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Video Of My AHS 2012 Presentation: "What Is Hunger, and Why Are We Hungry?" - J. Stanton
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February 10, 2013
9:58 pm
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eddie:

I was surprised that Stephan chose to attack me so directly, including a few gratuitious ad hominems...but as the video wasn't available, I didn't feel it was productive to respond at the time.  I believe my presentation of the science (including the bibliography) is the strongest response to such attacks.

Yes, "Wheat Thins" are an oily, salty American snack cracker that comes loose in boxes, as if it were cereal.

I greatly appreciate your efforts to spread The Gnoll Credo!  Telling Gryka's story is the reason I created this site in the first place...note that it's called gnolls.org, not "yetanotherpaleoblog.com".

Alex:

Thank you. 

There's no secret to why my presentation makes more sense: I didn't begin my research with a pre-existing hypothesis I hoped to prove.

Instead, I decided to read as much of the recent literature I could in an effort to understand the modern theoretical and biochemical basis of hunger, whatever that might be.  I found, to my surprise, that there was extensive existing literature on the functioning of the reward system, and on how it applied specifically to our perception of hunger.

Result: I've been able to summarize the science of hunger in a clear and understandable way.  

(In contrast, trying to force the facts to fit one's own preconceived notions generally results in "explanations" that are some combination of nebulous, circular, self-contradictory, or protean.)

I'm glad you find my work useful!  Please spread it whenever it's appropriate (e.g. people arguing over whether a food is "palatable" or "rewarding").

JS

February 12, 2013
7:11 pm
jesse
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Great stuff , Mr. Stanton. Having less and less time to read I lost track of your hunger series of blog posts. The 20 minutes .... well 45 would have been better ... but the 20 minutes was SOLID and I applaud you for putting in the effort to do it so well.

I see now why the FRH is a fallacy and will be chasing it's own tail. However, I really bet if you hung out with some of the *educated* proponents of that theory then y'all could really learn from eachother. It's a great topic, and shouldn't distract us from getting our loved ones off of margarine and bagels, which we all ultimately want even if we subscribe to a flawed model.

best,
jesse

February 13, 2013
3:55 am
Amy
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J, this is excellent. I've been on again/off again the "paleo" train because I was suffering from too much information about what to eat. The devolution to bread, pizza, and chips is only a short slide for me whenever I think "just this one time."

After I saw your video something clicked in my head - my food definitely was not satisfying me on a deep, biological, metabolic level. Somewhere in my brain I knew this was the case, from some biology or nutrition course I took long ago. It was when you pointed out the data on women who lost weight when given vitamin supplements versus those who did not receive supplementation.

I know you don't generally recommend supplementation, and most in the Paleo crowd also don't, but I started to stay on top of taking my daily multi and a few other supplements (iron, mg, D3) and started to notice I felt better after a few days. I also went low-carb and the one-two punch of supplementation + better food has helped me immensely.

Thanks for this terrific piece. THIS is the kind of stuff I need to be reading/hearing and sharing, not agonizing over the safe starch quotient of my diet (for me, I fear, there is none, at least not at the moment).

February 14, 2013
5:29 am
Jane
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Hi J
That experiment with rats, micronutrients and sucrose is very interesting. One point: you say twice in your talk that their diet was a whole food diet. It was emphatically not a whole food diet. All the carbohydrate was refined. No wonder the micronutrient supplementation worked.

You also say obese people have iron and zinc deficiencies. Changes in blood iron and zinc in obesity are arguably caused by chronic inflammation, not deficiencies.

I'm sorry to sound negative. I think you talk a lot of sense about satiety, especially the micronutrient part. I have been trying to tell Stephan Guyenet about the role of micronutrients in obesity for years.

February 14, 2013
6:26 am
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Jane:  Couldn't the chronic inflammation cause those deficiencies by depleting those nutrients?  

"Often we forget . . . the sky reaches to the ground . . . with each step . . . we fly."  ~We Fly, The House Jacks

February 14, 2013
2:45 pm
jesse
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I have a half-formed comment/question that I want to get on the table while it's fresh in my mind. It seems that any model about hunger would have to account for energy balance. Would you agree that the bodies first order of business would be to ingest enough food to meet energy balance needs and that micronutrients, while obviously vital, would be a second order concern?

February 15, 2013
3:00 am
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jesse:

I already have!  Seth Roberts' "Shangri-La Diet" is a much more sophisticated exploration of the reward system as applied to food consumption.  Again, it's not the entire story by a long shot -- but he's found an interesting piece of it.  And as I said above, it's explainable in terms of the four basic motivations.

Amy:

I'm not a fan of most multivitamins, which usually give you a lot of things you maybe shouldn't have too much of (e.g. folic acid, manganese) and neglect things you're most likely deficient in (e.g. copper).  However, even "Eat Like A Predator" recommends D3, a bit of fish oil, and (now) magnesium.  If you want to be more comprehensive, the Jaminets' list at Perfect Health Diet is solid.  I'm not anti-supplement, I'm pro-getting nutrition from food...but there are some micronutrients that our modern food environment makes difficult or impossible to get.

I'm glad you've found success, and I'm glad I was able to help in some way!  Do stick around: I try to keep gnolls.org free of gratuitous arguments.

Jane:

The diet was a fairly solid approximation of the Standard American Diet of the era.  Yes, it included white flour and some sugar, but it also contained meat, eggs, fruits, vegetables, and other real vitamin-containing foods -- in contrast to the research diets used in most rodent experiments these days, which are made entirely out of individual purified ingredients plus supplementation.

I agree that the rat study raises some very interesting questions, like "Which of the supplemented nutrients were making the difference?"

And while I'm pointing out that obese people tend to have many different nutritional deficiencies, I'm not attempting to explain them purely in terms of ingestion...or explain them at all!  That's why I spent more time on the controlled interventions: I don't know which of those deficiencies might be a cause and which an effect (or a side effect).

In any case, it's clear that micronutrient status affects our perception of hunger.  This is an important fact which bears further investigation!

Jen W:

I believe that's the argument being made.

jesse:

What do you mean by "energy balance?"  Our bodies have different requirements for protein, fat, and carbohydrate, and they have differing requirements and uses for nutrients within each class (e.g. linoleic acid != lauric acid).  A "calorie" of protein (and what kind of protein?) is not interchangeable with a "calorie" of glucose.  See these articles by Jamie Scott for an in-depth exploration of the subject: Part I, Part II.

The obvious consequence is that we can be hungry, even while in a theoretical calorie surplus.  For example, you can eat all the Skittles you want -- but since they have no protein or other nutrients, you'll never feel satiated, and you'll still be hungry even though you've consumed far more "calories" than your body needs each day.

So it isn't a question of micro vs. macro...it's a question of "What capacity does our body have to store this particular nutrient?"

JS

February 15, 2013
5:12 am
Jane
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Hi JenW
What happens in inflammation is that iron and zinc are withdrawn from the blood into the tissues. According to Weinberg, plasma iron goes down as part of the 'iron withholding' process whereby microorganisms and cancer cells are deprived of the iron they need for proliferation. I think zinc is supposed to go down for the same reason.

February 15, 2013
5:25 am
Jane
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Hi J
Once again, you talk a lot of sense. However I would point out that manganese deficiency may be at least as important as copper deficiency. Have a look at this paper showing that iron-dependent Parkinsonism in rats can be completely prevented by manganese. Yes, prevented. You have probably heard that manganese CAUSES Parkinsonism. In very high doses, it can.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9681949

February 15, 2013
1:15 pm
jesse
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Hi J.

Thanks for the response. I'm sure my question/comment is more to get my head into the right context here. But I think this will clarify it for me, you wrote:

"For example, you can eat all the Skittles you want — but since they have no protein or other nutrients, you'll never feel satiated, and you'll still be hungry even though you've consumed far more “calories” than your body needs each day."

Agreed. And I'd say the opposite is true as well, you could be in surplus on all micro AND macronutrients, but deficient in energy substrate. Hence the energy balance question. Just so that you don't have to cover the same ground over and over I think you may see this as part of "why we start eating" and not why we don't (or do) stop. We start eating because, hopefully, we need something from the food. I want to not ignore the fact that what we need from that food may just be the energy that it contains rather than the macro or micro nutrients.

I'm thinking of an analogy to get friends/family off the calories in/out model. So I'm trying to come up with the right wording for the following question:

If your car took 3 types of fuel, and instead of getting oil changes, new tires and brake pads, fluid flushing etc... it was able to extend the life of those items by applying different combinations of the 3 fuels. How many miles per gallon would it get?

🙂

jesse

February 15, 2013
11:29 pm
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Jane:

As the Jaminets are fond of pointing out, every nutrient has an optimal range.  Below it, we have deficiency issues: above it, we have toxicity issues.  So it's not surprising that a modern diet can produce both deficiency and toxicity, depending on the foods consumed — especially when so many foods are "fortified" with a small subset of vital nutrients, based on nothing but guesses of how much an person of average mass and physical activity might decide to consume in a day.

jesse:

I think you're confusing your terms.  Macronutrients are defined as "nutrients we need macroscopic quantities of," i.e. proteins, fats, carbohydrates — and (sometimes) minerals we need a lot of, like salt, potassium, calcium, and magnesium.  So a need for "energy substrate" is by definition a need for macronutrients.

One analogy is: your can needs many different fluids to keep running.  Gasoline, engine oil, transmission oil, power steering fluid, brake fluid, windshield washer fluid, etc.  Your car consumes each of them at different rates, has a different capacity for storing each one, and they're not interconvertible…you can't say "Well, I need to change the engine oil, but all I have is power steering fluid, so I'll just put that in instead."  

Fortunately your body, unlike your car, has the ability to store calories it doesn''t need as fat or glycogen, or burn them as heat…but, with a couple exceptions which are very limited in how much they can process (protein->carb, carb->fat) it can't convert them from one form to another.  So a "calorie" is not a calorie.  For instance, if your body needs protein, you'll still be hungry no matter how many "calories" worth of starch you feed it, because you can't convert starch into protein.

Add to that facts like: eating less (less calories in) slows your metabolism, so less calories in = less calories out, and we can see that the entire concept of "energy balance" is a dramatic oversimplification.  

Returning to the car analogy, it's as if we said "Hey, I've put as many fluids into the car as have gone out of the car, why did it stop running?  After all, the car is in fluid balance."  Answer: gasoline won't substitute for transmission oil, and wiper fluid won't substitute for brake fluid!

JS

February 16, 2013
3:44 am
Jane
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J, have you heard about the new satiety hormone uroguanylin? It's made in the gut and acts in the hypothalamus and in the midbrain dopaminergic reward system, and it probably also promotes lipolysis in adipose tissue. In other words, it looks like the holy grail of obesity research. I've asked Stephan Guyenet to write a post about it but I don't think he's interested. Perhaps you would like to do it instead? I don't have a blog of my own.
http://www.nature.com/nrendo/journal/v8/n1/pdf/nrendo.2011.206.pdf?WT.ec_id=NRENDO-201201

The point is that uroguanylin works by activating the enzyme guanylate cyclase, which has a requirement for manganese or magnesium. It much prefers manganese.

February 16, 2013
3:48 am
Jane
Guest

Sorry, that link I gave doesn't work. The title is
'Uroguanylin - a new gut-derived weapon against obesity?'

February 16, 2013
5:01 am
Jane
Guest

Here's an extract from the article about uroguanylin.

'Thus, for over 20 years, guanylin and uroguanylin have been well-known key paracrine players in intestinal ion and water balance. Another piece to the already intricate puzzle of obesity has now been provided by Valentino et al.,2 who identify uroguanylin as a gut-derived satiety factor. The ground-breaking finding comes from the identification of uroguanylin as an endocrine signal with a physiological role in energy homeostasis, thereby expanding the gut–brain axis by an additional factor.
Uroguanylin, a 16-amino-acid hormone secreted by enterochromaffin cells in the duodenum and proximal small intestine, was shown to be released after nutrient ingestion.2 Both guanylin and uroguanylin are secreted as prohormones, which require enzymatic conversion to yield the active hormones that act as agonists of GC‑C. Lack of GC‑C decreased satiation, leading to an elevated body weight due to increased visceral and subcutaneous adiposity in both male and female mice.2 GC‑C knockout mice also exhibited impaired glucose tolerance with hyperglycemia and hyperinsulinemia, together with marked liver steatosis. No differences between GC‑C knockout and wild-type mice were observed in lipid absorption, distribution and clearance, as well as in energy mobilization and expenditure. Thus, obesity was attributable to increased food intake, independent of the type of dietary nutrients and caloric content.'

February 17, 2013
9:34 am
Sondra Rose
Guest

Thank you for a refreshingly logical explanation of hunger with the science to back it up!

I have known this intuitively for some time and see the positive results in my clients constantly. No more cravings/binging once we sort out their gut health concurrently with focusing on nutrient density.

I discovered this personally when I was sorting out my FODMAPs intolerance. I dropped a lot of veggies from my diet and started eating more liver/cheese/seafood/bone broth. My absorption improved and Voila! More nutrient density = less hunger (after a few months) = finally dropping those last 5 lbs.

February 18, 2013
1:40 pm
jesse
Guest

Hi J.

I don't feel I've been able to get my point acknowledge, though it seems simple and non-controversial. It seems possibly even trivial, yet a part of the whole picture that I don't think should be ignored. Perhaps it's the limits of text communication or perhaps I'm living in my own world. I'll take one more stab at it because I think you have continued to refine your responses in a way that gives me a better toolset.

First: pointing out that a need for energy substrate is pretty much a need for macronutrients. By the same token that you ignore the inefficient conversions of various macronutrients into other macronutrients which are more suitable for fuel (glycogen, fatty acids, aminos), I can ignore the energy value of micronutrients (and even some of the macronutrients by the definition you used). In that, if they provide any energy it is negligible and not worth mentioning in a high level discussion.

Secondly: You have obliterated your point that we can have sufficient calories, and yet remain hungry due to needs for specific nutrients (macro/micro/nano, whichever). But haven't conceded the point that you could be replete in all specific nutrient needs and yet still need less specific nutrients as substrate for your long mountain bike treks, or my weight lifting sessions and soccer matches. It seems that you want to lump that into a nutrient need, like "i need glycogen", and I can kind of see that... but at the same time it seems like a purposeful aversion to addressing energy needs as a specific requirement. I wouldn't blame you because any nod towards energy balance could be a slippery slope like you mentioned above with the "fluid balance" analogy. But we have to be careful how we choose our models. Admitting that simple energy needs (typically glucose or fat) could be the driver for food cravings can alleviate the angst someone may feel if they are trying to eat low-carb or reduced calorie and still have cravings. Many people end up in that situation when they go to a paleo diet which is devoid of tubers/starches/rice/grains/dairy and low in fruit and are trying to do athletic endeavors. People trying to gain muscle mass need a lot more calories than they need anything else. I won't quote the source but I read a muscle-head analysis that it takes 35,000 calories to build a pound of muscle, independent of the fat, protein and glycogen needed for the actual structure of the muscle. So that is a pure energy need. I believe lumping certain nutrients into a category of "usable as energy substrate" is a reasonable thing to do. And then believing that we could crave those nutrients for exactly that reason is also reasonable.

I'm throwing the towel in here because it's kind of just going back and forth. If this doesn't clarify my point well enough then I'm OK with it not being settled, or even having it assumed settled from your perspective but not from mine. By the way, thanks for linking those articles by Jamie, I think he offers a good perspective on it. He does make a lot of assertions to build his case that I'm not sure are true. Of course I'm not sure they are not true either and I'm willing to believe that they are, just that they come across as assertive arguments that aren't common knowledge and thus would require some references/backing in a more rigorous setting!

take care J!

jesse

February 19, 2013
4:11 pm
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Jane:

That's an interesting development (AFAIK uroguanylin was previously thought only to regulate fluid balance), but I don't know enough about its other interactions to write an article that gives my readers a useful takeaway.  Otherwise I'm just saying "Hey, look at this new satiety hormone we found, add it to the list." (along with CCK, PYY, GLP-1, etc.)

Also, I've fixed the part where my forum software munches URLs.

Sondra Rose:

I'm glad to hear of your success!  

Nutrition seems to be at the base of the health pyramid: fixing nutrition isn't a guarantee that our other problems will be fixed, but it seems to be a necessary precondition, and it often accomplishes a great deal on its own.

jesse:

OK, I think I understand what you're saying now.  Yes, the need for more energy substrate is absolutely a cause of hunger...and it's usually the primary driver!  (Most people think it's the only driver.)

Furthermore, in metabolically functional animals (including people) this drive is generally in balance with actual energy needs.  As I said in the speech and in my articles, "Any animal whose faulty perceptions and motivations caused it to become obese, emaciated, malnourished, or poisoned by excess would have been strongly selected against."

What I'm addressing in my articles, and my speech, are the situations in which hunger is out of balance with energy needs.  "I'm gaining fat, why am I still hungry all of the time?"  

There are several reasons I don't like speaking in terms of "energy balance."  

First, as I think I hammered home above, "calories" aren't an interchangeable currency.  As you note, for someone doing frequent, heavily glycolytic workouts, fat does not interchange for carbohydrate...so it's quite possible to be hungry for something that can replenish muscle glycogen even in a theoretical "calorie surplus".  

In contrast, a sedentary person who doesn't undergo glycolytic exercise has very little storage capacity for carbohydrate, so once their liver is replete, they'll be storing it in fat cells and revving up their metabolism to try and burn it off...and they'll generally be hungry again once this process completes, even though they're in "calorie surplus" and gaining weight.  Such a person should be eating more fat, which is supplying most of their energy needs at rest and at low exercise intensities (e.g. walking), and which won't result in metabolic spikes, blood sugar spikes, and then, inappropriate hunger.

Second, our bodies work very hard to adapt themselves to existing conditions, including food intake.  Eat insufficient salt and your body will conserve it: eat an excess and your body will excrete it.  Eat less energy substrate in general, and your basal metabolic rate will probably drop, as will your desire to expend energy via exercise.  Eat adequate calories but zero carbohydrate, and your RER will drop as your body adapts to greater availability of fat.  And so on.  

So yes, I agree that a requirement for energy substrate is the primary driver of hunger.  However, that drive is modulated by micronutritional state...

...and "calories" are not a fully interchangeable currency that satisfies a fixed need for energy.  

That being said, it's absolutely legitimate to make a judgment based on the state of the system at a specific time, e.g. "If you want to gain muscle mass, you need to consume enough energy substrate to synthesize the tissues as well as the amino acids and fats required to build them -- which is more than you consume in order to maintain your current weight at your current activity level."  

I believe that's what you're saying, and I agree.

However, what that does NOT mean is that if you ingest 500 more "calories" per day, you'll magically gain X pounds of mass per week.  Your body might rev up your BMR to burn it off as heat ("I feel really warm today"); it might store it as fat; or it might synthesize new muscle tissue, IF there is sufficient protein available, IF you're generating anabolic signals through resistance exercise and a sufficiency of the hundreds of other factors required.  Etc.

And that is why it's counterproductive to think purely in terms of "calories".  There is no biological system that has, as its input, a "calorie".  

JS

February 19, 2013
6:43 pm
jesse
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Hi JS,

Appreciate the closure, well worded and thought provoking. Love the blog. This is somewhat of a wasted comment but it would have been rude not to thank you for the response 😛

jesse

February 19, 2013
9:19 pm
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Jesse:

I'm glad we were able to communicate an understanding.  Thank you for the support...and if you find my work helpful, you can support it by picking up a copy of TGC, a T-shirt, or just buying some stuff through my Amazon link.

JS

March 13, 2013
7:12 am
James Steele II
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Hi J,

Notice your conspicuously missing from the current list of names on this years AHS pre-program? Will you be in attendance?

James

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