University of Virginia scientists recently uncovered evidence that a little-known hormone may help prevent severe COVID-19, and the compound — called adiponectin — is suddenly in the spotlight. As research continues to see how well it works, there’s no need to wait: “Boosting adiponectin is one of the best things you can do for yourself, especially if you’re hoping to lose weight,” says Columbia University–trained integrative physician Fred Pescatore, MD, author of The A-List Diet. “We already know the hormone takes the edge off of appetite, turns more carbs into energy, improves blood sugar and insulin, reduces inflammation, lowers cholesterol and speeds metabolism.”
Basically, it makes wellness soar as you move toward a happy weight. And while most of us with spare pounds are low on adiponectin, “Increasing your levels is not only easy, it can be fun!” he says. To date, patients using his favorite strategies have shed up to 15 pounds in a week. Many have reversed type 2 diabetes too!
We tend to think of fat cells as bad guys, but they actually produce adiponectin to help keep us lean. Any time we’re packing on a lot of flab, the hormone is released and acts like a text message “that tells your muscles and liver to burn more blood sugar and fat,” explains Dr. Pescatore. As that happens, spare pounds disappear. The catch? In today’s world of processed junk and supersized portions, fat cells get so stuffed, they struggle to make adiponectin. Levels of the compound fall, sugar burn slows, metabolism stalls and fat cells keep getting fatter. Health suffers too, as blood sugar creeps up, raising diabetes risk and causing inflammation linked to low immunity, heart disease and more.
There’s another catch: Losing weight is the main way to fix the problem, and we all know that’s tricky. But simple adiponectin-boosting techniques “make weight loss automatically easier,” promises Dr. Pescatore. Studies show they can even triple your results!
So what’s the first step? Just cutting back on carbs a little spikes adiponectin, so start with that. Then load up on food that makes adiponectin flow…
How can burgers help with weight loss?
Breakthrough science shows that an antioxidant called alpha lipoic acid activates enzymes that increase adiponectin by 146 percent. Separate research shows upping alpha lipoic acid will speed metabolism by 300 percent, double energy and provide a wide range of health benefits like lower blood pressure, stronger resistance to infection and fewer aches and pains. “Most foods are low in alpha lipoic acid. Red meat is where you’re going to find most of it,” shares Dr. Pescatore. “A good-quality burger is actually good for your health and can help you lose weight.” If you’re cutting carbs, you can even have one every day! He jazzes up his favorite patty with turmeric, a spice that a British analysis says further improves adiponectin levels.
Want variety? Make salmon burgers for weight loss too. Omega-3 fats in the fish decrease inflammation in cells, so adiponectin is produced more readily, amping levels by up to 60 percent. “All monounsaturated fats have the effect,” adds Dr. Pescatore. So you get bonus points for topping burgers with avocado!
What can you serve alongside burgers for weight loss?
As your go-to side dish, skip chips or fries in favor of roasted broccoli or green beans. It’s a low-carb way to up fiber intake and increase adiponectin levels by up to 115 percent, according to Brazilian researchers. Dr. Pescatore recommends at least 25 grams of fiber daily from sources like veggies, berries, nuts, and seeds. How does fiber work? It blocks blood-sugar spikes, which seems to enhance adiponectin production.
You might also want to consider using the energy you get from rising adiponectin to take a walk. A 20-minute daily stroll can raise adiponectin a whopping 260 percent, per Australian scientists. Turns out, walking lowers levels of insulin and the stress hormone cortisol, which “makes room” for more adiponectin. Says Dr. Pescatore: “The more adiponectin you make, the more fat you lose!”
What results can you expect?
With countless failed diets under her size-28 belt, Shea Cheek had all but given up. Then doctors suggested her husband cut carbs. “I watched YouTube videos on healthy keto eating and started cooking for us both,” recalls the Texas mom, 52.
Without realizing it, she loaded up on adiponectin boosters — burgers, salmon croquettes, fiberrich veggies, healthy fat. “I lost nine pounds in a week, which is huge for me!” From that point on, Shea’s energy kept ticking up, and severe swelling in her ankles subsided. She felt so good, she added exercise. “Really, the fat just fell off!” In about 18 months, Shea shed 133 pounds and seven sizes. “I spent my life wishing I could lose weight. Suddenly I’m healthier and happier than ever! ”
What should your diet look like?
Dr. Pescatore’s adiponectin-boosting formula is simple: Go easy on carbs and fill up on nutrient-dense red meat, fish, omega-3 eggs, nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil, veggies, and turmeric. For fastest weight loss, limit carbs to 40 grams daily and make each meal with a serving of high-quality protein, unlimited non-starchy veggies, and some good fat. If hungry, snack on protein.
BREAKFAST: Spread 1⁄2 cup nuts/seeds on sheet pan; toast at 350ºF for 7 minutes. Cool. Enjoy with berries, low-carb sweetener, and nut milk.
LUNCH: Salmon burger on seared portobello mushroom caps; side salad with olive oil vinaigrette, optional seed-based crackers.
DINNER: Stir-fry beef, broccoli and seasonings in olive oil; add low-carb teriyaki sauce. Serve with cauliflower rice.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.