By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
September 06, 2013
- Insulin may be at the root of those extra pounds
- This vicious cycle locks up your fat cells
- The #1 food to control insulin and decrease body fat
This is the second of a 4-part series on hormones. This series will give you a deep understanding of hormones and how they affect belly fat.
In the last issue, we talked about how your hunger hormones, leptin and ghrelin, can lead to increased belly fat and weight gain.
While you might think these two hormones would be the most important hormones when it comes to weight gain, that’s not the case. There are several hormones involved in the way your body stores fat – especially abdominal fat.
And in this 4-part series you’ll learn exactly how they work and what you can do to control them.
Today I want to talk about insulin, which is basically your “fat” hormone. It also plays a huge role when it comes to today’s diabetes epidemic.
Now I have more than my share of patients with insulin and blood glucose problems. However, many of them don’t quite understand exactly how insulin works. In their minds it’s just a “sugar problem.”
This is a huge concern, especially when you take a look at the national statistics. Almost 26 million people in the U.S. have diabetes. Another 79 million are prediabetic. And it’s estimated about a third of American adults have metabolic syndrome.
But here’s the thing. Excess abdominal fat is a common denominator in all of these conditions.
And when we dig a little deeper you’ll find insulin isn’t just driving the diabetes epidemic. It’s also at the root of all those excess pounds.
Let me explain…
You may not realize it, but insulin regulates the way your cells store fat.
When everything is working normally, high carbohydrate foods get broken down into sugars that are absorbed into the bloodstream. This triggers your pancreas to release insulin, which moves the glucose into your cells where it’s stored for energy.
Later, if you haven’t eaten any more carbohydrates and blood sugar levels get too low, the stored energy in your fat cells is released.
But what happens when things get out of balance?
When you eat a diet high in carbohydrates it leads to chronically high levels of insulin. Chowing down on foods like sodas, sweets, breads, flour and other high glycemic carbs all trigger this constant insulin response.
And that’s where the trouble starts.
When insulin levels stay high for too long, your fat cells become locked up. They just keep getting bigger and bigger. And so does your waistline.
Plus, chronically high levels of insulin cause you to have a fierce appetite. You feel hungrier after you eat than if you had skipped a meal.
And this makes it easy to keep loading up on these foods to reduce your cravings.
In other words, it’s a vicious cycle that continually adds to your fat stores. And until you break the cycle, getting rid of belly fat and excess weight will be nearly impossible.
Even worse, if you don’t gain the upper hand on this excess release of insulin, the beta cells in your pancreas will eventually “burn out.” These beta cells pump out insulin.
And when they quit working properly, your pancreas can’t supply enough insulin to keep your glucose levels under control. The next thing you know you’ll be full-blown diabetic.
When I explain all of this to my patients, most of them have what I call an “ahh-hahh” moment. They suddenly get it, and are ready to embrace a few simple changes to change this dangerous course.
With the right mindset, you can control your insulin levels, lose that annoying belly fat and reduce your risk of diabetes – all at the same time!
To regain control over your insulin levels it’s important to avoid the high glycemic carbohydrates that set off the cascade to begin with.
Instead of eating refined carbohydrates, try non-starchy vegetables, like salad greens, spinach, broccoli, green beans, and asparagus. These kinds of veggies cause minimal rises in blood sugar. In turn, this protects against insulin resistance.
Eating a diet high in fish and omega-3 fatty acids may be one of the best things you can do to improve insulin sensitivity. In fact, getting plenty of omega-3s may be even more effective than the antidiabetic drug metformin. That’s what a new study shows.
In just 12 weeks, omega-3 fatty acids reduced levels of glucose and insulin and significantly decreased body mass index in group of study participants. However none of these effects were seen in the group taking metformin.
If you opt to use a supplement, look for one made from cold-water fish that contains at least 360 mg. of DHA and 540 mg. of EPA.
Protein is also important, because it stimulates the production of glucagon, a hormone that opposes insulin and allows the body to burn stored body fat. Eating small amounts of protein throughout the day helps prevent the urge to overeat carbohydrates.
Research shows replacing your protein source (beef, pork, veal and dairy) with cod for just 4 weeks improves insulin sensitivity and beta cell function. Fish, eggs, poultry, organically grown soy, and whey are all good sources of protein.
It’s also important to get plenty of physical activity. This will help your muscle cells become more sensitive to insulin. In turn, your muscles will use glucose more efficiently for energy.
Juárez-López C, et al. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids reduce insulin resistance and triglycerides in obese children and adolescents. Pediatr Diabetes. 2013 Feb 25. [Epub ahead of print]
Ouellet V, et al. Dietary cod protein improves insulin sensitivity in insulin-resistant men and women: a randomized controlled trial. Diabetes Care. 2007 Nov;30(11):2816-21. Epub 2007 Aug 6.