A study published in 2019 and based out of Sweden, took a deeper look at lipids (basically, fatty acids or derivatives such as natural oils, waxes, and steroids) and their connection to our metabolic system. The research found that the rate in which our lipids turnover actually slows as we age, in turn affecting our metabolic system and causing things like age-related weight gain due to a higher rate of fat storage.

This is unless we implement certain dietary changes to counterbalance these bodily changes.

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You might be wondering what are lipids and what is the world is lipid turnover? How does it work? What exactly is our metabolic system and what does it do?

What are Lipids?

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Basically, you’ll hear that lipids are fats. This is true and yet too narrow. According to Encyclopedia Brittanica, lipids are “any of a diverse group of organic compounds including fats, oils, hormones, and certain components of membranes that are grouped together because they do not interact appreciably with water.”

Lipids are primarily made of hydrocarbons, depending on the type of lipid you’re referring to, meaning they are an “excellent form of energy storage, as when metabolized the hydrocarbons oxidize to release large amounts of energy.” Lipids include triglycerides (that thing you see on your cholesterol lab report), steroid hormones, membranes of cells and organelles (also called phospholipids), “oils, waxes, [and] certain vitamins (such as A, D, E, and K).” So, for instance, a triglyceride lipid is made of hydrocarbons, glycerol, and three fatty acids.

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These little fat molecules are not only great for energy but they also “make up the building blocks of the structure and formation of living cells.”

What is Lipid Turnover?

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The term “lipid turnover” is used primarily in the scientific purview and refers to “the capacity to store and remove lipids,” generally in relation to adipose tissue. Alright, so what’s adipose tissue? Also referred to simply as fat, adipose tissue “is an anatomical term for loose connective tissue composed of adipocytes.” Adipose tissue plays an important role in the body — to “store energy in the form of fat, although it also cushions and insulates the body.” There aretwo types of adipose tissue: white adipose tissue (WAT) and brown adipose tissue (BAT).”

This is where that study in Sweden comes in. Turns out that more than one study has found that “excess body fat is associated with decreased adipose lipid removal rates,” yet it’s the most recent study in Sweden that looked to answer the question of why.

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What’s the Metabolic System?

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Finally, the last question before we delve into the study, what’s the metabolic system?

The metabolic system is a complicated network based around a few integral internal structures including the gastrointestinal tract, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, thyroid, cardiovascular system, and the hypothalamus — which “receives the hormonal signals that alarm us when we are hungry or full.”

Our metabolic system breaks down our body’s energy sources so that we can actually utilize said energy. For instance, the metabolic system helps us use energy from the food we eat and the substances we drink. What source are we talking about? While there are a few different ways our body gets energy, the main sources are through glucose and fat 

The Study: Lipid Turnover + the Metabolic System

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The study, published in the journal Nature in September 2019, was conducted at the Karolinska Institutet in conjunction with researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden and the University of Lyon in France. The primary co-researchers were Arner, Bernard, Appelsved, Fu, Andersson, Salehpour, Thorell, Rydén, and Spalding.

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While the study itself looked at age-related weight gain in relation to lipid turnover, the end results spoke to the integral systems that play an important role in both these functions. In short, lipid turnover rates and the metabolic system.

The researchers looked at the “fat cells in 54 men and women over an average period of 13 years” and found that “regardless of whether they gained or lost weight, [they] showed decreases in lipid turnover in the fat tissue.” The study participants who “didn’t compensate for that by eating [fewer] calories gained weight by an average of 20 percent.”

Arner, professor at the Department of Medicine in Huddinge at Karolinska Institutet, commented on the overall results of the study: “The results indicate for the first time that processes in our fat tissue regulate changes in body weight during ageing in a way that is independent of other factors … This could open up new ways to treat obesity.” Another main study author and senior researcher at the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology at the Karolinska Institutet, Kristy Spalding commented that “understanding lipid dynamics and what regulates the size of the fat mass in humans has never been more relevant.”

Possibly, unraveling the mechanisms behind lipid turnover may unlock more secrets of how to better utilize our metabolic system!

How to Combat Slow Lipid Turnover

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Turns out, there’s really not a whole lot we can do to control our lipid turnover rate. That’s because it’s mostly just a natural occurrence within the human body.

As we age, lipid turnover rate slows.

So, that’s the bad news. What’s the good news?

Just because we can’t control our lipid turnover rate doesn’t mean we can’t change our lifestyle to help combat the slowdown. For instance, the study found that those participants that changed their diet as they aged were able to control unwanted weight gain more efficiently. Plus, even though it’s shown that diet plays a particularly important and changing role in dealing with age-related lipid turnover rates, prior studies have also shown that exercise also plays a partnering role.

Basically, understanding your metabolic system and how it breaks down and uses energy, is a great way to helping mitigate a decreasing lipid turnover rate.

Leading a healthy lifestyle that’s rich in a diverse plant-based diet and includes regular exercise is a great way to not only decrease calorie consumption, but also increase certain nutrients that help breakdown food in your gastrointestinal tract. This part of your metabolic system is essential for delivering vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients where they need to go within your body and therefore your metabolic system with energy as well.

Plant-Based Foods to Boost Your Metabolic System

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So, we’ve talked a bit about diet, but what foods are going to boost your metabolic system the most? Well, a great place to start is at the foods that boost your metabolism. Let’s take a look at the metabolic system powerhouses that make the list!

Protein

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Protein is not only an essential macronutrient that is basically the building blocks of our bodies, but it also helps “increase your metabolism for a few hours .. by requiring your body to use more energy to digest them.” Per Healthline.com, this is “known as the thermic effect of food (TEF) … [which] … refers to the number of calories needed by your body to digest, absorb and process the nutrients in your meals.”

Try some of these protein-rich plant-based recipes: White Bean and Walnut Cookie, Warming Turmeric Baked Oats Recipe, Savory Pumpkin Quinoa, Mushroom Nut Loaf with Balsamic Tomato Chutney, or this Teriyaki Tofu Steaks.

Tea and Coffee

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Yep! You read that one right.

Both tea and coffee have been linked with a bit of a boost in your metabolism. This is mainly due to the caffeine content in certain types of tea and all coffee. Caffeine not only gives you a little boost but it “may also help your body burn fat for energy and seems especially effective at boosting your workout performance.”

Plus, there are lots of ways to enjoy these wonderful beverages: Bubble Tea, Ginger Tea, Blender Mocha Cashew Latte, Fruit Infused Sun Tea, Sage and Black Tea Latte, or this High-Protein Caramel Cappuccino.

Coconut Oil

If you’re already a practicing plant-based eater, then you’re most likely in love with or at least own a jar of coconut oil. This wonderful oil is not only rich in healthy fat, but it can also be used on the skin, hair, and even on your teeth!

On top of that, coconut oil has been shown to give your metabolism a bit of a boost!

Coconut oil is high in “medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs)” which means they go “directly to the liver to be turned into energy [and] this makes them less likely to be stored as fat.” Healthy fat has also been shown to be a great source of energy, meaning you’ll get that extra boost for the physical activity!

Plus, you can substitute coconut oil for almost any other cooking oil such as in these recipes: Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies, Parsnips with Rosemary ‘Butter’ and Walnuts, Crunchy Peanut Butter Squares, Zucchini Boats, or this Asian Rice Soup.

Cacao

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Cacao has not only been found to help boost your metabolism, but it also may play a role in enzymes, fat, and carbs.

One study found that “cocoa may prevent the action of enzymes necessary to break down fat and carbs during digestion,” which means that, theoretically, cocoa “play a role in preventing weight gain by reducing the absorption of some calories.” With that said, more research needs to be done to really get down the nitty-gritty of this effect!

Here are a few cacao recipes to try out in the meantime: Cacao Mousse and Raspberry ParfaitsGalaxy Dark Chocolate With Raspberries, Chocolate and Sprout Smoothie, or this Acai Bowl.

We also highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 15,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!

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