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The Brain and the Mouth

Posted Aug 25 2011 10:19am

Mountainlake In March 1963, the press described the almost incredible story of the seven weeks deprivation of food and the survival of Ralph Flores, a forty-two-year-old pilot and twenty-one-year-old Helen Klaben, a co-ed of Brooklyn, NY, following a plane crash on a mountainside in Northern British Columbia.

The couple was rescued March 25, 1963, after forty-nine days in the wilderness in the dead of winter, over thirty days of this time without any food at all.

Ms. Klaben, who was "pleasingly plump" at the time of the crash, was happily surprised, at the ordeal's end, to learn that her weight loss totaled thirty pounds.  Flores, who was more physically active during their enforced fast, had lost forty pounds.  Physicians who examined them after the rescue found them to be in "remarkably good" condition.

Man and mirror The interesting question that arises from this observation is not how long a person can survive a fast, but what enables that individual to do so.  Neither human beings nor animals can survive prolonged abstinence without a readily accessible store of reserve food (our fatty tissue) to tide them over.  Many observations have confirmed the fact that when an organism goes with eating, the bodily tissues are sacrificed as a source of energy in reverse order of their importance.  Hence, fat is the first to go.  Herein lies the importance of fat stores--our "built-in pantries."

In most species roaming the planet, there is an almost fixed and close relationship between the location of the mouth and the brain.  This is no coincidence.  The brain is very concerned about what the mouth is doing and has a vested interest in what goes into it.  By being the repository of the appetite centers, the brain controls how hungry we are and how much we eat.  The mouth is the portal of entry for all of this food.

Unlike other bodily organs, such as muscles and the heart, which can generate the power they depend upon from a diversity of nutrient fuels, the brain doesn't have that luxury.  It must rely on the burning of glucose (the "sugar" in blood) as its only source of energy.  Not only that, but the brain can't store nutrients the way the body can.  If blood sugar levels ever fall too low, the brain can go for only a few seconds before it suffers from an "energy brownout," and we lose consciousness.  Herein lies the significance of the connection between the brain and the mouth.

When we get hungry because we haven't eaten for awhile, it's really not an empty stomach but rather our brain sending the message.  If no food is forthcoming, we must rely on the energy stored in our "belly," or, more appropriately, the collection of adipose tissue (fat cells) around our middle.

Womeninjeans By making proper food choices, you can learn how to easily tap into the large reservoir of storied fat we all carry around and how to stop food cravings.  Being able to easily avail ourselves of the fat stored in our built-in pantries is a concept that has not received proper attention in the ongoing weight gain-weight loss discussion among experts.

Fat is stored in fat cells.  When they get big, we get fat.  As they shrink, we lose weight.  To be successful, we need to know how to control the flow of fat into and out of these temporary fat storage depots.  Hence, a step in losing weight is controlling this fat switch.

This is where hormones come into play.  One bit of metabolic magic they perform is to help determine whether we are in a fat-storing or a fat-burning mode.  Hormones coordinate this delicate balance in conjunction with the brain and fat tissue.  The "master" hormone in this setting is call insulin; it plays a key role in turning this fat-storing switch on and off.

It makes sense that fat-storing machinery has become ingrained in our body chemistry, brain, and genetic makeup because of the vital role it plays.  Comfort foods are the prime offenders.  They have potentially addictive properties because they make us feel good.  Consequently, we look forward to the next sweet, savory bite.  A pleasure response is generated and is repeatedly reinforced.

Cafe The sweet taste such products deliver can change the way we perceive food, think about food, and crave food, and they can even enhance our appetite and influence insulin secretion.  Sweeteners should be avoided, if possible, for your safety and your waistline.

The pivotal role insulin plays in appetite control and weight regulation, how it interacts with fat and sugar (and other foods that are broken down into sugar), and how it can easily be controlled are topics that are covered in " Feed Your Brain, Lose Your Belly."

Larry McCleary: Feed Your Brain, Lose Your Belly   Larry McCleary: Feed Your Brain, Lose Your Belly

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