Unlocking the secrets of Insulin
We've known for a very long time that insulin is the key ingredient to managing diabetes. It regulates the amount of glucose in our blood, and this is how type 1 and many type 2’s will stop our blood sugars from reaching dangerously toxic levels. But there is more than meets the eye here, and the greater we understand the role that Insulin plays in our body the better we become at managing this disease.
Insulin derives form the Latin word Insula, meaning 'Island'.
A Brief History
In 1889, two German researchers discovered when the pancreas was removed from a dog it developed symptoms of diabetes and died soon afterwards. This led them to believe that the pancreas was where the vital hormone Insulin was being produced.
As research narrowed, it was discovered that a specific cluster of cells in the pancreas was responsible for producing insulin - what we now know as the Islets of Langerhans - and it was this that was the missing chemical in people with diabetes.
In 1921 synthetic insulin was first invented by a young surgeon (Frederick Banting) and his assistant (Charles Best). It initially derived from the pancreas of a dog, then cattle as they began to refine and purify the hormone.
In 1923 Frederick Banting and colleague John Macleod received a Nobel prize in Medicine (which they shared with their assistants), and Banting sold the patent to the Toronto hospital for $1 (he must have wanted a coffee from 7-Eleven).
Overnight, lives were saved and diabetes was no longer a death sentence but became a chronic disease.
Insulin became widely available, initially across North America and then the world, but unfortunately, it was no longer free, and the ultra-altruistic actions of the medical scientists were lost to a capitalist agenda. Now, depending on where you live, you could pay anything up to $1000 dollars a month for a drug that your life depends upon.
(To see the history of insulin via the American Diabetes Association (ADA) click HERE)
Is there a downside to Insulin?
In short, yes.
People with diabetes run the risk of hypoglycemia (hypo), where too much injected insulin lowers blood sugars to dangerous or even life threatening levels. Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence as many diabetics follow standard western or Asian diets which require vast amounts of insulin to cover high carbohydrate foods.
A fast, simply and safe remedy is to lower the amount of carbs in your diet.
Insulin is a complex hormone that regulates our blood glucose levels on one hand, but it's also anabolic - meaning to build - think 'anabolic steroids' or even better 'gluconeogenesis' (where the body produces glucose from noncarbohydrate sources). Basically, it builds larger more complex molecules out of smaller ones.
Too much insulin in the body results in a build-up of fat storage and inhibits fat burning. When a non-diabetic or diabetic consumes excess carbohydrates and insulin production is increased (either naturally or exogenously), the body becomes resistant over time and this is what contributes toward metabolic disease (simplified version).
Therefore, to be ‘healthy’ is to have low levels of circulating insulin and be insulin sensitive - diabetic or not.
Glucose is often considered the primary source of energy for the body and when you consume a high carbohydrate diet, this is certainly the case. However, this can also result in excess insulin (hyperinsulinemia) circulating in the body (relative to glucose in the blood), and the results are:
* weight gain
* cravings for sugar (carbs)
* intense hunger
* feeling frequently hungry
* difficulty concentrating
* feeling anxious or panicky
* lacking focus or motivation
What are the risks of hyperinsulinemia
* higher triglyceride levels
* high uric acid (joint pain and gout)
* hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis)
* weight gain
* type 2 diabetes
To see a comprehensive review of hyperinsulinemia and type 2 diabetes please click HERE
Despite excess circulating insulin being a hallmark of type 2 diabetes, it is also common amongst type 1 diabetics who follow a standard diet (high carb), and this is strongly correlated to a higher risk of coronary artery disease (CAD).
In a study in 2013, researchers tested the markers for CAD on human and mice type 1 diabetics following a Boost®️ Challenge, and dosing the appropriate insulin subcutaneously. They discovered that levels of hyperinsulinemia were twice as high for the diabetics than non-diabetics in similar controlled studies.
The conclusion of this trial was that injected insulin to cover what many consider a ‘normal’ food resulted in hyperinsulinemia and promotes inflammation.
(To see the full trial click HERE)
How to lower insulin levels and increase sensitivity
Living as healthy lifestyle as possible is the best way to achieve low levels of insulin and increase sensitivity, but what does that look like?
* Intermittent fasting (IF):
IF is NOT starving yourself. It is simply having periods of not eating, and this is very different. Our bodies are not designed to constantly graze and need time to recover and ‘recycle’. IF has been proven to increase insulin sensitivity and protect against fatty liver.
A recent study noted:
Under certain genetic conditions, the accumulation of fat in the pancreas may play a decisive role in the development of type 2 diabetes," said Schulz, head of the Department of Adipocyte Development and Nutrition. Intermittent fasting could be a promising therapeutic approach in the future. The advantages: it is non-invasive, easy to integrate into everyday life and does not require drugs. To see the study into the benefits of IF on liver and pancreatic fat click HERE.
* Lower carbohydrate consumption: Carbs convert into glucose in your body which raises your blood sugars, which raises your insulin levels. Remove processed and refined carbs from your diet and you stop the problem at its root cause.
* Get enough sleep:
Several studies have linked poor sleep to reduced insulin sensitivity. You’re also decreasing your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes when you get plenty of sleep.
* Regular exercise:
The benefits of exercise are bountiful, and one of these is it increases insulin sensitivity by moving glucose into the muscles which can last up to 48 hours post exercise. So if you’ve ever noticed that you need less insulin for food after a workout, now you know why.
* Reduce stress:
Stress impacts your bodies ability to regulate your blood sugar levels by stimulating the production of hormones like cortisol and glucagon (fight or flight). Removing yourself from stressful situations, practicing meditation and exercise can help alleviate stress.
* Lose weight:
Losing body fat will increase insulin sensitivity. Higher amounts of white adipose tissue increases insulin resistance. When your body burns fat for energy, rather than carbs, you have less circulating insulin resulting in less fat storage. Lose body fat by reducing your carbs.
* Eat plenty of greens, herbs and spices:
Many whole, organic foods contain an abundance of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds which promote insulin sensitivity. By ensuring they are also low in carbohydrates, you’re also avoiding an insulin response whilst benefits from their nutrients.
Consume less carbohydrates
Reduced glucose in blood
Reduced insulin response (naturally or injected)
Reduced circulating insulin levels
Increased insulin sensitivity
Reduced risk of insulin resistance, weight gain, type 2 diabetes, inflammation, coronary artery disease (CAD), cardiovascular disease, fatty liver and pancreas.
In a recent study, researchers have also identified a strong correlation between insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease. They noted:
During insulin resistance, several metabolic alterations induce the development of cardiovascular disease. For instance, insulin resistance can induce an imbalance in glucose metabolism that generates chronic hyperglycemia, which in turn triggers oxidative stress and causes an inflammatory response that leads to cell damage.
To see the full article, click HERE
Empowerment through education
Type 1 diabetics can’t live without it. Type 2 diabetics have too much of it, but can’t use it as effectively. Our knowledge and understanding of the effects of insulin on our health is growing at a fast pace, and this can only benefit all ‘types’ of diabetes.
No matter what type of diabetes you or someone you know has, insulin is what connects them.
It is the elixir of life saving millions from certain premature death, yet also the key ingredient in what is contributing toward spiralling levels of obesity and metabolic disease.
So, much like red wine, small quantities can benefit our overall health, but too much and we’re asking for trouble.
(only joking! you can never have too much red wine).
Believe the hypo