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Weight Management – Balancing the Yin & Yang of Nutrition

Zhaoping Li, MD, PhD, is a Professor of Clinical Medicine at UCLA School of Medicine, Ronald Reagan Medical Center. Dr. Li directs the Clinical Research Unit at the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition, which was established in 1996 to provide leadership in nutritional sciences at UCLA by facilitating interdisciplinary research, improving patient care, and creating educational initiatives for health professionals and the public. This speaker lectured for the UCLA summer course MED 180, "Introduction to Integrative East-West Medicine for Health and Wellness," which took place from June 23-August 1, 2014.

In “Weight Management – Balancing the Yin & Yang of Nutrition,” Dr. Zhaoping Li of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition explores the definition of fat and its accumulation in our bodies. According to Li, in considering the axis of body fat one should not just emphasize the total amount of fat, but also its location. It turns out that some locations of body fat are less healthy than other ones, regardless of its overall contribution to one’s weight. MRIs of different people with identical waist circumferences indicate varying amounts of body fat and lean muscle. This suggests that the body mass index (BMI) measurement is simply an index of obesity, but is not indicative of an individual’s health.

Adiposopathy, the dysfunction of fat cells, is aggravated due to the body’s location limit in storing fat, leading to metabolic diseases such as those associated with obesity. Genetic predisposition may further accelerate such diseases. On a cultural level, changes in diet do contribute to such ailments, including a switch from good fructose with antioxidants, fiber, water, and fewer calories, to bad fructose with fewer antioxidants, lower fiber, and higher calories. As fructose acts differently from glucose on a chemical level, high intake of the former promotes the metabolic syndrome, and greatly increases de novo lipogenesis. From a Chinese medical perspective, a diet of diverse nutrients with a variety of colors is suggested for a balance of the yin and yang. In summary, controlling junk food intake lowers the intake of calories, saturated fat, carbohydrates, and replacing this with a diet of more vitamins, minerals, and natural plant nutrients can contribute to appropriate weight management.

Li states that there is also increasing evidence that an individual’s microbiota – the microbiome/bacteria population of the gut – contributes to predisposition to disease, corresponds to what type of bacteria will flourish, and changes with diet. Therefore, certain bacteria associated with higher fat diets are linked with obesity. Also, as not all calories and fats are equal, unhealthier foods will negatively affect the axis of fat. On the whole, these research findings suggest that a more accurate indicator of fat, obesity, and overall health may be a full body MRI to scan for overall fat constitution. Current indicators of good health, according to Dr. Li, include how fast one can walk and how physically strong one is.


Click here to read more about the MED 180 course.


Lecture summary generated by Harini Kompella, Volunteer Writer, UCLA


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