On Your Health

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The Organ Responsible for Eighty Percent of the Body's Fat Loss

Today we have a post from our guest blogger Olga Jameson, who is a registered dietitian for the intestinal rehabilitation and abdominal transplant program at the INTEGRIS Nazih Zuhdi Transplant Institute.
When we lose weight, where does the fat go? Fat doesn’t simply turn into muscle or energy or heat, and it doesn’t just get excreted. Did you know you can lose weight merely by breathing? It sounds too good to be true, but it is scientific fact. Recently the British Medical Journal published the findings of two scientists from the University of New South Wales in Australia. Their study showed that we breathe away more than 80 percent of our fat via our lungs. The science behind it? The body needs a certain amount of energy to function, and it gets that energy from food. When a body consumes more energy than it uses, the leftover is stored in fat cells as a compound called triglyceride, which is made up of three kinds of atoms: carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Shedding unwanted fat requires unlocking the atoms in triglycerides by a process known as oxidation. When that happens, 16 percent of the stored fat metabolizes into water, which is then released via bodily fluids like sweat, tears and urine. The remaining 84 percent of fat is converted to carbon dioxide via a complex biochemical process and is shed through breathing. To make this discovery, the two Australian scientists did some math. When 22 pounds of fat is oxidized, 18.5 pounds leave the body through the lungs as carbon dioxide. The few remaining pounds become water. So does simple huffing blow away our fat? Not exactly, because hyperventilating alone won’t do the trick. Breathing is the vehicle for fat loss, not the fuel. It is exercise that increases the demand for oxygen. This actually explains why exercise helps people lose weight -- it speeds up breathing. And if you exhale more carbon, you'll lose more weight. To illustrate this: a resting person who weighs 154 pounds exhales about 200 grams a day, which is not even one pound. On the other hand, replacing one hour of rest with exercise such as jogging removes an additional 40 grams of carbon from the body. Here are three tips I recommend to help you exhale more carbon dioxide and turn up your body’s fat-burning potential:
  • Exercise outside, because your oxygen intake will be higher.
  • Make time for a 2.5 minute burst of intense exercise in the morning. Studies show you’ll burn an extra 200 calories in “afterburn” throughout the day.
  • Exercise at night. Studies show that people are able to go 20 percent longer when they exercise in the evening because the body has a faster oxygen uptake. Other studies show that nighttime exercisers had higher increases in cortisol and tryptophan, both of which are essential hormones for energy metabolism.
Bottom line? Breathing alone isn’t a magic formula to help your body burn more fat. Exercise and calorie-control are still key. However, scientists say the findings are groundbreaking because until recently doctors and trainers had misconceptions about how weight loss happens. Many thought metabolized fat was disposed of in excrement or converted to muscle (sadly, not true). The ideas put forward by the Australian scientists can help correct widespread misconceptions about weight loss.

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