Recently I posted an article recommending combining sterculia oil with berberine and/or fish oil as a way to escape torpor. I chose this combination because they mimic the effects of leptin, the hormone produced by our fat cells whose job is to keep us lean but to which most of us are resistant.
As discussed in The SCD1 Theory of Obesity, Part 1, leptin has several jobs.
- leptin stimulates satiety in the hypothalamus.
- leptin increases the rate of fat oxidation in skeletal muscle by increased the rate-limiting enzyme CPT11
- leptin stimulates the MAPK/SIRT1/PGC1a pathway2,3
- PGC1a is a master regulator of mitochondrial biogenesis and function4
- PGC1a plays a key role in adaptive thermogenesis, the burning off of extra calories as heat5,6
- leptin down-regulates both SCD1 and its upstream activator PPAR gamma7,8
- SCD1 deficient mice have high metabolic rates and are resistant to leptin-deficiency induced obesity9
- High expression of PPAR gamma and SCD1, especially in response to dietary polyunsaturated fat (PUFA), induce a torpid metabolism characterized by low body temperature and metabolic rate
- Since leptin is down-regulated by PPAR gamma10 and many of leptin’s effects are mediated by ROS production which is in turn minimized by the activities of SCD1, PPAR gamma and SCD1 are pitted in a battle versus leptin over whether the metabolism is in fat storing mode or fat burning mode
Since I am leptin resistant, I am using the sterculia oil – which inhibits SCD1 – to replace leptin’s role of down-regulating SCD1 and PPAR gamma. I think that once my body fat reaches a certain level of saturation due to this down-regulation, this itself will trigger adaptive thermogenesis and a high metabolic rate. I don’t know how long that will take, though, so in the meantime I’m using berberine to stimulate AMPK and adaptive thermogenesis. Make sense?
My hope is that ultimately I’ll be able to saturate myself, get to a target weight and maintain it without supplementation once I have reset my body fat. It’s an ambitious goal and time will tell.
Turning Off PPAR gamma – A Double Edged Sword
Since I’ve already talked about the danger inherent in shutting down PPAR gamma after you’ve built your torpid metabolism on it and therefore why it makes sense to combine it with berberine, a potent stimulator of AMPK/SIRT1/PGC-1a11, I may as well quote myself:
But it’s not without danger. PPAR alpha seems to be the master regulator of fat burning, but PPAR gamma can increase fat burning as well! I think that PPAR gamma is a crutch. It’s keeping us upright for now and sometimes when you kick the crutch out, it can cause problems. For this reason, in my current trial I am using a PPAR agonist (turns it on) in addition to the sterculia oil.Brad Marshall, Sterculia Oil: How to Escape Torpor!
The idea is that the sterculia oil will shut down the positive feedback loop of PPAR gamma/SCD1/ELOVL3-6 that has been dominating my torpid metabolism and that the berberine will step in to stimulate adaptive thermogensis. I am using a two-pronged approach to restore the functions of leptin since my body is actively ignoring it. The hope is that over a period of months I will be able to saturate my fat stores, lose weight and ultimately regain leptin sensitivity.
Monitoring The Metabolic Changes
Remarkably, I think I actually captured my metabolic changeover in action.
As explained here, I’ve been using a metabolic testing device to track my metabolic response to different trials. I also reported that in my first “safety and let’s see what happens” trial of sterculia oil I thought I had shut down my PPAR gamma activity based on a dramatic drop in the very long chain saturated fats nervonic and lignoceric acid. After that I stopped taking sterculia oil for 8 weeks to see if I would revert right back to where I used to be, which I did (disappointingly).
This gave me an opportunity to monitor my metabolic changes more closely as I again began taking the sterculia oil.
The device measures Respiratory Exchange Ratio (RER), which is the amount of CO2 you exhale versus the amount of O2 you consume. If the number is 1.0, you are (in theory) burning all carbohydrate. If the number is 0.7, you are (in theory) burning all fat or ketones or alcohol. In practice, I’ve found the number to be less straight-forward than that, but that’s for a later post. Here I’m going to focus on the changes I saw in my RER while walking at a steady pace as I began taking sterculia oil at 1200mg per day (March 4th, 2021) and then added in berberine at the two week mark (March 17th).
Two weeks prior to beginning this trial, I had been taking 600mg sterculia oil. At the beginning of this trial (March 4th, 2021) I upped my dose to 1200mg. My eating was “normo” – two meals per day of starch, protein and saturated fat sources like butter but WITHOUT supplementing stearic acid. At the two week point (March 17th), I began taking berberine.
I measured my RER every day around 11am while walking on a level surface at 2.7 miles per hour (pacing).
Over the first two weeks of 1200 mg of sterculia oil, my RER rose steadily, from a low point of 0.8 on March 7th (65% of burned calories from fat) to a peak of 0.94 on March 16th (24% of burned calories as fat). After beginning the berberine my RER steadily fell, reaching 0.78 on March 22nd (76% of burned calories from fat).
My Current Strategy
Many have asked about timing of supplements and my current dietary strategy. I am at a point where I have been using the SO long enough to see some changes. My Desaturase Index dropped from 1.9 at the end of February to 1.5 in the beginning of April – my current target is 1.1.
I am following a time restricted eating window where all of my solid food is consumed between 3 and 8 PM. I’m taking berberine, in the mornings, sterculia oil with dinner and I have just begun supplementing with stearic acid again (last night). I’m hoping to hit new metabolic highs but unfortunately I’m having problems with my testing device so I may have to rely on my body temperature and monitoring my breathing to know. This morning my body temp ticked up to 98.1 from 98.0 yesterday.
I’m taking berberine in the morning because of it’s mechanism of action and it’s short half-life. Berberine is a partial blocker of mitochondrial complex 1, which temporarily impedes energy production in the cell, leading to a buildup on cAMP, which in turn stimulates AMPK/PGC1a/adaptive thermogenesis. It has a short half-life, similar to caffeine12. I’m taking it in the morning because I want the AMPK to up-regulate fat oxidation, so that when I eat my big meal the stearic acid gets shuttled straight in the furnace. At that moment I want mitochondrial energy production to be fully open to generate ROS (which is to say I want the berberine out of my system) to further increase adaptive thermogenesis.
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