Saturday, April 16, 2011

Understanding Insulin Resistance

Insulin plays a critical role in how your body uses food. Its most important role is to lower the concentration of glucose in your blood. When you eat, your digestive system breaks food down into glucose, and the glucose recirculates in your blood stream. In response to the rise in glucose after a meal, the pancreas releases surges of insulin, whose job is to clean the glucose from the blood. Some of the glucose is diverted into the liver, where it's converted into stored glucose, called glycogen, for later use by the muscles. Insulin then helps turn any leftover glucose into fatty acids and stores them in fat cells where they can be tapped later for fuel.


By making poor food choices, like scarfing down too many highly processed, refined carbs (like white bread and pasta!), we can do things to cause our bodies to create too much insulin. When you repeat that cycle too many times (like by repeatedly eating sugary junk on an empty stomach) your pancreas will overcompensate and produce more insulin, which your cells will eventually start to ignore. This is called insulin resistance and it is the precursor to type 2 diabetes and it is common in overweight people. Turned away at the door, the sugar is left with no where to go. If it hangs around in your blood too long, doctors call this impaired fasting glucose (if measured in the morning) or impaired glucose tolerance (if measured two hours after a meal). You could develop full-blown diabetes if both conditions go unchecked.

While high levels of blood glucose trigger insulin release, low levels suppress it, Maintaining low levels of insulin — one of the primary goals of the diet — allows your body to more easily tap in to your stored fat for fuel. Conversely, being insulin-resistant can hamper your weight-loss efforts. Try to avoid spikes in your blood sugar, by eating regularly. Pair carbs with protein, eat whole foods, avoid sugar juices and fruits, and highly-processed carbs. When your insulin-release mechanism works the right way, it helps keep your weight in check. So strive to keep it balanced!

Jillian Michaels

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