Insulin


 

If you don’t remember anything else about Human Physiology or the absolute vital basis for not consuming sugar and grains, remember Insulin. Memorize these five points, and own them:

 

1)     All carbohydrates eventually get converted to glucose … blood sugar.

2)     Insulin must be released to shuttle glucose to muscle, liver, and fat cells for immediate fuel or later storage.

3)     If there is a constant supply of carbohydrates, there is a constant stream of Insulin trying to fill our cells until they get full.

4)     When cells are full, and the Carb-Insulin train is still running, bad things happen, including: obesity, diabetes, heart disease, fatty liver disease, just to name just a few.

5)     All of this can be prevented through moderate intake of the right carbohydrate sources and maintaining nutrient balance with fat and protein.

 

Insulin is a hormone, produced by the pancreas, which is central to regulating carbohydrate and fat metabolism in the body. Insulin causes cells in the liver, muscle, and fat tissue, to take up glucose from the blood, storing it as glycogen in the liver and muscle.”


In effect, Insulin acts as the gatekeeper and is the ultimate authority on maintaining nutrient balance and adequate fuel for the body to function at optimal levels. Overproduction of Insulin due to the excessive presence of nutrient-deficient carbohydrates in the western diet can be implicated as one of the leading causes in every one of the top diseases our species faces. 

 


Meet Your Pancreas


 Insulin’s primary role is to be secreted from the Pancreas in response to carbohydrates in the food you eat and to keep blood sugar under control. It is a nutrient sensor and directs where these nutrients should be stored. In addition, it regulates the use of fat and protein, aids in muscle rebuilding and repair, influences cognitive (brain) function, vascular compliance, and makes sure you store enough fuel to function and have energy between meals. Some vegetables and a little fruit, all is good. The right amount is good, but overproduction of Insulin is bad. If you eat a diet comprised mostly of carbohydrates, especially the condensed and concentrated wheat flour types, the liquid sugar types, and the starchy types, your Pancreas is going to get fed up, fat cells will swell and divide, and your liver will hang a ‘no room at the inn’ sign on it and eventually become sick and diseased. This is just the beginning of a cascade of really bad toxic, hormonal, and cellular things that happen with the ingestion of excessive bad carbs.


Good Carbs - Bad Carbs

The Paleo arena has done a pretty good job in distinguishing and simplifying which carbohydrates are beneficial and which ones are detrimental. Of course, most people know that potato chips are bad and broccoli is good, but the word on the street from your ever friendly neighborhood diet expert who is trying to lose weight is: ‘Don’t eat Carbs!’ Partly true. Separating the good carbs from the not so good ones is easy. Vegetables and Fruit are good carbs, Grains, Legumes/Beans, and refined sugars, bad carbs. Vegetables and fruit contain fiber, an insoluble polysaccharide that slows the absorption of the 'sugar' component, (glucose, fructose), whereas grains and beans, besides being nutritionally inferior to veggies and fruit, contain Phytates and Lectins which damage the lining of the small intestine and cause a host of other issues. Even if they have fiber, (vegetables and fruit have way more btw), in most cases their starch component, (a digestible polysaccharide), hits the system quicker and spikes insulin through the roof.  Refined sugars, and especially high fructose corn syrup, in everything from ketchup, syrup, and applesauce, are like throwing gasoline on a fire. This Glycemic Index article discusses the various ‘sugar contents of various foods and can help you sort it out.


Cell Mayhem

Since Insulin is the director of nutrients telling them where and when, it has a huge influence on how all of our cells, and not just muscle and fat cells, but how hair, teeth, skin, kidney cells, pancreatic cells are repaired and maintained. Cells like to be repaired and maintained in the same fashion and any alteration to this cycle of life has ramifications. Smart people, (Geneticists), call this up or down regulation of gene expression. If this intimate cellular process is altered for the worse too much and too often, genetic expression, or how our genes are replicated, goes down hill and we age quickly and we get disease. You didn’t think that piece of toast was that bad...did you?


Glucagon: Insulin's Brother from a Different Mother

Instead of Insulin’s storage of nutrients, the hormone Glucagon is secreted from the Pancreas to promote the release of nutrients and glucose from the liver and fat cells when blood sugar levels get low. Usually this happens between meals when we need fuel. It knocks on a fat cell’s door to release fatty acids and tells the liver to convert glycogen to glucose for energy. Glucagon and Insulin are part of a feedback system that keeps blood glucose levels at a stable level. Sounds good, right? The party ends when Insulin shows up. Glucagon is not secreted in the presence of Insulin and you don’t use stored fat for fuel. Even worse, excess glucose can get converted to fat. Just like high school, your brother is not allowed at the same party you are.  Again, what causes the constant stream and overproduction of Insulin? Constant intake of Carbohydrates.

 

Using Fat As Fuel

There are two important enzymes that regulate the conversion of fat into and out of a fat cell.

LPL (lipoprotein lipase)hangs out around the outside of the cell membrane, breaks triglycerides floating around in your blood into fatty acids which are then pulled into the cell for future energy storage. Insulin activates LPL. The more insulin, the more fat pulled into the cell. The right amount is good, too much is not. Cells will get stuffed and expand and you get fat.

HSL (hormone-sensitive lipase) on the other hand, hangs out inside the cell and is signaled to break down triglycerides into fatty acids to be released for fuel. More HSL activity, more fat burn for fuel. The problem is, once again, Insulin suppresses the activity of HSL. Keeping just the right amount of Insulin in circulation is critical for this fat-for-energy metabolism. 


It Goes From Bad To Worse

So, up to this point, it is plain to see that excess circulation of insulin is the result of excess ingestion of carbohydrates and the ramifications are deep. If the liver is full, fat cells are not taking tenants, and muscles don’t need fuel, so what happens to all of that excess glucose swimming around in your bloodstream? They get converted to a fat called Palmitic Acid. This gets teamed up with proteins, cholesterol, and glycerol in the liver and becomes a VLDL…a very low-density lipoprotein, and then shipped out, well, to go nowhere, since everybody’s full. You now have circulating glucose, cholesterol, triglycerides, and Insulin, all hanging around waiting to inflict damage. If this keeps going, other nasty things happen like Leptin Resistance (Inability to sense being full, so you eat more), Insulin Resistance, (the liver, muscle tissue, and fat tissue do not sense Insulin anymore and perceive a low blood sugar situation, the pancreas secretes more Insulin, even though it is not needed so you have circulating Insulin all of the time), Fatty Liver Disease, (those VLDL’s can’t get out, so they swell the liver), Cortisol release, (in response to the false signal of low blood sugar, cortisol initiates glucogenesis to make more glucose out of muscle and organ tissue), the Immune System is suppressed due to excessive Cortisol, (you get sick), AGE’s (Advanced Glycation End Products), are proteins in the body that react and get oxidized due to the excessive presence of glucose. These nasty fellows have the ability to affect our DNA, (genetic expression, transcription, and replication), accelerate aging, increase risks for heart disease, systemic inflammation, impair critical enzymatic production, and destroy Beta Cells inside the Pancreas, responsible for releasing Insulin, thus causing permanent, insulin-dependant diabetes.

 

How Can You Manage Your Insulin

- Eat no grains, drink no soda, eliminate beans, potato chips and French fries, (+ other starches), and rice.

- Increase your intake of animal products and good fats

- Combine carbohydrates like fruit with protein and fat. Did you say a shake?

- Avoid excessive alcohol

- Exercise daily, and that doesn’t mean heading to a gym all of the time. Long walks, a few sprints, some Pullups and Pushups in the park are just fine some days.

- Eat a filling breakfast that includes protein, fat, and a little carbohydrate.

- Dairy has sugar…and other problems.

 

 

If you’re still with me, I urge you to read the next article on Insulin and Cholesterol.

Understanding the roles of Insulin and being able to control the amount and type of carbohydrates that enter your body is probably the most important concept I can convey on this site. The right amount of Insulin in circulation to do its job for a short period of time is what we strive for. But, the typical human diet is laden with an enormous amount of cheap, nutrient-deficient, easily and rapidly digestible carbohydrates, and if you eat a constant influx of grain and sugar related products, the overproduction of Insulin is systematically going to erode, age, and disease your body from the inside out…plain and simple.

 

The facts and ramifications of excessive blood glucose and elevated insulin are well-researched and well-documented, and the funny thing: easily controlled, yet the people supposedly in charge of your health are either unwilling, incapable, or would rather ignore the science in favor of traditional-outdated dietary recommendations and favor pharmacological intervention. In many cases, people are told that a disease like diabetes is inherited genetically and there is nothing you can do about it. 35% of the U.S. population is now considered obese and $300 Billion is spent on pharmaceuticals annually, most of which could be eliminated by incorporating what is recommended on this site: responsible eating habits and exercise.

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“It’s the carbohydrates that ultimately determines insulin secretion and insulin that drives the accumulation of body fat. Not all of us get fat when we eat carbohydrates, but for those of us who do get fat, the carbohydrates are to blame; the fewer carbohydrates we eat, the leaner we will be.”

- G. Taubes

“ Clearly, the ideal strategy is to use only the Insulin you need to restock muscle and liver glycogen stores, to rebuild muscle and other tissues with amino acids, and finally, to transport fatty acids for a variety of essential metabolic functions (including energy storage). By maintaining an optimal balance between Insulin and Glucagon, you become like an ATM machine, always open for deposits and withdrawals based on your daily energy needs.” -M. Sisson