|Another biological mechanism that is
highly individualized is insulin production. Insulin is a powerful
hormone that drives blood sugar into cells and stimulates the liver
to convert calories into their storable form. Historically, insulin
helped assure the necessary reserves to survive famine. A current
theory, however, holds that sugars and starches that are easily
broken down in the intestines of most people raise blood sugar to
excessive levels in some people. The pancreas then produces insulin
in order to drive this excess sugar into fat and muscle cells.
the insulin-resistant population, the cells eventually become inured
to insulin's effects and the body is forced to product increasingly
larger amounts of the hormone in order to maintain normal blood
sugar levels. The resulting high insulin levels in these people may
be associated with numerous medical complications, including
obesity, diabetes, high blood triglycerides, hypertension, and
coronary artery diseases. They also may stimulate the appetite and
lower the amount of sugar that is burned as energy while increasing
the fat stores.
Genetics and environment both play important roles in insulin
resistance. Some people are clearly predisposed to insulin
resistance, but cigarette smoking, aging, obesity (especially in the
abdominal region), and a diet high in simple carbohydrates and
starch can all worsen the problem. Even a diet high in saturated fat
may exacerbate insulin resistance. On the other hand, consuming
monounsaturated fats, such as olive or canola oil, may have a
tempering effect. Normal fasting insulin levels fall between 3.5 and
17 in a lab test. If your fasting levels are above 25 you are
considered to have signs of insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance explains why a low-fat, high carbohydrate diet
doesn't work for everyone and why some overweight people do better
by eating food with a lower
glycemic index. The glycemic index measures the extent to which
a given food causes blood sugar levels to rise. It is really a
measure of how rapidly you digest starchy foods, and it is
influenced by any factors:
- The physical composition of your food.
- The degree to which food has been processed.
- How long food is cooked.
- Its dietary fiber content (fiber lowers the glycemic index).
- Frequency of meals.
- The amount of soluble fiber in your normal diet.
- Other foods and drinks you are consuming at the same time.
It is now estimated that over 50 percent of the population are
insulin resistant and therefore more likely to lose weight with the
lower glycemic index approach. While some of those people may simply
eat fewer calories on this type of diet, one recent study suggests
that the lower glycemic index, per se, does the trick. A general
recommendation is to start with a lower glycemic diet (i.e. high
protein) and if you don't see the desired results switch to a high
carbohydrate diet plan.
Always consult your physician before starting any diet plan.
protein and high fat diets are designed to limit insulin secretion
from the beta cells of the pancreas. As the sugar in your blood goes
up, insulin rushes forth and converts a portion of that glucose to
glycogen. Glycogen is a starch stored in the blood, muscles, and
liver, which the body uses for energy. If all the glycogen storage
cells and muscles are filled, insulin will convert the excess
glucose to fat. That is why insulin has been called “the
To lose weight and keep it off one needs to limit the insulin
secretion. As an overweight person becomes fatter, the insulin
problem also expands. Numerous studies have shown that the obese
individual is extremely unresponsive to the action of insulin. This
is called insulin resistance.
Carbohydrates, particularly starchy carbohydrates, trigger the
release of large quantities of the hormone insulin, but the body is
not capable of utilizing it efficiently. Consequently,
overweight and high insulin levels are almost synonymous. To have
your insulin levels more or less permanently high and yet to be
resistant to the effects of insulin is what is called hyper-insulinism.
Results of High Insulin Levels:
- Insulin increases salt and water retention—a recipe for both
hypertension and continued overweight.
- Insulin aggravates hypertension by increasing the
responsiveness of arteries to the effects of adrenaline.
- Insulin affects the body’s supply of neurotransmitters and can
cause sleep disorders.
- Insulin provokes the liver into producing more LDL
cholesterol. It may be one of the most significant components in
the cholesterol/heart disease connection. Since obesity and high
insulin levels travel in company, this is probably the reason why
overweight is such a major risk factor for a heart attack.