What is Insulin Resistance?
It is not talked about as much as obesity or diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease or cancers, but it is the common link to all of these as well as other common diseases.
Insulin is a hormone that is secreted by the pancreas in response to an elevation in blood sugar, usually from eating. Insulin facilitates the absorption of glucose (sugar) into cells to be used as fuel (energy). Insulin also serves as a growth factor and in that capacity, it promotes the storage of extra blood glucose to fat.
Different foods cause your blood sugar to increase to different levels and at different rates. Carbohydrates cause the fastest and highest increase, protein with a more moderate response, and fat with minimal response.
In a healthy body, the insulin response almost mirrors the blood sugar elevation until the blood sugar returns to a normal rate (usually going a little below normal at first before normalizing).
In the Standard American Diet (SAD) over half of our calories are from highly processed, high sugar foods (BMJ, 2016). We often eat and drink constantly, so in general our blood sugars are higher than healthy a good portion of the day. After enough time with a constant barrage of blood sugar we eventually become insulin resistant. I believe that everyone’s response is different, which is why obesity and diabetes affect people at different rates and stages in their lives.
Insulin resistance (IR) is a physiological condition in which cells fail to respond correctly to the release of the hormone insulin. The body produces insulin, but the cells are unable to use it effectively, leading to higher blood sugar levels for longer periods of time. The pancreas secretes more insulin, and over time the excess blood sugar is stored as fat rather than used as energy.
This turns into a vicious cycle, we eat because we are hungry and tired (often craving carbs), we don’t use our energy effectively, our blood sugar spikes, we store more fat and get very little energy, so soon, hungry and tired again.
This cycle is unfortunately starting earlier and earlier in life as we eat highly processed high sugar foods, starting as babies with juice and processed snacks. I have seen numbers indicating that as many as 70% of Americans are insulin resistant or experiencing problems caused by insulin resistance.
It is easy to avoid. Simply decrease the amount of highly processed foods and sugar in your diet. If you are experiencing some of these problems already, try a Low Carb High Fat Diet (see LCHF).