Because we get a number of emails from customers asking about the impact that insulin has on weight loss I thought that it may be appropriate rather than writing a new article this week to repeat one which I wrote on this subject back in May 2002. (With a few modifications.) Hope you find it helpful.
Most people do not understand the role that insulin plays when they are trying to lose weight. If you can understand how important this substance is, you will find it easier to lose weight and keep it off. In this issue I will do my best to explain what insulin means to you particularly if you are on a quest to remove excess pounds.
Let's start off with a brief explanation of what insulin is:
Insulin is one of the most powerful substances in your body and it controls the distribution and storage of energy. It is also the controller of glucose which is a form of sugar. The insulin is manufactured in your pancreas. Your pancreas releases insulin in response to sugar in your blood. As you put more sugar in your blood you cause more insulin to be released. That's when things get interesting!
But, before we examine what is interesting about it, let's have a quick look at what happens when you eat a meal...
When you sit down and eat a meal a number of things occur to the food as it passes through your body. A normal meal consists of a mixture of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Your body will absorb sugars from the carbohydrates which are then converted to glucose. It will absorb amino acids from the protein... essential building blocks for your cells! From fat it will absorb glycerol and fatty acids.
OK, this is all straightforward and you probably knew that anyway, so I'll get to the point of how insulin comes into the equation. Let's assume that your intake of refined carbohydrates, or 'sticky buns' is a bit higher than it should be. This will put more sugar into your blood stream won't it? Yes, it sure will! OK, that means more glucose. Glucose means more energy doesn't it?
Hey... pass me another sticky bun!
Sorry... it doesn't work that way. These sticky buns won't give you more energy... in fact they will ultimately lead to a loss of energy! This is where we bring insulin back into the story. That last sticky bun (or the one before) cries out to your pancreas for some insulin.
OK, your pancreas answers the call and along comes the Insulin! The insulin is needed to transport the glucose created by the sticky bun to the cells. In fact that is the prime function of insulin... as a transporter of glucose to the cells where it can be used for energy! That's good, but what if your blood has more glucose than the cells can use for energy?
What if you have been sitting on your couch all day watching your favorite program and your body doesn't NEED that extra energy from the last sticky bun? What's going to happen to the glucose? Your insulin is carrying around this glucose but it has no where to go because the cells can't accept any more? Problem?
As usual the body has a solution. It will take the excess glucose back to your liver which will convert it into glycogen. The glycogen is then stored in the liver and muscles to be released when needed for future energy use. Good system! But, there is a potential problem. The liver and muscles can only store so much glycogen. So, there may be not enough room for the glucose from that last sticky bun.
What happens then?
Here's the body's solution when the glycogen storage cupboard is full! The insulin takes the glucose back to the liver for more processing! This time around though, the excess glucose is not converted to glycogen because there is no where to keep it. So, instead the liver converts it to FAT and sends it to areas which have no limitation on storage capacity...your belly, buttocks, and thighs, etc.
That's the process which takes place in a normal healthy person when their insulin is working properly. If however over a long period of time you eat too much sugary or processed foods in the form of refined carbohydrates the insulin receptors on your cells may become 'overloaded' and thus prevent the entry of glucose into your cells. This is one of the reasons why many overweight people suffer from low energy...there cells are unable to get the energy from the glucose.
When the insulin is no longer able to take glucose to your cells for energy your liver converts it to fat. Result... your body becomes an efficient fat manufacturing machine!
The problem gets continually worse because when your cells are unable to get their energy from glucose your cravings for sweets foods intensify.
Why diets don't work!
You may now have a better appreciation as to why some people can never lose weight even if they eat little and why most diets never generally work. They may have an insulin resistance which prevents the effective 'utilization' of glucose. You may possibly now also understand that intake of fat is not the 'bogey man' it is made out to be. Fat in your diet does not make you fat. However, I'm not suggesting that you splurge on fatty foods. I'm just saying that natural fats that occur in meat, fish and eggs should not be restricted.
If you still have doubts about the fat issue... just think about how fat that you eat can actually go through your digestive system and then somehow miraculously appear on your stomach and thighs... just can't happen... you have to manufacture your own fat, and excess glucose is the raw ingredient.
I won't go into this subject now as it is too involved and I will deal with it in a special report. What I will say in the meantime is if you have an overweight problem a significant part of your problem may be due to an excessive intake of sugar which comes from refined carbohydrates. Be aware at all times of your intake of carbohydrates. Try to keep your carbohydrate intake to just fruit and vegetables and avoid as much as possible all processed foods... most of which have excessive levels of sugars.
As for the processed foods which are promoted as 'low fat' healthy food... avoid them as well. They will do nothing to help your quest for better health and a trimmer figure. It's just advertising hype.
A final comment
Often the cravings people have for sugary food is due to an imbalance of nutrients in their body which can also affect their neurotransmitters which in turn impact on their cravings. This is why we have so many people write to us telling us about how they have been losing weight after taking Total Balance and our Omega 3's. The natural energy formula and the neurological formulas also all contribute. They say that they have not changed their lifestyle or eating habits and are surprised that they have lost weight.
However, when these cases are examined more closely we invariably find that they have made eating habit changes even though they may be subtle and they are not immediately obvious. They admit that the sticky bun is not so appealing any more and it's not until they really think about it that they realize that they have changed certain aspects of their diets.
So, if you have a weight problem cut back on carbohydrate foods which have obvious high sugar content, avoid processed foods, replace that morning glass of orange juice with a glass of water, eat more unprocessed protein foods and use a quality multinutrient supplement.
Until next time.
In good health.