Are your triglycerides high? What about your cholesterol? Is your blood pressure, blood glucose levels, or C reactive protein (inflammation) high? Elevated levels of homocysteine (which can lead to atherosclerosis, heart attacks, strokes, blood clot formation, and possibly Alzheimer’s disease)? Is the number on your bathroom scale high? What do all these problems/diseases have in common? Insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance: an insensitivity of the cells to the effects of insulin. Since one of the “jobs” of insulin is to “open the gates” so that the cells will take in glucose (either using it or converting it to storage???), blood glucose will stay higher than is healthy unless the body releases more insulin, creating a condition called hyperinsulinemia (“too much insulin in the blood”). High insulin, in turn, can lead to other problems, including weight gain, because high insulin levels tend to facilitate the storage of fat, and makes it more difficult for the body to access fat for energy.
Guess what else insulin resistance causes – obesity, type II diabetes, hypothyroidism, osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, infertility, depression, sexual dysfunction and cancer.
So what causes insulin resistance?
Carbohydrates, once broken down into sugar inside the body, promote insulin release from the pancreas. Each time you eat starchy carbohydrates (bread, pasta, crackers, sweets), which increases blood sugar, you get a corresponding amount of insulin released to remove the blood sugar out of the blood and store it in various places. This is the process the body goes through to balance itself and maintain a constant blood sugar level.
Each time we eat, insulin is released into the bloodstream. This vital hormone, secreted by special cells in the pancreas, is how we store the glucose we need in our muscles and our liver. That’s good news, because glucose hanging around in the blood is dangerous stuff. It can stick to proteins and destroy their ability to do their job. Kidney damage, blindness, and amputations may result. But the left over glucose that isn’t stored in the liver and muscles are stored as fat.
But each cell has a mechanism to protect itself from the toxic effects of too much insulin and too much sugar. When it is continually assaulted with insulin and sugar it shuts itself down and will not respond to the insulin any more. In this state, the blood insulin level is high because the pancreas is panicking and producing more and more insulin. The blood sugar level is also high because the cell refuses the entry of sugar. This state is called insulin resistance. This is not a good state to be in!
The more carbohydrates you eat, the more insulin you expose the cell to, and the higher the odds you will develop an insulin related disease.
So again, in the body, dietary carbohydrates, sugars and starch, are converted to glucose, which indirectly directs the pancreas to release insulin into the blood. Insulin not only transports glucose into the cells, it stores glucose as glycogen in the liver and muscles. It is also the primary fat-building enzyme, converting glucose to fat. When the liver and muscles are filled with glycogen, insulin turns excess glucose into body fat. Starchy carbohydrates are the primary cause of weight gain, not fats! (Animals raised for human consumption are fattened with carbohydrates.)
By the way, the body actually prefers fat as its energy source. Think about it – sugar used to be very hard to come by, so if sugar was the preferred energy source, we would have had a hard time maintaining any sort of population on the planet way back when sugar and starches were not so abundant or easily obtainable. Sugar is an OK short-term fuel in an emergency, but we are supposed to burn fat, and fat can even be converted into sugar in our bodies if necessary.
Symptoms of insulin resistance
Here is a list of some of the most common symptoms of people with Insulin Resistance. Many symptoms manifest themselves immediately following a meal of carbohydrates, and others are more or less always present. Keep in mind that these symptoms may also be related to other problems.
1. Fatigue. The most common feature of Insulin Resistance is that it wears people out. Some are tired just in the morning or afternoon, others are exhausted all day.
2. Brain fogginess. Sometimes the fatigue of Insulin Resistance is physical, but often it’s mental. The inability to focus is the most evident symptom. Poor memory, loss of creativity, poor grades in school often accompanies Insulin Resistance, as do various forms of “learning disabilities.”
3. Low blood sugar. Mild, brief periods of low blood sugar are normal during the day, especially if meals are not eaten on a regular schedule. But prolonged periods of this “hypoglycemia,” accompanied by many of the symptoms listed here, especially physical and mental fatigue, are not normal.
Feeling agitated, jittery and moody is common with Insulin Resistance, with almost immediate relief once food is eaten.
4. Intestinal bloating. Most intestinal gas is produced from carbohydrates in the diet. Insulin Resistance sufferers who eat carbohydrates suffer from gas, lots of it.
5. Sleepiness. Many people with Insulin Resistance get sleepy immediately after eating a meal containing more than 20% or 30% carbohydrates. This means typically a pasta meal, but also a meal with animal protein that is combined with potatoes or bread and a sweet dessert.
6. Increased weight and fat storage. For most people, too much weight is too much fat. In males, a large abdomen is the more obvious and earliest sign of Insulin Resistance. In females, it’s prominent buttocks and stomach.
7. Increased triglycerides. High triglycerides in the blood are often found in overweight persons. But even those who are not overweight may have stores of fat in their arteries as a result of Insulin Resistance.
These triglycerides are the direct result of carbohydrates in the diet being converted by insulin.
8. Increased blood pressure. It is a fact that most people with hypertension have too much insulin and are Insulin Resistant. It is often possible to show a direct relationship between the level of insulin and blood pressure: as insulin levels elevate, so does blood pressure.
9. Depression. Because carbohydrates are a natural “downer,” depressing the brain, it is not uncommon to see many depressed people who also have Insulin Resistance.
Controlling your insulin levels is one of the most powerful anti-aging strategies you can possibly implement. Sugar and grains cause your body to produce insulin and high insulin levels are the single largest physical cause of accelerated aging.
Insulin resistance is the basis of all of the chronic diseases of aging – cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, joint pain, obesity, diabetes, cancer – all the so-called chronic diseases of aging.
Fortunately insulin is the variable most easily influenced by a healthy diet and exercise. A low grain, no sugar diet is one of the most effective ways to lower one’s insulin levels. This is especially effective when combined with an exercise program which includes aerobic and resistance training.
Centenarians, people who have lived over 100 years, don’t typically have much in common. Many are smokers, for example. They come from all over the world without favoring any geographic location in particular.
However, there are 3 consistent blood metabolic indicators of all centenarians which are relatively consistent: low sugar, low triglycerides, and low insulin. All 3 are relatively low for the subjects’ age. Among these 3 variables, insulin is the common denominator. The level of insulin sensitivity of the cell is one of the most important markers of lifespan.
I can show you exactly how to lower your sugar and insulin levels. It’s not as hard as you might think.
(1) Diabetes Care 2000; 23:1348-1352
(2) Annual meeting of American Society of Clinical Oncology, New Orleans, May 23
(3) National Cancer Institute 2002 September 4; 94(17): 1293-300
(4) Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology August 2001; 21:1346-1352
These recommendations are for the reduction of stress only. They are not intended as treatment or prescription for any disease, or as a substitute