Insulin Resistance Discussion

 
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.

In 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.

Discussion Notes:

The high 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 fat-producing hormone.”

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.
 
 

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