A Practical Guide To Carb Tolerance And Insulin Sensitivity
One of the biggest reasons why people go Paleo is the metabolic benefits. Most people find Paleo to be very therapeutic for a whole cluster of carb-related problems: high blood sugar (or the rollercoaster of highs and lows), insulin resistance, and all the related issues. These issues can make weight loss difficult or impossible, but on the flip side, addressing them through diet can make it easier and more pleasant than you ever thought could happen! On the other hand, though, there are a lot of myths and half-truths floating around about diet, exercise, and carb metabolism. So here’s a quick review of what it all means, and the evidence supporting various different complementary strategies for improving your carb tolerance (preview: it’s so much more than dietary carbs). Note: This article is not written for diabetics. Diabetes is a very complicated disease and strategies that are right for other people might not be appropriate. If you have diabetes, see a doctor! What Is “Carb Tolerance”/Insulin Sensitivity? (If you already know how insulin and glucose work, this section has nothing new for you; just skip down to the next one) Very simply put, insulin sensitivity (or “carb tolerance” in everyday language) is a healthy hormonal state that allows your body to digest and store carbohydrates without a problem. In healthy people, here’s how it works: You eat something with carbs (let’s say a potato, but it could be anything). Your digestive system breaks down the starch in that potato into glucose. Glucose is a simple sugar – this is the form of carbohydrate that you’ll either use for energy or store as fat. Your blood sugar temporarily rises as the glucose enters the bloodstream. This is not a big problem, because… Insulin (produced in the pancreas) Continue reading >>
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Dear Mark: Does Eating A Low Carb Diet Cause Insulin Resistance?
157 Comments Despite all the success you might have had with the Primal way of life, doubts can still nag at you. Maybe it’s something you read, or something someone said to you, or a disapproving glance or offhand comment from a person you otherwise respect, but it’s pretty common when you’re doing something, like giving up grains, avoiding processed food, or eating animal fat, that challenges deeply-and-widely held beliefs about health and wellness. It doesn’t really even matter that you’re losing weight or seem to be thriving; you may still have questions. That’s healthy and smart, and it’s totally natural. A question I’ve been getting of late is the effect of reducing carb intake on insulin sensitivity. It’s often bandied about that going low carb is good for folks with insulin resistance, but it’s also said that low carb can worsen insulin resistance. Are both true and, if so, how do they all jibe together? That’s what the reader was wondering with this week’s question: Hi Mark, I’ve been Primal for a few months now and love it. Lowering my carbs and upping my animal fat helped me lose weight and gain tons of energy (not too shabby for a middle-aged guy!). However, I’m a little worried. I’ve heard that low carb diets can increase insulin resistance. Even though I’ve done well and feel great, should I be worried about insulin resistance? Do I need to increase my carb intake? I always thought low carb Primal was supposed to improve insulin function. Vince Going Primal usually does improve insulin sensitivity, both directly and in a roundabout way. It improves directly because you lose weight, you reduce your intake of inflammatory foods, you lower systemic inflammation (by getting some sun, smart exercise, omega-3s, and reducing or dea Continue reading >>
Insulin And Insulin Resistance - The Ultimate Guide
Insulin is an important hormone that controls many processes in the body. However, problems with this hormone are at the heart of many modern health conditions. Sometimes our cells stop responding to insulin like they are supposed to. This condition is termed insulin resistance, and is incredibly common. In fact, a 2002 study showed that 32.2% of the US population may be insulin resistant (1). This number may rise to 70% in obese adult women and over 80% in some patient groups (2, 3). About a third of obese children and teenagers may also have insulin resistance (4). These numbers are scary, but the good news is that insulin resistance can be dramatically improved with simple lifestyle measures. This article explains what insulin resistance is, why you should care and how you can overcome it. Insulin is a hormone secreted by an organ called the pancreas. Its main role is to regulate the amount of nutrients circulating in the bloodstream. Although insulin is mostly implicated in blood sugar management, it also affects fat and protein metabolism. When we eat a meal that contains carbohydrates, the amount of blood sugar in the bloodstream increases. This is sensed by the cells in the pancreas, which then release insulin into the blood. Then insulin travels around the bloodstream, telling the body's cells that they should pick up sugar from the blood. This leads to reduced amounts of sugar in the blood, and puts it where it is intended to go, into the cells for use or storage. This is important, because high amounts of sugar in the blood can have toxic effects, causing severe harm and potentially leading to death if untreated. However, due to various reasons (discussed below), sometimes the cells stop responding to the insulin like they are supposed to. In other words, they Continue reading >>
Insulin Resistance: The Real Reason Why You Aren’t Losing Weight
Many people have weight loss as one of their key resolutions. Sadly, 35 percent of people also give up on that goal before the month even ends. It’s not necessarily lack of time or willpower that causes you to struggle with weight loss year after year. The real reason that you may have struggled to lose weight is insulin resistance, or a condition I call metabolism dysfunction. So you may be thinking, “Why is it so hard for me to lose weight?” I’m doing “everything right,” and yet still weight loss is difficult. Perhaps (like many of my patients) you’re already following a strict diet and working out several times a week, but to no avail. The weight still won’t come off — or, worse, you are gaining weight for seemingly no reason at all! You have become resigned to being overweight. Weight problems aren’t a permanent and immovable fixture for the rest of your life. If you’re finding that weight is easy to gain and hard to lose, it’s not your fault! Weight problems aren’t just about overeating or under exercising — they’re about metabolic changes (The MD Factor Diet, 2015) that are collectively known as insulin resistance. Lab tests conducted in my practice have confirmed that over 89 percent of my patients have this real and often undiagnosed issue. So the good news is that the right combination of diet, exercise, and will to succeed you can reverse your MD factor and finally find success in losing weight and keeping it off for good. In a nutshell, insulin resistance is the inability of your body to properly convert the food that you eat into energy to fuel your cells. People with the MD Factor have difficulty regulating their blood sugar, which is often due to insulin resistance or even diabetes. In both instances, their bodies are unable t Continue reading >>
How To Diagnose, Prevent And Treat Insulin Resistance [infographic]
What You Need to Know about Sugar and Insulin Resistance In today’s post our fructose journey comes to a sweet conclusion, with answers to the questions that really matter: How much sugar is safe for you to eat? How much fructose and glucose is in your favorite foods, drinks, and sweeteners? How can you tell if you have insulin resistance (damaged carbohydrate metabolism)? What are some of the common clues? What tests can you ask your doctor to run? What can you do to take control of your health? I’ve included an infographic of 10 simple strategies that go beyond cutting added sugars, to improve your metabolism and prevent/treat common diseases. Earlier in this series we discovered that fructose is not scarier than glucose. In fact, consuming too much glucose is even riskier than consuming too much fructose because glucose is a more powerful trigger for “insulin resistance.” It is excess glucose that raises blood sugar and insulin levels, turns off fat burning, shifts fat and cholesterol production into overdrive, feeds cancer cells, and sets the stage for inflammation throughout the body.1) People with insulin resistance are at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes in the future, so insulin resistance is often referred to as “pre-diabetes.” So, should you focus on reducing the amount of glucose-y food you eat and lean towards fructose-y foods instead? Good luck with that…people talk about fructose as though it’s a separate sugar from glucose, but practically speaking, it’s not. In real foods, fructose never exists alone—wherever fructose is, glucose is right there beside it, so it’s not easy to separate them in your diet. Even the vast majority of manufactured foods and beverages contain a mixture of fructose and glucose, as you’ll see in the Continue reading >>
12 Signs Of Insulin Resistance
Most people think about diabetics when they see the word insulin, but problems with insulin can occur in a number of different conditions, in people with normal blood sugar. You have probably heard of insulin resistance; it is a significant health problem because it’s associated with an increased risk of obesity, heart attacks, polycystic ovarian syndrome, cancer and other serious conditions. People with insulin resistance usually have excessively high levels of this hormone, because it doesn’t work properly. We are seeing an increasing number of patients who have been diagnosed with insulin resistance by their own doctor, yet they don’t fully understand what this term means. How would you know if your insulin level is too high? There is a blood test that can measure your fasting insulin, but it isn’t always reliable and many doctors are not willing to order this test. This is a shame because elevated insulin is bad for your health and shortens your lifespan. Insulin has many important roles in your body. People with too much insulin in their bloodstream are said to have insulin resistance, syndrome X, metabolic syndrome or pre-diabetes. They are all interchangeable terms. Due to modern diets and lifestyles, nearly everybody produces more insulin in their pancreas than they should. This is a problem because if blood insulin levels have been high for years, the cells of your body start to ignore it. The insulin becomes less and less effective at its important job in your body (getting glucose inside your cells so you can burn it for energy). Knowing whether or not you have too high insulin is important because it can allow you to make some changes and avoid some serious health problems in the future. Luckily there are several tell tale signs or clues that your bo Continue reading >>
Wtf Is Insulin And How Does It Affect Our Health And Fat Loss?
With so much written about diet versus exercise and exercise versus diet, it’s easy to overlook the role hormones play in our health and wellbeing, but they can make all the difference. That's why we’ve decided to take a closer look at the hormone insulin: What is it, and how does it relate to diabetes? Can we manipulate insulin to help us lose fat and live longer? As it turns out, we can—and pretty easily, too. What Is Insulin and How Does It Relate to Diabetes? Insulin is a super important hormone that helps us absorb nutrients from our food. Whenever we eat carbs (and a little bit when we eat protein), the amount of sugar in our blood increases, and the pancreas releases insulin to help take the sugar out of the bloodstream and into our organs (mostly the liver and muscle cells) where it can be used for energy . Diabetes is a disease that occurs when that insulin response doesn’t work properly and sugar piles up in the blood with nowhere to go. This can result in a whole lot of problems, including vision loss, hearing loss, high blood pressure, and gum disease. There are two main kinds of diabetes: Type 1 occurs when the pancreas produces little or no insulin. Type 2 occurs when insulin is produced, but the body doesn’t respond to it the right way. What causes Type 1 is often hard to pinpoint. Type 2 diabetes is increasingly common—some have estimated that a third of Americans born in 2000 will develop the disease—and a lot of the time, it can be prevented. How? Let’s talk insulin sensitivity. What Is Insulin Sensitivity? Doing a lot of something can make you less sensitive to its effects, right? Drinking coffee all the time can dull the caffeine, regular drinkers find they need more beers to get drunk than they used to, and so on. In kind of the same Continue reading >>
What medical conditions are associated with insulin resistance? While the metabolic syndrome links insulin resistance with abdominal obesity, elevated cholesterol, and high blood pressure; several other medical other conditions are specifically associated with insulin resistance. Insulin resistance may contribute to the following conditions: Type 2 Diabetes: Overt diabetes may be the first sign insulin resistance is present. Insulin resistance can be noted long before type 2 diabetes develops. Individuals reluctant or unable to see a health-care professional often seek medical attention when they have already developed type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance. Fatty liver: Fatty liver is strongly associated with insulin resistance. Accumulation of fat in the liver is a manifestation of the disordered control of lipids that occurs with insulin resistance. Fatty liver associated with insulin resistance may be mild or severe. Newer evidence suggests fatty liver may even lead to cirrhosis of the liver and, possibly, liver cancer. Arteriosclerosis: Arteriosclerosis (also known as atherosclerosis) is a process of progressive thickening and hardening of the walls of medium-sized and large arteries. Arteriosclerosis is responsible for: Other risk factors for arteriosclerosis include: High levels of "bad" (LDL) cholesterol Diabetes mellitus from any cause Family history of arteriosclerosis Skin Lesions: Skin lesions include increased skin tags and a condition called acanthosis nigerians (AN). Acanthosis nigricans is a darkening and thickening of the skin, especially in folds such as the neck, under the arms, and in the groin. This condition is directly related to the insulin resistance, though the exact mechanism is not clear. Acanthosis nigricans is a cosmetic condition strongly Continue reading >>
Coffee & Insulin Resistance
Coffee affects the human body in a number of ways. Almost everyone is familiar with the jitters and anxiety that can occur when you drink too much coffee, and many people have experienced a headache or a tired feeling if they miss their morning dose of java. These are relatively minor problems and usually short-term. But coffee can also affect how the body responds to insulin, and that can be more serious. Video of the Day If your blood sugar is too low, you have hypoglycemia and may develop symptoms of light-headedness, sweating and headache, according to Diabetic Care Services. But hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, can also cause problems. The body tries to keep the blood sugar within an optimum range by secreting insulin. When you eat a meal, blood sugar rises as the food is digested, and the pancreas secretes insulin to bring the blood sugar down again. Then as the blood sugar comes back down, the body stops secreting insulin; if it didn't, blood sugar could go too low. This constant seesaw process depends on both the secretion of insulin at the proper time, and in the right amount, and the body’s ability to respond to the insulin. To paraphrase the fairy tale, the body uses insulin to keep the blood sugar not too high, not too low, but just right. People with type 2 diabetes develop an inability either to secrete insulin or to respond to higher blood sugars; the latter situation is known as insulin resistance, and that’s where coffee comes into the picture. Coffee with caffeine is more than just a favorite beverage; caffeine is a drug. Caffeine has been shown to affect the body’s response to insulin, which is called insulin sensitivity. A study in the February 2002 issue of “Diabetes Care,” found that caffeine decreased insulin sensitivity in healthy ma Continue reading >>
Less Sleep, More Insulin Resistance?
Most of us would love more sleep. Sure, good nutrition and exercise can offset some of the effects of sleep deprivation. But chronically inadequate sleep can lead to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Here’s how. And why. Deep thoughts on deep sleep Question: What is sleep? Maharishi: How can you know sleep when you are awake? The answer is to go to sleep to find out what it is. Question: But I cannot know it in this way. Maharishi: This question must be raised in sleep. Question: But I cannot raise the question then. Maharishi: So that is sleep. –Attributed to: Sri Ramana Maharishi Why do humans sleep? If you’re a fan of the Twilight series, you’ll know that the vampires didn’t need to sleep. But their bodies were also transformed into the embodiment of perfection — frozen in time with no need for bodily maintenance. Not so with us mere mortals. We need to sleep or we become pretty dang cranky, have memory lapses, drive sloppily, and increase our risk of developing obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes (1). And while you may not have ever put much thought into the functions of sleep, most folks will admit that there’s nothing better than a solid night’s sleep for improving mood and energy levels. Mood, memory, and learning are all more or less controlled by our central nervous system and studies have shown that sleep plays a key role (2). One way to understand the functions of sleep is to compare it to eating. It’s pretty easy to understand why we eat: We need to consume nutrients so that our bodies can grow, repair tissue and function properly. Both sleeping and eating are regulated by powerful internal drives. Go too long without food and your stomach rumbles, your blood sugar drops, and you’re fo Continue reading >>
Insulin resistance (IR) is a pathological condition in which cells fail to respond normally to the hormone insulin. The body produces insulin when glucose starts to be released into the bloodstream from the digestion of carbohydrates in the diet. Normally this insulin response triggers glucose being taken into body cells, to be used for energy, and inhibits the body from using fat for energy. The concentration of glucose in the blood decreases as a result, staying within the normal range even when a large amount of carbohydrates is consumed. When the body produces insulin under conditions of insulin resistance, the cells are resistant to the insulin and are unable to use it as effectively, leading to high blood sugar. Beta cells in the pancreas subsequently increase their production of insulin, further contributing to a high blood insulin level. This often remains undetected and can contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes or latent autoimmune diabetes of adults. Although this type of chronic insulin resistance is harmful, during acute illness it is actually a well-evolved protective mechanism. Recent investigations have revealed that insulin resistance helps to conserve the brain's glucose supply by preventing muscles from taking up excessive glucose. In theory, insulin resistance should even be strengthened under harsh metabolic conditions such as pregnancy, during which the expanding fetal brain demands more glucose. People who develop type 2 diabetes usually pass through earlier stages of insulin resistance and prediabetes, although those often go undiagnosed. Insulin resistance is a syndrome (a set of signs and symptoms) resulting from reduced insulin activity; it is also part of a larger constellation of symptoms called the metabolic syndrome. Insuli Continue reading >>
Prediabetes & Insulin Resistance
What is insulin? Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas, an organ located behind the stomach. The pancreas contains clusters of cells called islets. Beta cells within the islets make insulin and release it into the blood. Insulin plays a major role in metabolism—the way the body uses digested food for energy. The digestive tract breaks down carbohydrates—sugars and starches found in many foods—into glucose. Glucose is a form of sugar that enters the bloodstream. With the help of insulin, cells throughout the body absorb glucose and use it for energy. Insulin's Role in Blood Glucose Control When blood glucose levels rise after a meal, the pancreas releases insulin into the blood. Insulin and glucose then travel in the blood to cells throughout the body. Insulin helps muscle, fat, and liver cells absorb glucose from the bloodstream, lowering blood glucose levels. Insulin stimulates the liver and muscle tissue to store excess glucose. The stored form of glucose is called glycogen. Insulin also lowers blood glucose levels by reducing glucose production in the liver. In a healthy person, these functions allow blood glucose and insulin levels to remain in the normal range. What happens with insulin resistance? In insulin resistance, muscle, fat, and liver cells do not respond properly to insulin and thus cannot easily absorb glucose from the bloodstream. As a result, the body needs higher levels of insulin to help glucose enter cells. The beta cells in the pancreas try to keep up with this increased demand for insulin by producing more. As long as the beta cells are able to produce enough insulin to overcome the insulin resistance, blood glucose levels stay in the healthy range. Over time, insulin resistance can lead to type 2 diabetes and prediabetes because the bet Continue reading >>
Why Insulin Resistance Is Good
We’re always told that insulin resistance is the root cause of diabetes type 2. But that may be wrong. Insulin resistance could be a GOOD thing. Dr. Fung explains it well in this insightful new post. Basically, insulin resistance is the way the cells protect themselves from excess insulin and glucose in the blood (the real problem): Dr. Fung: Insulin Resistance is Good? I love Dr. Fung’s take on inflammation in this post as well. It has bothered me for quite some time when people claim that inflammation is the cause of X (i.e. heart disease). Inflammation is usually a symptom of a problem, it’s the body’s default response to damage. The cause is something else. In the case of heart disease the cause is damage to the interior of the blood vessels. This damage results in inflammation – but that’s just a symptom. The cause of the damage? Many things. High blood sugar. High blood pressure. Toxic chemicals (e.g. from smoking). And probably oxidized small dense LDL particles. Excess bad carbs can be behind all these causes of heart disease, except perhaps smoking. The thing is that we can’t solve the problem by attacking a symptom of the problem. Diabetes type 2 can’t be cured by targeting insulin resistance. Heart disease can’t be cured by targeting inflammation. We need to take away the cause, which in many cases is eating too many bad carbs, too often (a normal Western diet). More How to Cure Diabetes How to Lose Weight Continue reading >>
Insulin Resistance Is Good? – T2d 7
Everybody says that insulin resistance is bad. Very bad. It’s the root cause of type 2 diabetes (T2D), and metabolic syndrome, isn’t it? So, if it is so bad, why do we all develop it in the first place? What’s the root cause? My friend Dr. Gary Fettke from Tasmania wrote an illuminating book called ‘Inversion’ where he describes how you can learn a lot from looking at things from another perspective. Invert (turn upside down) your perspective, and see how your horizons are immensely broadened. So let’s look at why we develop insulin resistance. Why is it good? Root Cause Analysis What is the root cause of insulin resistance? Some people say inflammation or oxidative stress or free radicals causes insulin resistance. Those are total cop-out answers. Inflammation is the body’s non-specific response to injury. But what causes the injury in the first place? That’s the real problem. The inflammation is only the body’s response to whatever is causing the injury. Think about it this way. Suppose we are battlefield surgeons. After decades on the job, we decide that blood is bad. After all, every time we see blood, bad things are happening. When we don’t see blood, bad things are not happening. It must be the blood that is dangerous. So, deciding that blood is what is killing people, we invent a machine to suction all the blood of people. Genius! The problem, of course, is what’s causing the bleeding, rather than the blood itself. Look for the root cause. Bleeding’s only the response, not the cause. Bleeding is a marker for disease. So is inflammation. Something causes bleeding, the body’s non specific response. Something causes inflammation, the body’s non specific response. Gunshots cause bleeding, knife wounds cause bleeding, and shrapnel causes bl Continue reading >>
What Causes Insulin Resistance? Lipid Overload
Over the past year I have interacted with hundreds of people with diabetes, and have come to learn one very important lesson that has changed my view of diabetes altogether. This realization came to me early on in my career as a nutrition and fitness coach for people with diabetes, and continues to hold true. While insulin resistance is a condition that is most commonly associated with type 2 diabetes, an increasing body of evidence is now shedding light on the fact that insulin resistance is a common thread that underlies many health conditions previously unassociated with blood sugar, including (but not limited to) heart disease, diabetes, atherosclerosis, the metabolic syndrome, obesity and cancer. What that means is simple: insulin resistance significantly increases your risk for the development of a collection of health conditions that can significantly reduce your quality of life and decrease your life expectancy. Watch this video for a synopsis of the causes of insulin resistance: What is insulin and why should you care? Insulin is a hormone which is released by the pancreas in response to rising blood glucose. When you consume carbohydrates, the glucose that enters the bloodstream knocks on the door of the beta cells in the pancreas as a signal to make insulin. Insulin serves as the key that unlocks the door to allow glucose to enter body tissues. Insulin tells your cells “Yoo hoo! Pick up this glucose. It’s all over the place.” Without insulin, cells in the liver, muscle, and fat have a difficult time vacuuming up glucose from the blood. These tissues are capable to vacuuming up only a small percentage (5-10%) of the glucose in circulation without the help of insulin. When insulin is present, the amount of glucose that can be transported into tissues sign Continue reading >>