Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that is secreted to manage proper blood sugar levels. Blood sugar levels are extremely important. Too much sugar or too little sugar circulating through our bloodstream has an incredibly powerful ? and harmful effect. Sugar balance is therefore of the utmost importance. Insulin is a storage hormone, meaning that it triggers the storage of sugar into the liver and the cells. Because of this property it is considered the key hormone involved in the accumulation of body fat. In fact, Type I diabetics that cannot produce insulin will literally waste away if insulin is not medically administered.
Because carbohydrates, simple sugars in particular, have a pronounced effect on insulin in the body ? causing a tremendous rise in the amount of insulin secreted, they are therefore highly suspected of causing most cases of fat accumulation.
Common sense; however, tells us that the secretion of insulin in response to a simple sugar like a banana, or a glass of sweet milk, or some wholesome grain is a natural adaptation and cannot be an outright flaw. We put these substances into the body and insulin is secreted for the proper handling of that sugar. Our ancestors have eaten these foods plentifully for ages without accumulating excessive body fat, which as we know, is a risk factor or a precursor to nearly all degenerative illnesses, from most Cancers to Alzheimer’s and heart disease.
The question is whether or not there is a threshold of sugar consumption that can be exceeded, causing a metabolic disorder.
Sugars like sucrose and fructose, especially dissolved in liquid as in a soft drink, elevate insulin to higher levels than could be achievable through unrefined foods. Refined grain, especially white flour which has been refined to an even more rapidly-absorbed powder, is of tremendous concern. The juicing of sweet fruits so that more sugar can be consumed in a time period shorter than could be achievable otherwise is problematic, especially once the juices have been pasteurized and refined. Maltose, the type of sugar found in beer, is one of the most rapidly-absorbed sugars known to man. It is far more problematic than even refined sugar and grain. The rapid absorption of corn and potato chips is incomparable to that of the respective foods in whole form.
And of course many of us in today’s day and age consume not one, but all of these things nearly every single day. OJ with sugared cereal for breakfast, sweetened white bread sandwiches with chips for lunch and a Coke, and beer with dinner.
What does a diet like this do?
Carbohydrates of any kind that are more-quickly absorbed than anything found in nature cause a large spike of insulin in response to the instant surge in blood sugar when ingested. With no family history of diabetes, weight problems, hypertension, or heart disease, downing massive amounts of sugar is usually less harmful. This is because overconsumption of rapidly-absorbed sugars has a cumulative effect, and the corresponding overresponse of insulin to the ingestion of sugar is passed from parents to children. In other words, it takes some people decades to develop a problem with secreting too much insulin in response to carbohydrates, while others are born secreting too much insulin than can be considered normal from day 1.
All this means is that some people speed towards excessive weight gain, hypoglycemia, Metabolic Syndrome and other pre-diabetic conditions, and type II diabetes more quickly than others. Since this is a generation-cumulative disorder, we would expect to see obesity, heart disease (caused primarily by hyperinsulinism), and type II diabetes becoming increasingly prevalent in areas where rapidly-absorbed carbohydrates are introduced. Over time, incidences of these problems will start occurring in younger and younger members of refined carbohydrate-fed societies.
Of course, this is exactly what is happening. Specific to type II diabetes, incidence of the disease in the United States increased by 33% in the 1990’s alone. According to Joseph Mercola, M.D. in The No-Grain Diet, ?Shockingly, [during the same 10-year time period] there was a 70 percent rise among those aged thirty to thiry-nine years. As far as heart disease is concerned, the number one killer today, cardiac events, were unknown prior to 1900, and this is most certainly not attributable to lack of diagnostic equipment alone.
For those wondering if refined carbohydrates could really be the cause of this degenerative phenomenon, I’ve found no more logical an argument than that proposed by Gary Taubes, author of Good Calories, Bad Calories, in which Taubes states:
?If cavities are caused primarily by eating sugar and white flour, and cavities appear first in a population no longer eating its traditional diet, followed by obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, then the assumption, until proved otherwise, should be that the other diseases were also caused by these carbohydrates.
Of course Taubes is primarily alluding to the work of Weston A. Price, who made perhaps the single most important human health observation in history ? that refined grain and sugar and other devitalized foods cause disease, physiologically and even mentally, that is otherwise unachievable with a diet and lifestyle in which these substances are absent.
It is now up to us to determine how and why this is so, and so far I’ve encountered no better explanation of this phenomenon than the theory of hyperinsulinism (for lack of a better term).
Hyperinsulinism is simply a disorder where insulin levels are chronically and abnormally high. When carbohydrates, particularly rapidly-absorbed carbohydrates are ingested, too much insulin is released in response to those carbohydrates.
This appears to work in stages?
1) Refined foods are introduced to an area. Not only do these foods lack nutrients, but people begin experiencing larger fluctuations in blood sugar. There is rarely enough consumed in a single lifetime of those first exposed for them to experience massive health consequences.
2) Because parents have slightly elevated insulin levels while eating refined carbs (the average insulin output raises up a bit in anticipation of more carbs), children are born naturally secreting too much insulin. When children eat refined carbs they experience massive blood sugar instability, homeostasis is disrupted, and far more disturbances of basic biochemistry are experienced than can be observed in the parent generation, including rampant cavities, crooked teeth, allergies, asthma, digestive problems, weakness to infections, etc.
3) The process continues, and as more insulin is secreted, the lower blood sugar levels fall (because insulin binds with sugars to remove them from the blood stream). Low blood sugar stimulates cravings for carbohydrates, especially rapidly-absorbed carbohydrates. The process continues in a vicious cycle, but doctors and dentists do enough patchwork for people to get by.
4) Eventually people begin developing cellular resistance to insulin. This is caused by the cells revolting to the extreme amount of insulin constantly being poured into the bloodstream. When this happens, more of the food that enters the body is stored as body fat than is considered normal. Since cells develop resistance to holding sugar (which insulin induces), sugar in the blood stays overly high, triggering even more insulin to be released. In turn, blood sugar levels drop even lower, cravings and appetite intensify, and weight problems get out of control.
5) The problem of secreting too much insulin to the point of developing insulin resistance causes not only weight gain, but blood cholesterol abnormalities, hypertension, and diabetes. Other than smoking (which disturbs endocrine system function), these three along with weight gain are the top risk factors for heart disease, stroke, Alzheimers (now referred to as ?Diabetes of the brain?), and many Cancers. These are not separate disorders, but different manifestations of the same disorder.
Based on the above, you might be concerned about hyperinsulinism if:
1) You are overweight
2) You need large amounts of exercise in order to keep from significantly gaining weight
3) You experience cravings or hunger between meals
4) You have a family history of diabetes, heart disease, etc.
5) You have any crooked teeth, had to have your wisdom teeth removed, and/or have had cavities
6) You have allergies, asthma, or other autoimmune disorders
7) You can spell your name
8) You can’t spell your name
Be sure to read next week’s post on what I currently believe to be the most effective dietary and lifestyle treatment of hyperinsulism, why eating the right amount of carbohydrates, all of them slowly-absorbed, is one of the most significant things you can do to improve your health, and how doing so, paired with the ample protein and fat to keep blood sugar levels stable, you can undergo significant metabolic healing over time with truly manageable cravings.
Fat and calories are associated with obesity and disease risk because people with the greatest degree of hyperinsulinism usually eat more of both. Caloric consumption has increased significantly in the U.S. over the past several decades. Fat consumption has remained stable for the last century, but carbohydrate consumption has skyrocketed. ?We are eating 60 pounds more grain and 30 pounds more sweeteners than we did 25 years ago. ?Joesph Mercola, The No-Grain Diet.
I bring this up to point out that research could potentially show that the more fat you eat and the more calories you eat, the higher your chances of being fat and manifesting some of these degenerative diseases. It’s even plausible that ?villains? like red meat and saturated fat increase insulin resistance. However, the disorder (hyperinsulinism), which increases hunger and is caused by refined carbohydrates, is the cause of the problem. Increased calorie and total fat consumption is just a symptom.
So blaming calories, or fat, or whatever you choose (other than hyperinsulinism) on obesity and degenerative disease is ultimately like blaming oxygen for an arsonist burning a house down. ?Yes your honor, Jimmy did pour gas on the house, and yes he did light a match, but without oxygen there couldn’t have been a fire in the first place. The defense would like to suggest to the jury that oxygen was at fault in this incident.