Hit a Weight Loss Block? New Study May Explain Why

You’ve been diligent and focused at working hard to achieve that New Year’s resolution to lose weight. You’ve eaten well, exercised regularly, and you’ve even lost a few pounds and toned a bit in the process. But, suddenly, despite continued determination, you’ve hit a weight loss block, and the scale’s been stuck for a couple of weeks. While we’ve known this happens, until now, it hasn’t been clear why it happens. A new study points the finger at a calorie-conserving enzyme.

A Weight Loss Block May Be Due to the Activation of the TBK1 Enzyme

The new study provided conclusions not only to why dieting tends to lead to plateaus in weight loss but why obese people burn fewer calories. In both cases the finger points not at some external factor but internally at the body’s natural ability to self-regulate its available stored calories for energy. And the specific mechanism that activates this process is an enzyme called TBK1 (TANK-binding kinase 1).

When calorie intake decreases during dieting, this can put the body in a fasting state, triggering an enzyme called AMPK. AMPK tells the body to start burning fat for energy; hence, the initial burst of weight loss. Interestingly, however, this then triggers TBK1, which says, Not so fast; we need to conserve some of this energy for later and inhibits the fat-burning process. It’s the body’s way of protecting itself from starvation by conserving energy reserves when it detects it is in a state of fasting.

With obesity, TBK1 is ultimately triggered by inflammation due to chronic stress in the body, inhibiting the ability to burn calories, eventually resulting in, again, conservation of those energy reserves. Researchers explained that this is why those who are more obese tend to burn fewer calories than their leaner counterparts.

When the TBK1 enzyme was removed (from the fat cells of mice in this case), calorie burning kicked in again. This might seem like a promising finding that could lead to a TBK1-inhibiting solution for those with obesity or weight loss plateaus; however, unfortunately, when TBK1 was removed from the obese mice, inflammation also increased (as TBK1 is known to restrain inflammation). So solving one problem may be creating another. It’ll be interesting to see where this study leads.

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A Weight Loss Block Is an Obstacle You Can Push Past

The key, since you’ve worked so hard on your weight loss goals to this point, is to push past that weight loss block and just keep going. Even if you’ve fallen into a rut, it’s not too late to dig out of it and press on. Let’s review some of the reasons you need to push past that block and some ways you can keep focusing on your weight loss goals:

The upshot? Your body is designed to be able to withstand famine and has developed ways to hold onto fat at all costs. Having said that, there are ways to push past that weight loss block. Ultimately, it’s all about eating the correct diet, getting exercise, and if you’re older, controlling the hormonal signals that can add pounds!

Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications. View Profile

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NOTE: This blog post provides general information to help the reader better understand regenerative medicine, musculoskeletal health, and related subjects. All content provided in this blog, website, or any linked materials, including text, graphics, images, patient profiles, outcomes, and information, are not intended and should not be considered or used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please always consult with a professional and certified healthcare provider to discuss if a treatment is right for you.