cooking and
refining food destroys it. Even whole wheat, which undergoes very little refining. has lost most of the pyridoxine
by the time it reaches your table. Severe deficiency of pyridoxine usually causes not only depression and other
nerve problems, but also sores that don't heal quickly, or other skin disorders. Pyridoxine must be taken with
adequate magnesium and all the B vitamins to be used by the body.
How to Shed Excess Fat
Besides maintaining uplifted spirits for successful dieting, you also
have to get rid of that excess fat. The body does this through a process called 'thermogenesis:' Thermogenesis
converts stored fat to soluble lipids, which are then burned off by body heat.
Two nutrients must be present to cause thermogenesis. The nutrient
DLphenylalanine (DLPA) causes the production of tyrosine. Tyrosine makes three neurotransmitters for the
brain: epinephrine, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Norepinephrine triggers thermogenesis. A second
nutrient, inositol hexanicotinate (a form of a B vitamin) assists in breaking down the fat into soluble
lipids. Dr. Neil Stone, a professor at Northwestern University School of Medicine, found that hexanicotinate
reduced LDL (bad cholesterol) by 17%, while increasing HDL (good cholesterol) by almost 3O% a plus for
dieters! Essentially, what you need is a balanced 'wellness" formula, combined with regular exercise and a
healthy diet, which includes lots of fruits and vegetables. Losing excess weight doesn't have to be a depressing or
self-defeating proposition-especially when you view it as the beginning of a happy, healthier life.