Metabolism more than “calories in vs. calories out”….
….It is the balance of multiple biochemical reactions that occur simultaneously in our body that work in concert together to maintain the living state of cells in the human body. The pathways of metabolism rely upon nutrients that are broken down to produce energy that is used for specific bodily functions. So as you can see, metabolism is a highly regulated, complex process that depends upon multiple factors. Our metabolism can be negatively impacted by many factors starting with the food we put in our mouths, our bodies ability to break down our food into nutrients that can be properly absorbed through our gut, and the symphony of hormones, enzymes and co-factors needed in every single chemical reaction that occurs in the human body.
DESPITE THE COMMON observation that obesity runs in families, genetic research shows that the habits you inherit from your family are more important than the genes you inherit. Obesity genes account for only five percent of all weight problems. Then, we have to wonder, what causes the other 95 percent of weight problems? (www.drhyman.com).
So it’s not all about the genes….In my prior posts, I have spent a considerable amount of time arguing the case that our American diet is high in processed foods and grains and is typically a calorie-dense, nutrient poor, high in sugar and is fueling inflammation. I think that most people would agree that this type of diet has a negative impact on our metabolism and is one of the leading causes of obesity and chronic disease in our nation. A much harder concept to grasp is when we are seemingly eating a “healthy diet” and continue to gain weight. In today’s post, I will illustrate how insulin resistance is one of the top reasons many of us are struggling with weight.
More than 80 million Americans suffer from a condition we call insulin resistance. While insulin resistance may not be manifested exactly the same in every person, it has similar and deadly consequences for everyone.
Most of us are affected by increase weight around our mid-section, but even thin individuals can be insulin resistant. Typically having a waist to hip ratio of > 0.8 increases the likelihood of having insulin resistance. A more precise way to evaluate for insulin resistance is measuring blood sugar and insulin fasting and at set intervals after a 75-gm sugar load.
Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas that transports glucose into our cells for energy utilization. The top picture shows how insulin (blue dots) opens the door to allow glucose (red dots) into the cell.
The second photo represents insulin resistance, showing that the cell is not responding to the insulin in the usual fashion and the glucose is accumulating in the blood stream, rather than moving into the cell. When this occurs, a signal is sent back to the pancreas to make more insulin to push the glucose into the cells. Excessive insulin reprograms fat cells in our belly to store fat! When we can no longer produce enough insulin to overcome insulin resistance, our blood sugar starts to rise, leading to pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes.
The impact carbohydrates have on blood sugar & insulin resistance….
Dietary sugars and carbohydrates are the primary food group we consume that leads to post meal glucose elevation and can fuel the fire of insulin resistance. In the past, this has been primarily blamed on cane sugar and processed simple carbohydrates such as white flour, this spurring a flurry of “low sugar” and “whole grain” foods marketed by the food industry as a healthier choice. The truth is, even whole grains and natural sugars from fruits lead to post meal glucose elevation. If you don’t believe me, look up the glycemic index of white bread versus whole grain or whole wheat bread. They are almost exactly the same, which means they both have similar impact on our blood sugar!!
Eating a high carbohydrate meal causes an rapid rise in blood sugar which triggers the pancreas to surge out insulin, causing blood sugar to plummet. This in turn increases hunger and food cravings, leading to a viscous cycle. Insulin is a fat storing hormone. The more insulin your body makes, the more fat stored in the belly.
Why low-fat is not the answer….
“Pioneering research by Harvard Medical School’s David Ludwig reveals the reason that low-fat diets do not work — and identifies the true cause of obesity for most Americans. Dr. Ludwig’s research explains the real reasons 70 percent of Americans are overweight. In the 1980?s not one state had an obesity rate over 20 percent. In 2010, ONLY one state has an obesity rate UNDER 20 percent. This is not a genetic problem and dietary fats are not a major determinant of body fat”. The proliferation of “low fat” diets in the 1980’s correlate with the rise in obesity over the following 2 decades, when food manufactures replaced the “fats” in our diet with more…….you guessed it…..carbohydrates and sugars. To further muddy the waters, dietary fats are essential for the formation of many of our hormones, including cortisol, adrenal hormones, and our sex hormones, testosterone, estrogen and progesterone. Going back to our definition of metabolism, you can understand why a low fat diet is not the answer.
So now that you know what insulin resistance is, what do you do about it?
At the Optimal Wellness Center, every person embarking on a journey to a healthier weight undergoes a full metabolic work up looking for the underlying conditions that are sabotaging her ability to lose weight. One key component of this work up is identifying underlying insulin resistance, impaired glucose metabolism and type 2 diabetes. Keep in mind, I am looking at all of the factors potentially impacting metabolism and weight, thus you have to consider the whole picture when making individualized recommendations for each person. For the sake of sharing information, in today’s post I will focus interventions targeted at insulin resistance.
Here of some of my key suggestions;
- Stop eating flour and sugar products.
- Stop eating high fructose corn syrup.
- Avoid any liquids that raise blood sugar or stimulate insulin release – regular and diet colas, fruit juice, milk, some flavored specialty coffees and many sports drinks. Liquid sugars give you an immediate blood sugar spike and very quickly crash down your blood sugar.
- Stop all processed, junk or packaged foods.
- Stop eating trans or hydrogenated fats.
- Add a healthy lean protein source to every meal to help slow the rate of sugar uptake from the gut – leans cuts of grass fed meats, nuts, seeds, beans, small wild fish, organic chicken.
- Add healthy fats – olive oil (room temp or low heat only), nuts and seeds, avocados, fish oil, and coconut oil.
- Eat plenty of soluble fiber (30-50 grams a day) – ideally from healthy high fiber veggies.
- Limit fruit to 1 – 2 servings of low glycemic fruit daily – berries are good. Always add healthy fats or proteins to fruits to help slow the rate of absorption of the natural sugars contained in the fruit.
- Eat smaller more frequent meals, especially if you suffer from reactive hypoglycemia.
- Exercise – just instituting a walking program can have a significant impact on insulin resistance. Just get moving!
- If you are currently being treated for diabetes you need to discuss the above interventions with your health care provider first.