Almased Lexicon

In our Lexicon we explain technical terms that are used in nutritional science, biology or medicine.

Technical terms from research and science are usually not self-explanatory. With one click in our Lexicon, you will know more about terms that you often encounter in connection with healthy nutrition, metabolic processes, being overweight and diabetes.

Abdominal fat cells (adipocytes) release numerous substances into the blood that affect blood vessels, organs and the brain. Pathologically enlarged abdominal fat cells produce more messenger substances that, among other things, promote cardiovascular and vascular diseases as well as type 2 diabetes and increase the risk of cancer.

Abdominal fat increases the secretion of the satiety hormone leptin. Leptin informs our brain about the filling of fat stores and thus regulates our feeling of hunger. However, a constantly increased leptin level leads to leptin resistance, satiety does not occur, unrestrained hunger becomes a permanent condition.

Belly fat slows down adiponectin production. Adiponectin controls fat storage and insulin action. A permanently low adiponectin level reduces insulin action until insulin resistance develops. Despite more insulin in the blood, the average level of blood sugar rises - and thus the risk of diabetes.

Belly fat produces cytokines such as TNF-a: inflammatory substances that keep the body in a state of chronic inflammation. This favours - in addition to various types of cancer - arteriosclerosis and subsequently heart attacks and strokes.
Abdominal fat messengers are also said to promote thromboses, asthma and Alzheimer's disease.

The acid-base balance (SBH) is a physiological control circuit that keeps the pH value of the blood (relatively) constant in the slightly alkaline range between 7.35 and 7.45. If the value is below this, it is called acidosis (over-acidity). If the value is below this, we speak of acidosis (over-acidity), if it is above this, we speak of alkalosis.

Many metabolic processes produce acid: carbonic acid when breathing, amino acids when breaking down food, lactic acid during muscle work, uric acid when breaking down protein. We also absorb acids with our food. Basically, SBH is regulated by metabolism (excretion via the intestines and kidneys) or by respiration (CO2 exhalation via the lungs). If the detoxification organs are overtaxed, acidic waste products are excreted via the skin.

If there are too few alkaline substances (e.g. magnesium) in the diet and the body's alkaline reserves are exhausted, the acids remain in the body. They are then stored mainly in the collagen fibres of the connective tissue and in the fatty tissue. The pH value of the tissue gradually decreases and eventually becomes acidic. The natural acid-base balance is permanently disturbed and the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the cells is impaired. The consequences of chronic hyperacidity affect the entire organism and promote various diseases.

Adiponectin is a messenger substance from the group of adipokines. It is mainly produced in the fat cells (adipocytes) of the body and fulfils various tasks, including: Blood sugar regulation: adiponectin inhibits glucose production in the liver and promotes the absorption of blood sugar into muscle tissue. Adiponectin can thus counteract the development of type 2 diabetes. Diabetics have lower adiponectin levels.

In general, all body proteins consist of amino acids. Amino acids are the smallest building blocks of proteins and are involved in many body processes. To do this, they form structured chains whose branching determines the type and function of the amino acid chains that are formed. All cells, hormones, muscles and enzymes in our body consist of such amino acid chains. Standard amino acids are divided into three groups: essential, semi-essential and non-essential amino acids.
For humans, 8 amino acids are essential: isoleucine, valine, methionine, leucine, tryptophan, lysine, phenylaline and threonine. Our body cannot produce them itself but must take them in with food. Beef, tuna, dairy products, eggs, curd cheese and nuts are particularly rich in essential amino acids.

Semi-essential amino acids include arginine and histidine. Our body produces them itself, but in certain life situations (growth, pregnancy, etc.) they must be additionally taken in with food. 
The 10 non-essential amino acids are produced by the body itself: Alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamine, glutamic acid, glycine, proline, serine and tyrosine.

Stress, poor diet and chronic diseases can lead to a deficiency of amino acids. The possible consequences of an amino acid deficiency include fatigue, loss of performance and increased susceptibility to infections.

Antioxidants are "radical scavengers": substances that protect body cells from damage caused by free radicals. The antioxidants are oxidised - thus binding the free radicals - and thus prevent or slow down the oxidative decomposition of vital cell substances even in low concentrations.

Free radicals are reactive electrons. They are constantly produced within our metabolism and can cause our body cells to age. If the energy metabolism does not work efficiently (anymore), the oxidative stress caused by free radicals increases.
These highly reactive oxygen compounds put our cells under oxidative stress: they penetrate the tissue, oxidise proteins and lipids and form new molecules. If the body's own enzymes and hormones (endogenous antioxidants) do not sufficiently bind free radicals and thus "defuse" them, they damage the cells. This can lead to degenerative diseases and even cancer.

It is therefore important to take in antioxidants with food that our body does not produce itself (exogenous antioxidants). Vitamins A, C and E, trace elements and secondary plant substances such as polyphenols, flavonoids and thiols protect against free radicals. They are particularly abundant in fruits, vegetables, herbs and seeds as well as in foods gently prepared from them.

Arginine is a semi-essential amino acid. Our body needs it to build proteins and produces this itself. Arginine promotes protein and fat metabolism, cell formation and the immune system, as well as the secretion of growth hormones and, in the case of intensive training, muscle growth and function.

However, the amount of arginine produced by the organism does not cover the requirements in some phases and situations of life. Arginine then becomes an essential amino acid that we must take in additionally with food - during growth, under heavy strain or illness.

The basal metabolic rate is part of our energy consumption. It is the energy our body needs at rest to maintain vital functions such as metabolism, respiration and cardiac activity.

Basal metabolic rate and power metabolic rate (energy consumption during physical activity) make up our total metabolic rate. On average, men have a higher basal metabolic rate than women. Muscles and the liver account for the largest share of the basal metabolic rate, each with about 26 per cent. The rest is shared by the brain (14 percent), heart (9 percent), kidneys (7 percent) and other organs (14 percent). The basal metabolic rate is measured by the amount of heat released or the oxygen consumption.

Peptides consist of amino acids, i.e. they are small proteins. Bioactive peptides are - along with probiotics and prebiotics, antioxidants, unsaturated fatty acids, vitamins and minerals - the most important ingredients of functional foods.

Bioactive peptides are produced by enzymes (peptidases) that cleave protein molecules (enzymatic hydrolysis). They are often deliberately produced with starter cultures (for example lactobacilli). For example, to produce fermented products such as cheese, yoghurt or tofu. Generally, proteins from milk, egg, meat, fish, cereals or legumes such as soy are used for peptide production.

It is still unclear to what extent the influences of bioactive peptides on individual cells observed in studies can be transferred to the entire human organism. However, the support of the uptake (absorption) of minerals and stress-reducing effects are considered proven.

Bioactive substances are health-promoting substances in food: secondary plant substances, dietary fibre substances and various substances in fermented foods. They are not nutrients, do not provide energy and do not build up the body's own substances. However, they have a positive influence on cellular metabolic processes.

Many foods naturally contain bioactive substances, but these can be destroyed during processing, for example by heat. They are often added to functional foods that are supposed to reduce health risks.

Bioavailability means the proportion of a nutrient or active ingredient that is available to our body from and within a certain time. It also indicates how quickly a substance is processed and used at the site of action.

The bioavailability of intravenously administered substances is 100 percent. The absolute bioavailability describes the bioavailability of a substance compared to intravenous administration. The relative bioavailability compares the bioavailability of different forms of administration, for example tablet and solution.

Bioavailability is determined by the concentration of the nutrient or active substance in body fluids, usually in blood or urine.

The biological value (BW) describes how well our body can utilise the proteins in a food and form the body's own protein structures from them. More precisely: how many grams of body protein can be formed from 100 grams of food protein.
The biological value depends on the quantity and ratio of the essential amino acids contained. The more a food protein resembles the human body protein, the higher its BW. If a food has a high biological value, a small(er) amount of it is sufficient to cover the daily protein requirement - and vice versa.

In order to compare different foods with each other in terms of their biological value, the Freiburg physician Karl Thomas developed an index in the middle of the 20th century in which foods can be entered. The basic value of 100 corresponds to the biological value of the protein of a whole egg. If a product has a higher biological value, the protein it contains can be better processed by the human body. Examples of foods: cow's milk has a BW of 82, poultry meat one of 80, tuna one of 92 and wheat one of 47. If protein-rich foods are combined, the BW of the combined proteins is sometimes increased above that of the individual ingredients.

Depending on the blood glucose concentration, glucose attaches itself to proteins. HbA1c is formed by the non-enzymatic binding of glucose to haemoglobin (Hb). This process is called glycation and is irreversible. To diagnose a diabetic metabolic condition, the value of the glycated haemoglobin HbA1c can be determined. However, a regular blood sugar determination only provides a snapshot. With the help of the HbA1c value, the metabolism of the last 12 weeks can be accessed via the blood.

A long-term sugar value of 6.5 percent or lower is considered ideal. Lowering a (too) high HbA1c value reduces the risk of diabetic secondary diseases.

Blood glucose (BG) describes the amount of glucose in the blood (glucose level) and thus the amount of this energy supplier that is indispensable for the brain, red blood cells and kidney marrow. Unlike fats, the main energy supplier of our other body cells, glucose crosses the blood-brain barrier.

The blood glucose level, especially the long-term blood glucose value HbA1c, is an important indicator of diabetes. A glucose deficiency (hypoglycaemia) reduces brain performance and can increase the release of adrenaline and trigger shaky hands, sweating and seizures.

In healthy people, blood glucose levels in the fasting state are between 70 and 99 mg/dl. After a meal, values of up to 160 mg/dl (immediately after the meal) or a maximum of 140 mg/dl (two hours after the meal) are considered normal.

The body mass index (BMI) is an assessment basis for weight classification. To determine the BMI, the body weight is put in relation to the body height: it is calculated from the quotient of body weight and body height squared (kg/m2).

The general rule is: 
BMI below 18.5 = underweight
BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 = normal weight
BMI between 25 and 29.9 = overweight
BMI from 30 = obesity, grade I
BMI from 35 = obesity, grade II
BMI from 40 = extreme obesity, grade III

How to determine your BMI: Weight in kg / (height in m)2

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are necessary for building up protein, especially for building up muscles. They are present in high concentrations in milk, among other things.

They are essential and cannot be produced by the body itself but must be taken in through food. BCAAs include the essential amino acids valine, leucine and isoleucine. They are particularly popular with athletes because they can be used very quickly by the body.

Carbohydrates cause the blood sugar level to rise particularly sharply. Bread units are therefore used in diabetes therapies to determine the individual insulin requirement (before a certain meal) and to set up diet plans.

The BE was only introduced in Germany and Austria. The amount to which a "bread unit" (BE) corresponds is not uniformly regulated: According to the German Dietary Regulation, BE is defined as the amount of a food containing 12 grams of carbohydrates. In Switzerland, on the other hand, a BE contains only 10 grams of carbohydrates - which in Germany corresponds to a so-called "carbohydrate unit".

Based on the German dietary regulations, one BE is equivalent to about half a slice of mixed wheat bread, half a roll, an apple or an average orange.

The chemical score (CS) determines the protein content, or more precisely: the protein quality of a food. For this purpose, the amino acids contained are compared with amino acids from eggs. The CS thus compares the amino acids of a product with a reference protein.

The CS only looks at and compares one amino acid contained, namely the one that is contained the least (in relation to the egg) in the specific food ("limiting amino acid"). Which amino acid this is, therefore depends on how the respective food protein is structured. 

Example: 100 grams of eggs contain about 890 milligrams of lysine, 100 grams of wheat only about 380 milligrams. The CS of wheat is thus 42 (egg = 100): 380/890 x 100 = 42.

Dietary fibres (also known as fibrous substances or plant fibres) are framework and supporting substances of plants. For our body, dietary fibres are indigestible and cannot be utilised. Nevertheless, they have a "value": they support digestion and provide a long-lasting feeling of satiety.

A distinction is made between soluble and insoluble dietary fibres, both together are called total dietary fibres. Soluble dietary fibres include pectin’s, inulin and oligofructose. They are mainly found in fruit and vegetables. Insoluble dietary fibres include cellulose and lignin. They are mainly found in cereals and pulses.

When eating solid meals, make sure that you include fibre-rich carbohydrates such as wholemeal products or potatoes in moderate quantities and add a large portion of vegetables or salad. For the shake, psyllium husks, chia or flax seeds can be a great addition. Pureed herbs, vegetables or moderate amounts of fruit also go very well in the shake.

Dual sugars (ZZ; also disaccharides) are organic-chemical compounds consisting of 2 simple sugars (monosaccharides). The human organism splits some sugars by means of disaccharidases in order to obtain energy from the resulting monosaccharides. The ZZs include sucrose (cane and beet sugar), maltose (malt sugar) and lactose (milk sugar).

ZZ are found in:

  • Fruit, vegetables, household sugar, sugar beet and sugar cane (sucrose)
  • Beer and malt products such as malt sweets (maltose - does not occur naturally)
  • Milk and milk products (lactose)

Along with strength, speed, coordination and mobility, endurance is one of our basic motor skills. Endurance sports increase physical fitness and can be started at any age - and practised into old (healthy) age. Effective endurance sports are jogging, swimming, cycling, hiking or Nordic walking.

Endurance refers to the body's ability to resist fatigue during exercise and its ability to regenerate after exercise. In sports, endurance refers to the ability to maintain a certain performance, such as running speed, for as long as possible. The better the endurance, the higher the possible load intensity and the better the use of the available energy.

From a medical point of view, it has proven useful to exercise with endurance three to five times a week for about half an hour.

The energy balance describes the relationship between the individual energy requirement and the actual energy intake. If the ratio is balanced, weight usually remains stable.
If the energy intake exceeds the daily energy requirement (positive energy balance), we gain weight. If the energy intake is less than the energy requirement (negative energy balance), we lose weight.

Energy density refers to the amount of calories in a given amount of food. Example: With 100 grams of chocolate, about 550 calories are consumed, with 100 grams of bread 210 calories. Chocolate therefore has a higher energy density than wholemeal bread.

Foods are divided into 3 energy density groups:

  • under 1.5 kcal/g (e.g. vegetables, fruit, fish, low-fat curd cheese, light cheese)
  • between 1.5 and 2.4 kcal/g (e.g. wholemeal bread, lean meat, cheese up to 20 percent fat, ice cream)
  • over 2.4 kcal/g (e.g. white bread, toast, breaded meat, sweets, alcohol)

Energy turnover (also total turnover) refers to all metabolic processes in the conversion of nutrients into energy. The total metabolic rate is made up of the basal metabolic rate and the power metabolic rate as well as thermogenesis (particularly important in digestion and the utilisation of proteins).

The basal metabolic rate is the amount of energy we need per day at rest to maintain vital bodily functions (respiration, heartbeat, glandular function). It depends on gender, age, height, weight, muscle mass and some hormones. In adults, the basal metabolic rate per hour is on average about 1 kcal per kg of body weight.

The power metabolic rate is the amount of energy we spend per day on physical activity. It is the amount of energy required over and above the basal metabolic rate. The power metabolism varies depending on the type and duration of the activity, the heat production, digestion and the extra demand during growth, pregnancy or breastfeeding.

Enzymes (formerly ferments) are proteins. They are found in every cell of the body and serve as catalysts that control and accelerate our metabolism, or more precisely: biochemical reactions such as digestion. Many enzymes need additives (coenzymes), mostly vitamins, for this.

Enzymes reduce the activation energy needed to transform substances. The "active centre" of an enzyme binds the starting substance (the substrate), converts it at the molecular level and then releases the reaction product(s). The enzyme is then present again in its original form.

An enzyme can only convert a certain substrate (substrate specificity) into a certain reaction product (reaction or effect specificity). A substrate, on the other hand, can react with different enzymes. By inhibiting or enhancing enzyme activities, we can actively intervene in the metabolism.

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Our body needs essential amino acids but cannot produce them itself. We must take them in with our food. A protein-rich diet is therefore important. The body extracts essential amino acids from the proteins it receives and uses them to make new proteins, which it uses, for example, to form and repair cells.

Semi-essential and non-essential amino acids are produced by the body itself from other amino acids. We only need to take in some semi-essential amino acids with our food when we are growing, during heavy exertion (strength and endurance sports, stress, etc.) or when we are ill - then they are also essential.

A lack of essential amino acids disrupts the body's protein formation. Non-essential amino acids can then also no longer be used for the body's own protein synthesis - for enzyme formation, for example.

For humans, the amino acids isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine are considered essential.

Essential fatty acids (EF) play a role in building cell membranes. They are the basic substance of eicosanoids (carbon compounds derived from arachidonic acid) and are involved in many metabolic processes. The term fatty "acid" refers to the fact that fats and oils naturally consist of esters of long-chain carbon acids with glycerol. 

EF cannot be produced by our body, we have to take them in with food. The most important EF include linoleic acid (omega-6 fatty acid) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3 fatty acid).

Nutrients are essential if our body needs them for life and cannot produce them from other nutrients such as water, fats or amino acids, so we must take them in with food. If essential nutrients are missing, deficiencies occur.

Semi-essential nutrients, on the other hand, are produced by the organism itself. However, in certain phases of life - especially during growth, under heavy strain (strength and endurance sports, stress, etc.) or during or after an illness - our body does not produce these nutrients in sufficient quantities. We then have to take them in additionally with food (hence "semi-essential"). This applies to essential amino acids, among others.

In general, macro-nutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, certain fats) and micro-nutrients (many vitamins, minerals, trace elements and secondary plant compounds) are essential for humans. In some definitions, however, only nutrients that - unlike micro-nutrients - supply the body with energy are considered essential.

The functions of macro-nutrients are well understood today. The effects of many micro-nutrients, such as secondary plant compounds, are the subject of intensive research. In addition, the essentiality of individual nutrients is disputed - which is why they are also called functional nutrients.

Fat breakdown (also lipolysis from the Greek lipos = fat and lysis = dissolution) is the hydrolytic (i.e. with water) splitting of saponifiable lipids, i.e. triglycerides and cholesterol esters by enzymes. During the breakdown, mono- and diglycerides and, as intermediate products, free fatty acids are formed, which are released into the blood. Alcohols such as glycerol or cholesterol are also formed. In the human body, fat breakdown takes place mainly in the fat cells (adipocytes) and is controlled by hormones such as insulin or adrenaline. Lipases (water-soluble enzymes) are responsible for fat cleavage. The breakdown of body fat takes place in three steps, in each of which a fatty acid is split off. These fatty acids are released into the blood and absorbed and metabolised by the muscles or organs. Short-chain fatty acids move freely in the blood, long-chain fatty acids need transport proteins. 

In animal organisms, fat breakdown occurs mainly during the mobilisation of depot fat from the adipocytes of the adipose tissue. To a lesser extent, it also occurs during fat digestion. It is the most important source of energy when food is scarce. Even if - as in the case of overweight people - fat gain exceeds fat loss, the body continuously breaks down fat.

Free radicals are intermediate products of metabolism that are formed in every cell of the human body. They are formed as a by-product of cellular respiration during combustion processes in the mitochondria, the "power plants of the cells", or through physical or chemical influences from outside that split free radicals from body molecules. For example, through UV radiation, environmental toxins, alcohol or tobacco. Free radicals are also thought to cause wear and tear and age-related damage, such as arteriosclerosis, rheumatism and Alzheimer's disease.  In the healthy body, defence and repair substances such as enzymes and hormones reduce oxidative stress. For this, it needs a balanced diet rich in antioxidants. Vitamins C, B2 and E, as well as various secondary plant substances and trace elements such as selenium and zinc, are considered to protect against free radical damage.

Ghrelin stands for growth hormone release inducing. Ghrelin is a gastrointestinal hormone that regulates the release of growth hormones. For this purpose, it triggers a hunger signal when the stomach is empty (high ghrelin level in the blood) and a feeling of satiety after eating (low ghrelin level).

Ghrelin is the hormonal counterpart to the fat tissue hormone leptin. When the stomach is full, the leptin level is high, which also triggers a feeling of fullness. Ghrelin prevents fat breakdown and is suspected of promoting obesity. Since lack of sleep increases ghrelin levels, it probably also promotes obesity.

Glucose (or dextrose) is an important source of energy that is absorbed into the blood through the intestines - either directly or after cleavage of dietary carbohydrates by intestinal enzymes.

Energy in the form of carbohydrates is supplied to the body with food. These are digested and converted; starch (multiple sugar), for example, to glucose (simple sugar). The glucose enters the bloodstream via the intestinal mucosa. Tissue cells absorb the blood sugar with the help of insulin and obtain energy from it by means of oxidation.

After eating, the glucose level in the blood - the blood sugar level - is therefore elevated. Normally, it drops again within a few hours as the body's cells absorb glucose. If the amount of glucose absorbed or produced is not enough to meet the current demand, the liver releases glycogen (from glucose) into the blood. This can be the case during physical work, sporting activity or even when nothing has been eaten for a long time.

Gluten is a protein component found in various grains such as wheat, spelt, rye, barley, green spelt and oats, but also in ancient grains such as einkorn and emmer. When gluten-containing grains are processed, gluten causes the flour to become a sticky dough. Products made from these grains also still contain gluten. Gluten is even found in beer.

Gluten is considered the main cause of coeliac disease. The Food Labelling Ordinance for Allergens therefore provides for the labelling of gluten and gluten-containing ingredients in addition to other allergens.

The glycaemic index is a measure of the blood sugar-increasing effect of food or the carbohydrates it contains. The blood sugar-increasing effect of glucose serves as a reference value (100). It therefore indicates how high and how quickly the blood sugar level rises after the consumption of a food.

The glycaemic load (GL) further develops the concept of the glycaemic index (GI): the GI measures how foods affect blood glucose: The rise in blood sugar caused by 50 grams of carbohydrate from any food is compared with the rise in blood sugar caused by 50 grams of glucose, which has the highest GI: 100.

Example: 50 grams of carbohydrates from cooked carrots and white flour baguette have the same GI, about 70. To consume 50 grams of carbohydrates, you would have to eat about 700 grams of carrots. But only a good 100 grams of baguette. So for the same GI value, you have to eat 7 times as many carrots. If the amount eaten is the same (in grams), carrots raise blood sugar far less than baguette.
In theory, foods with a high GI cause blood sugar and insulin levels to rise and fall rapidly, resulting in cravings. However, the GI does not measure the blood sugar response to a food, but to 50 grams of the carbohydrates it contains - regardless of the total number of grams one must ingest for the assumed blood sugar response.

In addition, the GI - apart from the formation of sugar during ripening, preparation, the amount eaten, the speed of eating and the time of day - overlooks the food variety of a meal: some ingredients lower the blood sugar level, others slow down the absorption of carbohydrates. The effect of fat on blood sugar is also left out. GL includes the carbohydrate density and examines the blood sugar effect of different foods at an intake of 100 grams each. The blood sugar effect of baguettes is thus almost 7 times that of carrots. Foods with rather low GL help to keep blood sugar and insulin levels low.

In hyperglycaemia (HG; elevated blood sugar levels, also "excess sugar"), the glucose content in the blood is chronically increased. As a result, the body excretes more sugar and thus water through the kidneys. The most "prominent" case is diabetes: the body produces too little/no or - as a result of an increasing resistance of the body's cells - too much insulin, too little/no blood sugar reaches the body's cells from the blood. Acute hyperglycaemia is reflected in the blood sugar level, permanent hyperglycaemia in the long-term blood sugar value (HbA1c).

Hypoglycaemia is low blood sugar, the amount of glucose in the blood drops. Processes in the body can no longer take place properly because energy is missing.

Insulin is produced by pancreatic cells called islets of Langerhans - hence the name: from the Latin "insula" for island.

The hormone reduces blood sugar: it stimulates body cells to absorb glucose from the blood in order to then obtain energy from it. Insulin is the natural counterpart of the hormone glucagon, which promotes the breakdown of glycogen in the liver and thus increases blood sugar levels.

Carbohydrates from food are broken down in the small intestine into glucose, among other things, which then enters the blood. Insulin "opens" the cells in muscles, fatty tissue, liver and kidneys for the sugar molecules. It also slows down the breakdown of fatty tissue and regulates our appetite.

In diabetes mellitus, the insulin metabolism is disturbed: the body does not produce insulin (type 1 diabetes) or no longer reacts to it despite a high insulin level (insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes). In both cases, the cells absorb too little glucose and the sugar content in the blood increases.

Insulin sensitivity indicates how strongly body cells respond to the hormone insulin. Insulin transports sugar from the blood into the cells, which obtain energy from it. The amount of insulin that cells take in sugar depends on their insulin sensitivity. Reduced insulin sensitivity is typical for type 2 diabetes. In this case, the cells hardly respond to insulin.

The intestinal flora includes all bacteria and yeasts in the intestine. We "own" about ten times more of these micro-organisms than cells. Most of them "sit" in the large intestine. The term "flora" is based on the earlier (wrong!) assumption that bacteria and other micro-organisms are plants.

Until birth, the gastrointestinal tract is germ-free. During birth, it is colonised for the first time by maternal bacteria. In the first years of life, the intestinal flora develops depending on age and nutrition. An intact intestinal flora supports the metabolism and reduces pathogens.

If the healthy composition of micro-organisms for our organism is shifted in favour of individual pathogens (dysbacteria) - for example through antibiotics - the intestinal flora is disturbed: food intolerances, obesity, increased susceptibility to infections and a general weakening of the immune system can follow.

Keto acids (also ketocarboxylic acids or oxo acids) are carboxylic acids with an additional carbonyl group. They play an important role in amino acid metabolism and acid-base balance: when the body's own fat depots are broken down, keto acids produce acidic metabolic products that reduce metabolic performance. Especially during a diet, this can lead to hyperacidity, which slows down the further breakdown of fat. Keto acids should therefore be neutralised with alkaline preparations.

During a diet, the body draws on its fat reserves. When fat is broken down, so-called keto acids are produced, which cause an increase in acidity in the tissue. This leads to hyperacidity. The overall metabolic performance deteriorates and fat breakdown decreases.

The small intestinal enzyme lactase breaks down lactose ("milk sugar") in the diet into its component’s glucose and galactose - since our body can only absorb and utilise the cleavage products through the intestinal wall into the blood.

Lactase is produced by special cells in the small intestine, and during adulthood lactase production decreases. Explanation: Babies need the enzyme to digest the lactose in breast milk. As soon as breast milk is no longer the main food, lactase production decreases. In addition, inflammatory bowel diseases favour a lactase deficiency. In some cases, this can lead to lactose intolerance. In rare cases, a congenital enzyme defect leads to reduced or complete failure of lactase production.

In the case of lactose intolerance, the enzyme can be supplied externally and taken in the form of tablets, for example, shortly before a meal containing lactose.

In lactose intolerance ("milk sugar intolerance"), milk sugar ingested with food is not broken down and digested in the small intestine as a result of reduced or missing formation of the digestive enzyme lactase but is broken down or fermented by bacteria in the large intestine. The consequences: Flatulence, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea. In general, the more lactose, the more severe the symptoms.

A lactase deficiency can be congenital or only develop in adulthood due to the natural decline of the body's own lactase production or a disease, for example chronic intestinal inflammation.

In Germany, about 15 percent of adults live with lactose intolerance. Congenital and natural lactase deficiency are currently not curable. However, the negative consequences of lactose intake can be reduced by changing the diet to a low-lactose or lactose-free diet and/or by the targeted intake of lactase before a meal containing lactose.

Lactose ("milk sugar") is sugar contained in milk. Crystalline, colourless and sweetish in taste. Lactose belongs to the group of disaccharides ("double sugars"), consists of one molecule each of galactose and glucose and is broken down into these two single sugars by the small intestine enzyme lactase.

Lactose split in this way can take on important functions in the body: It provides energy, supports calcium absorption, inhibits putrefactive bacteria in the intestine and promotes the growth of healthy bifidobacteria. However, if lactase is deficient, lactose is not digested but broken down by bacteria in the large intestine (lactose intolerance). Lactose is then difficult to digest (abdominal pressure, diarrhoea, etc.) and can no longer be used by the body.

Leptin (from Greek leptos = "thin") is a fat tissue hormone (adipokine). Especially fat-storing cells (adipocytes) secrete leptin after meals. It transmits satiety signals to the brain, reduces the feeling of hunger and thus controls our appetite. Leptin therefore keeps us slim ("thin") because it curbs our appetite.

Leptin is the hormonal counterpart of the gastrointestinal hormone ghrelin, whose level is low when the stomach is full and thus also signals satiety. The healthy leptin mechanism: the more fat cells, the less hunger. And vice versa.
A permanently elevated leptin level promotes high blood pressure (hypertension) and obesity. Many overweight people even show leptin resistance: the abnormally enlarged abdominal fat cells in particular flood the blood with leptin but weaken the satiety signal. The result is a constant appetite.

The peptide lunasin occurs naturally in cereals such as barley, wheat and rye. The highest concentration was found in the soybean. Lunasin appears to be (mainly) responsible for a number of its health-promoting properties.
Initial studies suggest that lunasin has an epigenetic effect: it can apparently activate or deactivate individual genes and thus contribute to cell health.

Lysine is an essential amino acid. It is a central building block of many proteins and is also found in the blood plasma. Our body cannot produce lysine itself, we have to take it in with protein-rich food, for example with fish, meat, eggs, dairy products or legumes such as soy.

Our body needs lysine for bone growth, muscle development and the production of semi-essential amino acids. Lysine is also involved in wound healing: it stimulates cell division and builds collagen, the structural protein of our connective tissue. Lysine also accelerates the dissolution of ibuprofen in the intestine and thus the effect of the painkiller.

Lysine overproduction in infancy and childhood can disrupt physical and mental development. Lysine deficiency weakens enzyme activity and the immune system at any age.

In a metabolic chamber, one can determine the energy metabolism (calorie consumption) and the ratio of carbohydrate and fat metabolism of a person. 

The chamber was fully equipped with a bed, table, toilet and a hatch with two doors through which meals were served. In this chamber, all components of energy metabolism - resting energy expenditure, energy metabolism, sleep metabolism, basal metabolic rate and thermal effect of food - are recorded.

Metabolism is coupled to a gas exchange. Therefore, the used air is permanently sucked out of the chamber and highly sensitive sensors provide data on the oxygen and carbon dioxide content.

The performance metabolism (LU) is the amount of energy used for muscle work during physical activity - in addition to the basal metabolic rate.

Physical activity varies from person to person and has a significant influence on the LU. For light activities, the LU amounts to a maximum of 30 percent of the total energy requirement - the daily normal case for about 2 thirds of the population.

The level of physical activity is expressed in the PAL (Physical Activity Level) - the basis for calculating the LU, which is expressed in kilocalories (kcal) or kilojoules (kj) per day.

In multi-component proteins (MP), several protein sources are combined in precisely balanced mixing ratios to obtain a higher-quality dietary protein. The addition of different amino acid profiles results in protein suppliers with high/higher biological value and improved absorption. Common proteins used in MP are: Soya protein, casein and whey protein.

Nutrient density refers to the amount of a nutrient in a food in relation to the energy content of the food.

It is true that the energy requirements of modern humans have decreased. But the need for essential nutrients has not. That is why foods with a high nutrient density should be preferred. These include: Fruit, vegetables, wholemeal products, low-fat milk and dairy products as well as lean meat and fish. Foods high in fat and sugar, as well as alcohol, have low nutrient density. They provide many calories, but otherwise hardly any vital components.

Obesity is a chronic disease that is associated with a reduced quality of life and a high risk of secondary diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and even cancer. Its causes are manifold. Basically, if the amount of energy consumed regularly and over a long period of time exceeds the amount of energy needed or consumed (positive energy balance), this leads to excess weight and subsequently to obesity.

The WHO (World Health Organisation) determines obesity according to the body mass index (BMI): At a BMI of 30 or more, a person is considered obese.

General rule: 

  • BMI below 18.5 = underweight
  • BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 = normal weight
  • BMI between 25 and 29.9 = overweight 
  • BMI from 30 = obesity, grade I 
  • BMI value from 35 = obesity, grade II 
  • BMI value from 40 = extreme obesity, grade III

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential, unsaturated fatty acids: our body cannot produce them itself, we have to take them in with our food. Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids are vegetable oils such as linseed, rapeseed or walnut oil, as well as algae and fish such as salmon, herring or mackerel.

We need omega-3 fatty acids for cell metabolism, protein synthesis and the formation of hormones and defence cells. Omega-3 fatty acids protect against infections and heart disease. They dilate the vessels, keep the arteries elastic and promote blood circulation. They inhibit inflammation and positively influence the performance of our brain. In biological membranes, they influence the fluidity and regulation of ion channels.

Omega-6 fatty acids have a similar effect. Enzymes convert both fatty acids into messenger substances (eicosanoid synthesis). In the body, they are then local mediators that have a hormone-like effect. Although according to the DGE we should consume about 5 times as many omega-6 as omega-3 fatty acids, in Central Europe the ratio is often 10:1, sometimes 20:1, because omega-6 fatty acids come mainly from animal products.

The more the ratio is shifted in favour of omega-6 fatty acids, the greater the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Here, as with rheumatic diseases, the increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the risk of disease and alleviate symptoms. Omega-3 fatty acids are also thought to have a positive effect on age-related eye diseases, Alzheimer's disease and some types of cancer.

Omega-6 fatty acids (O6F) are unsaturated essential fatty acids that we need to consume in our diet. O6Fs are important in many ways: they improve blood lipid levels, inhibit clotting, protect against arteriosclerosis and thus strengthen the heart and blood vessels. They are also an important component of healthy cell membranes in all tissues - not least the brain and nerve cells.

We consume O6F mainly in sunflower, safflower and maize germ oil. But omega-6 fatty acids can also be found in meat and products made from it.

Important: Messenger substances (e.g. prostaglandins) can be formed from O6F, which have a much more inflammatory effect on the metabolism than messenger substances formed from omega-3 fatty acids. According to the DGE, omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids should be consumed in a ratio of approx. 5:1.

Prebiotics are the nutrients of probiotics: They stimulate micro-organisms such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria to form active cultures, displace pathogenic germs and thus promote the intestinal flora. This also improves the absorption of nutrients and their digestion and strengthens our immune system. Put simply: without prebiotics (in the long run), no probiotics. Therefore, they are often added to probiotic medicines and foods.

Those who take in no or too few prebiotics are depriving probiotics of important nutrients. Unwanted, pathogenic micro-organisms spread (dysbacteria), and there is a risk of digestive problems and diseases.

Prebiotics include indigestible carbohydrates such as inulin and oligofructose, which are often extracted from chicory. Prebiotics are also naturally present in Jerusalem artichokes, parsnips, artichokes, salsify, unprocessed honey and other low to unprocessed plant foods. Other prebiotics such as lactulose are isolated from milk or milk sugar (lactose).

Probiotics (from Greek pro bios = "for life") are micro-organisms in food and medicinal products. Mostly lactic acid bacteria such as bifidobacteria and lactobacilli or yeasts. Many products naturally contain probiotics. However, they are often added in different compositions and mixing ratios to achieve certain effects.

Probiotics are supposed to improve digestion, contain pathogenic germs in the large and small intestines, maintain the intestinal flora - and thus our physical and mental health. They counteract allergies, lower blood pressure and strengthen our immune system, among other things by activating T cells (white blood cells that serve as defence cells).

In order for micro-organisms in the gut to form effective cultures, probiotics are often combined with prebiotics - the nutrients of "good" strains of bacteria. In sufficient quantities, probiotics can have a positive effect on metabolism. Since most probiotic cultures do not settle permanently in the gut, we need to ingest them regularly.

Probiotics are traditionally found in fermented foods such as sauerkraut, miso (Japanese soyabean paste with rice and grains) or kimchi (Korean fermented vegetables). In addition, the range of probiotic yogurt, curd or cheese varieties is growing.

Proteins are biological molecules. They fulfil numerous vital functions. Proteins give life (Greek protos: "first-rate"); they are basic elements of our body. They are made up of building blocks, amino acids, which are connected by peptide chains.

Proteins not only contribute to the maintenance of normal bones. They also contribute to the maintenance and increase of muscle mass.

In medicine, remission means the temporary or permanent lessening of symptoms of a disease, but without recovery.

This describes the ratio of exhaled carbon dioxide to inhaled oxygen. By measuring the RQ, one can determine the share of the different energy sources in the total metabolism. This means: the higher the RQ, the more energy is obtained from carbohydrates. And the lower, the more energy production is based on fats.

When the body becomes active and is no longer in a state of rest, for example as soon as we walk, run, move around doing everyday things, carry something or are active in sport, your body uses energy in addition to the basal metabolic rate.

Saturated fatty acid (GF) show only single bonds between the carbon atoms and are therefore saturated with hydrogen atoms. The harder a fat is, the more GF it contains. Butter, for example, contains many GF, sunflower oil only a few.

GF are mainly found in animal foods such as meat, butter or cheese, but also hidden in cakes, crisps or ready-made meals. We do not need to take them in large quantities with food, as our body can produce them itself. If we consume too many GF, our LDL cholesterol level ("bad cholesterol") rises, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Secondary plant compounds are chemical compounds that only plants produce in the so-called secondary metabolism. Secondary plant compounds are not essential for humans, but some have health-promoting effects. Some of the secondary plant compounds are antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory.

Serotonin is a messenger substance that passes on important information in our nervous system. Most serotonin is produced in the gut and only very small amounts of serotonin are produced in the brain. It fulfils numerous functions in the body, such as positive mood, drive, sleep-wake rhythm, pain sensation, feeling of hunger, body temperature and intestinal movement. Since it also influences our emotions among many other processes, serotonin is not called the "happiness hormone" for nothing: a serotonin deficiency in the brain can be associated with depression, among other things.

Simple sugars (also monosaccharides) are organic chemical compounds: A chain of at least three carbon atoms forms the basic structure, and they also have a carbonyl group and at least one hydroxyl group.

Single sugars are the building blocks of all carbohydrates. They can combine to form disaccharides, oligosaccharides or polysaccharides. Simple sugars include

  • Dextrose (grape sugar, glucose); occurrence: Fruits, honey, grapes
  • Fructose (fruit sugar); occurrence: Fruits 
  • Galactose (mucilage sugar); occurrence: Milk sugar

Simple carbohydrates are quickly and completely broken down into their components in the digestive tract. Released sugar molecules (such as glucose and galactose) quickly enter the blood, partly via transport systems, and thus rapidly increase blood sugar and insulin levels. In principle, we should consume fewer simple (short-chain) carbohydrates and more complex (long-chain) carbohydrates, as they have a higher nutrient density and keep blood sugar levels even.

Sufficient sleep is responsible for a balanced metabolism. Lack of sleep affects hunger and satiety. Metabolic processes are controlled by hormones, among other things. The duration of sleep influences the release of the hormones leptin and ghrelin and has many effects on the metabolism. Sleep disorders promote obesity and even metabolic diseases such as diabetes.

A synergy effect (SE; from Greek "synergismos" - "cooperation") describes the interaction of living beings, substances or forces. Central to this is the mutual promotion or the benefit resulting from the cooperation, which goes beyond the mere addition of the individual properties. Or with Aristotle: "A substance is more than the sum of its parts."

Thus, the musical effect of an orchestra lies in the coordinated interplay - and not in the juxtaposition of individual instruments. In business, an SE denotes, among other things, a positive effect through the merger of two or more companies. In team sports, a player does not score a goal alone, but as a rule only through the preparation and assistance of his or her teammates.

In physiology, among other things, SEs are found when vitamins, minerals, enzymes or similar substances together have more effective effects than the individual substances do/would do on their own.

Basal metabolic rate and power metabolic rate (energy consumption during physical activity) make up our total metabolic rate. On average, men have a higher basal metabolic rate than women. Muscles and the liver account for the largest share of the basal metabolic rate, each with about 26 percent. The rest is shared by the brain (14 percent), heart (9 percent), kidneys (7 percent) and other organs (14 percent). The basal metabolic rate is measured by the amount of heat released or the oxygen consumption.

Trace elements belong to the group of minerals. Minerals are divided into bulk or macro elements (body content of over 50 mg per kg body weight) and trace or micro elements (under 50 mg per kg body weight) - which our body only needs and contains "in traces". Trace elements are building blocks of vitamins, enzymes and hormones. As coenzymes, they influence our metabolism.

A distinction is made between essential and non-essential trace elements. The trace elements chromium, cobalt, iron, fluorine, iodine/iodine, copper, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, silicon and zinc are considered essential. In metabolism, they are involved as cofactors in many enzyme-catalytic reactions.

If essential trace elements are missing, there is a risk of deficiencies and physiological damage such as anaemia in the case of iron deficiency or metabolic disorders in the case of iodine deficiency. A deficiency occurs, for example, when we lose too many trace elements during diarrhoea or heavy sweating. Metabolic diseases and wrong eating habits also lead to an undersupply.

Visceral fat (from Latin viscera = "intestines"; also intra-abdominal fat) surrounds and protects our internal organs. It serves as an energy reserve. Sick abdominal fat cells in particular are extremely active - and unhealthy. They secrete various messenger substances such as cytokine, TNF-a, cortisol and leptin, which can negatively influence metabolism, organs and our brain.

With persistent poor diet, lack of exercise and ongoing stress, our body stores too much belly fat (visceral obesity). In the process, abdominal fat cells (adipocytes) can grow to up to 200 times their normal size. Overweight and obese people of the (more) male apple type are particularly susceptible: they store excess fat primarily in the abdomen. (The more feminine pear type stores more fat on the hips).

Diseased abdominal fat disturbs appetite regulation, leads to ravenous appetite and permanent hunger and causes the abdominal circumference to grow further - currently the best indicator for predicting diseases that are (also) triggered by overweight. Women with an abdominal circumference of 80 cm and men with a circumference of 94 cm have an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes. From 88 or 102 cm, the risk is considered to be greatly increased.
Belly fat is directly or indirectly responsible for many symptoms and diseases. These include metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. Abdominal fat is also probably involved in the development of arteriosclerosis, thrombosis, Alzheimer's disease and various types of cancer.

Vitamins are organic compounds produced by plants, animals, bacteria and fungi. In humans, vitamins are involved in many metabolic processes and are indispensable for many bodily functions. We only produce two vitamins ourselves: Vitamin D (with sufficient sunlight) and niacin (formerly vitamin B3). All other vitamins are essential: we have to take them in with food. Some of them are provitamins that our body converts into the vitamin we need.

Vitamins control the utilisation of nutrients and thus the production of energy. They strengthen our immune system, bind free radicals, regulate enzymes, improve iron absorption and are involved in the formation of our cells, bones and teeth.

Generally, a distinction is made between fat-soluble (lipophilic) and water-soluble (hydrophilic) vitamins. Our body can store fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E and the K vitamins), but not water-soluble vitamins (vitamin C and the B vitamins) - we have to take them in continuously with food.

The yo-yo effect describes the ups and downs of weight during diets: The diet reduces the weight for a short time. Without a change in lifestyle (healthier diet, more exercise), however, the weight is often higher afterwards than it was before.
If we suddenly reduce the number of calories during a diet, the body switches to energy-saving mode: it releases more appetite and hunger hormones, lowers the basal metabolic rate and draws more energy from proteins in the muscles or blood instead of from fat tissue (hunger metabolism).

After the diet, the body initially remains in economy mode despite a "normal" calorie intake: the feeling of hunger remains, and as much energy as possible is stored as fat - as a reserve for new "bad times". Studies show that the yo-yo effect permanently disrupts the metabolism and thus increases the risk of diabetes.

Background: Our fat-storing cells (adipocytes) multiply until adolescence. During diets, they are emptied but not broken down. Those who build up a lot of fat tissue when they are young therefore find it particularly difficult to lose weight as adults. The aim of a diet is therefore not to lose fat cells, but to reduce them - and at the same time to preserve the muscles.

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