Medical Monday: Insulin resistance

This is one of those chicken and egg things. It turns out that being insulin resistant makes you gain body fat. But, it also turns out that gaining body fat makes you more insulin resistant. What a vicious cycle! No wonder it is hard for people to lose weight. 

Recall that insulin is the hormone produced by the pancreas which is responsible for getting glucose from the circulation and into the cells, where it can be used for energy.

Recall that glucose is the final breakdown product of all carbohydrates (carbs) like bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, etc. If too much glucose is in the circulation, either because too much has been consumed at once, or because the insulin cannot move the glucose into the cell or both, high levels of glucose in the blood stream get turned into triglycerides and fat. Atherosclerotic plaques can form in the vessels and cardiovascular disease results. This is part of what we call metabolic syndrome

In a normal person, insulin rises in response to a meal and diminishes in-between. Moreover, it rises in proportion to need. Insulin would spike if you drank a coke, but just gently ebb if you ate some strawberries. Why? Because the sugar of coke just jets into your bloodstream, unnaturally rapidly. Your body cannot cope with it. A strawberry has structure and the sugar and nutrients release slowly. Said another way, the glycemic index of coke is high, and that of a strawberry is relatively low. 

I recommend that my patients eat low glycemic all the time. What about treats? When a person eats low glycemic consistently, their ambient insulin levels decrease. Insulin levels are related to cravings, and their cravings diminish. A "treat" will bring the cravings back, since it may cause insulin levels to spike. If you think you can have an occasional treat and then resume your healthy low glycemic diet and resist cravings, more power to you. 

How do you turn this vicious cycle into a virtuous cycle? First visit with your doctor if you have diabetes, the condition which is the mother of all insulin resistance. Visit with her if you have been told you have polycystic ovary syndrome. This also entails some degree of insulin resistance. 

Second, learn about how to keep your blood sugar low and steady, with three meals and three snacks every day. Add protein each time to buffer your carbohydrates. Add exercise everyday to boost your muscle mass, burn fat, increase your insulin SENSITIVITY and increase your metabolism. 

Here's the flip side of the coin: If you lose fat, you will become more insulin sensitive. And, if you become more insulin sensitive, you will make it easier to lose weight! 

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For more reading check THIS out from Live Science.