Science Behind the Food Pill Diet
The Food Pill Diet addresses the 8 triggers that cause you to become hungry. 7 of those 8 triggers involve chemical processes that are specifically addressed by the combination of ingredients in the pills and the regimen for taking the pills.
The 8th trigger relates to classical conditioning, which refers to our associations of time and place for eating. We address this particular trigger by ensuring that you have support from a community of other members on our social network.
The 8 Triggers That Cause You To Feel Hungry
1. Empty Stomach:
When your stomach empties, your body produces a hormone called ghrelin, which then signals your brain that your stomach is empty, which in turn makes you feel hungry. Your stomach empties every 3 hours, on average, so we have designed the system so that you consume the Food Pills every 2 hours (or more frequently as needed), which significantly reduces the amount of ghrelin released.
Because under our system you consume the Food Pill meals 6-9 times per day (every 2 or 2.5 hours), we predict that most people’s metabolism will increase, thus aiding in additional weight loss. For example, in Dan's blood work, his TSH levels (which measures your thyroid and thus your metabolism) improved despite the fact that he was on a calorie-restricted diet of around 800-1,200 calories per day.
Consuming the Food Pills every 2 hours provides another benefit. The opposite of ghrelin is a hormone called leptin, which inhibits hunger and regulates your body’s energy balance. Leptin signals to the brain that the body has enough energy stores, such as body fat. One issue faced by many obese individuals is that they do not respond to leptin signals. However, as these individuals begin to lose weight – by keeping ghrelin levels low through eating every 2 hours – their bodies will become more sensitive to leptin levels. As they get closer to healthier weights, the cycle continues – more sensitivity to the leptin hormone, more hunger suppressed, less cravings, less calories consumed.
2. Stomach Sensors
Our stomachs have two sensor mechanisms that influence feelings of hunger and satiety, namely:
food energy density measurement receptors (nutrient receptor), which measure the energy density of food, and
nerve stretch receptors, which send signals to the brain that your stomach is expanding.
These two types of sensors need to be tripped in order to feel full, which is why you could eat a huge spinach salad, trigger the expansion sensor, but not feel completely satisfied because the density sensor was not triggered.
Conversely, one could eat handfuls of nuts, trigger the density signal, but feel similarly unsatisfied because the expansion sensor went un-triggered.
In addition, a hormone produced by your digestive system, called cholecystokinin, signals your brain when you’ve eaten. More is released with larger meals than smaller meals, but loading up on fiber (especially insoluble fiber), can trick this body mechanism into thinking it had a larger meal, causing the release of more of the cholecystokinin hormone. We have found that this leads to a higher sense of satiety after the meal, but without the added calories of actually eating a larger meal.
A significant amount of research has been conducted that understand the optimal ratio – of complex carbs (fibers) to fats to oils to sugar – to induce a state of satiety. Certain food pills have fatty oils, and others have fat from different types of nuts – this triggers the density sensor. Adding pills that contain food groups that expand – for example, chia seeds that expand by absorbing twelve times their weight in water, or other dehydrated products that expand when rehydrated – triggers the stomach expansion sensor.
Moreover, the number of pills you are required to consume at each meal ensures that each individual drinks a sufficient amount water to allow for maximum expansion. The added benefit of this food system is by default it gets people to drink more water, something most people do not get enough of.
The human microbiota, often called your microbiome, consists of up to 100 trillion symbiotic microbial cells, most of which are bacteria in your gut. When you eat food, the bacteria in your gut break it down and are thus intimately involved with your weight.
There is growing evidence to suggest that the right mix of these bacteria can actually help you make healthier food choices and stay fit. The wrong mix can do the opposite – encourage unhealthy choices that cause weight gain and an increased risk of other adverse health conditions.
The gut-brain axis (GBA) consists of bidirectional communication between the central and the enteric nervous system, linking emotional and cognitive centers of the brain with peripheral intestinal functions. Recent advances in research have described the importance of gut microbiota in influencing these interactions. This interaction between microbiota and GBA appears to be bidirectional, namely through signaling from gut-microbiota to brain and from brain to gut-microbiota by means of neural, endocrine, immune, and humoral links.
The importance of your microbiome as related to what we choose to eat cannot be understated. In one research project, obese individuals were found to have the smallest variety of gut bacteria. Another study found that having more of the Firmicutes bacteria may be related to weight gain. Conversely, the same study found that more of the Bacteroidetes bacteria has been associated with a slimmer physique. Some bacteria can even trigger the release of endorphins in your body, which is perhaps why those with rather unhealthy eating habits – and thus higher populations of bacteria that crave unhealthy foods – have a momentary emotional lift when eating unhealthy foods like fast food, pizza, or a bag of chips. The bacteria that feed off of those types of unhealthy foods simply outnumber those bacteria that eat, for example, dietary fiber found in vegetables.
One of the key advantages of the Food Pill Diet lies in the fact that your microbiome can change over time with healthy diet changes. Indeed, you can rebalance your gut bacteria – the Food Pill Diet can actually starve out the unhealthy-food-loving bad bacteria by giving you the right type of insoluble fiber that feeds the healthy-food-loving good bacteria. The Food Pill Diet effectively resets your microbiome – healthy-food-loving good bacteria is allowed to repopulate and effectively push out the bad bacteria. Although you cannot totally wipe out all those fast-food-loving gut bacteria, the good bacteria will have the dominant voice, which means the signals coming from your gut, and the subsequent euphoric feeling from the endorphins, will be the result of eating plant-based healthy foods.
In Dan's personal experience, he found that it also reset his sense of taste. He noticed this when he introduced fruit back into his diet after 8 weeks of only eating Food Pills. Because he was no longer accustomed to the over saturation of flavors that characterize many Western foods – such as high levels of salt, MSG and other artificial flavorings and spices – eating a piece of fruit was one of the most pleasant experiences of his life. He was more satisfied eating the fruit than he was when I used to subsist on mostly cheese burgers. The Food Pill Diet allowed him to overwhelmingly populate his gut with good bacteria, which in turn made him crave – and more intensely taste – healthier foods.
4. Taste & Smell
When you smell, taste, and chew food, you trigger signals that tell your brain to begin the digestion process. Specific combinations of food types, and thus tastes, trigger either stronger or weaker feelings of hunger. This can be observed when you eat a combination of food that is high in salt and fat (for example, French fries) versus one that is low in salt and fat (like a green salad). This is Food Science 101, something that McDonald’s figured out years ago, and why food scientists have been able to design food that is incredibly difficult to stop eating. It’s the reason you can never eat just one potato chip.
Research has shown that people tend to lose weight when their ability to smell and taste is diminished, a condition referred to as anosmia. Temporary anosmia can be caused by allergies, colds, the flu, or sinus infections. Permanent causes of anosmia include Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, radiation or chemotherapy, among others. Another common cause is aging, which is one reason elderly individuals tend to lose weight – once they lose the ability to taste, they lose interest in eating. The food pill diet circumvents those taste and smell triggers because you are not tasting or chewing anything – we are, in effect, tricking your brain into not triggering hunger.
5. Insulin Levels
The level of insulin in your blood affects your degree of hunger. Insulin is a hormone that is made in the pancreas, an organ located behind the stomach. Insulin allows your body’s cells absorb glucose, which can then be used as energy or stored as body fat. When your blood glucose level rises after a meal, insulin is released by the pancreas to help the liver, muscle, and fat cells absorb the glucose.
When you eat high glycemic index foods (like white bread), or foods with added sugar or high fructose corn syrup, your blood glucose levels spike, which induces your pancreas to release higher amounts insulin to take the glucose out of the blood. As insulin begins to take effect to drastically lower your spiked blood sugar level, this creates two effects: First, it makes you hungry, so you want to eat more. Second, it makes you feel less energetic, often resulting in you burning fewer calories.
When your blood glucose levels fall too low, the body releases adrenaline. This produces symptoms similar to anxiety, nervousness, sweating, faintness, a fast heartbeat, tingling, nausea, trembling, and yes… hunger. If the brain cannot get enough glucose, you may feel weak, dizzy, tired, drowsy, or confused. You may even get a headache or have trouble concentrating, speaking, or seeing clearly. You have probably experienced something like this if, after not having eaten all day, you eat a sugary meal or fast food, causing you to feel weak and light headed.
People who eat significant amounts of high glycemic index foods over a period of many years can become insulin resistant, which means that their bodies no longer respond to high insulin levels in the bloodstream and can thus no longer efficiently convert the glucose in the blood into energy or fat – this is known as being pre-diabetic. If you continue down this path, the body becomes continually more resistant to insulin levels, at which point you become a type 2 diabetic – the point at which the pancreas is effectively worn out and can no longer produce a sufficient amount of insulin, thus requiring the patient to administer their own insulin via injection or other method.
Eating food that is lower on the glycemic index, and eating complex carbohydrates as opposed to simple carbohydrates, allows you to keep your insulin levels in check, leading to less hunger and a more consistent level of energy – limited peaks and valleys. The type of food in each Food Pill has been specifically chosen to not spike your insulin levels. The vegetables, the complex carbs, and the food high in protein are all low in the glycemic index.
6. Physical Activity
When you engage in physical activity, such as a work out, you deplete your body of glycogen, minerals, and vitamins. Your body then signals your brain that it is low on nutrients and requires replenishment. The brain then sends signals to the stomach, ghrelin is released, and you begin to feel the need to eat.
Most people believe that, to lose weight, they should both diet and engage in physical activity – this is a mistake if the main goal is to suppress hunger. What often happens is that individuals work out, burn 500 calories, their body then signals that it is hungry and needs to replenish its depleted glycogen levels, which in turn increases hunger, leading to perhaps a 1,000-calorie meal. This scenario also happens with running, long bike rides, and other high intensity workouts.
On the Food Pill Diet, we want people to do no more than a 30-minute walk in the morning (outside) and a 30-minute walk in the evening (outside). This low intensity, no sweat physical activity does not drain the body of important substances and thus ensures no hunger triggers are released. In addition, being outside in the fresh air, absorbing sunlight to replenish vitamin D, and visually seeing the sky get lighter in the morning and darker in the evening, aids the correct circadian rhythm of the body and helps you sleep better.
7. Sleep Patterns
The amount you sleep each night affects your hunger level. In 2004, Eve Van Cauter of the University of Chicago conducted a study to see if sleep deprivation altered appetite.
They tested men who slept for 4 hours for two consecutive nights, followed by two additional consecutive nights in which the same men slept for 10 hours. They found that on nights they slept for 4 hours, the men had leptin levels that were 18 percent lower and ghrelin levels that were 28 percent higher as compared to nights in which they slept 10 hours.
The men also said they were much hungrier than usual, and craved salty, sweet food on those 4-hour-sleep nights. Compounding the issue that a drop in leptin levels can slow down the metabolism. Thus, sleep deprivation not only increases hunger levels, but also slows metabolism – not a great combination for health and weight loss.
In another paper published by Shahrad Taheri, MBBS, PhD and Emmanuel Mignot, MD, PhD, entitled “Sleep Well and Stay Slim: Dream or Reality?,” the researchers compared two groups of overweight, non-smoking individuals on calorie-restricted diets for 14 days. One group slept for 8.5 hours per night and the other group slept for 5.5 hours per night (the latter of which the authors point out is a "norm" for people today). Both groups ate roughly 1,450 calories per day.
After the 14 days, the group who slept more lost more fat than the group who slept less. Indeed, more than half of their weight loss was fat, compared to the other group whose weight loss was only a quarter fat. Even more startling, the group that slept less actually lost more muscle – 60% more muscle was lost by the sleep-deprived group. The three-hour difference in sleep caused a shift in metabolism that caused the body to preserve fat at the expense of muscle. Moreover, when the researchers compared circulating blood levels of appetite-regulating hormones in the two groups, they found those who slept less produced more of the appetite stimulating hormone ghrelin – they woke up hungrier. This is why we put a significant amount of emphasis on getting a good night’s rest on the Food Pill diet.
8. Classical Conditioning
Brain associations with food, particularly when considering that every culture around the world has deeply rooted food customs, is a challenge for the Food Pill Diet. It is extremely difficult to change behavior, particularly those which have been cultivated and reinforced over a lifetime. These associational triggers are similar to what Pavlov proved with his dog-salivating-when-a-bell-is-sounded experiment.
An effective way to solve for these triggers is to have social network of fellow food pill dieters to support each other. When an individual has a craving associated with a brain association, they can reach for their mobile phone, or go to the community forum to find helpful tips and techniques to help resist cravings. Over time the dieter will slowly weaken those brain associations, ensuring resistance becomes easier and easier.