The Metabolic Problems of Processed Food 4 Insulin Resistance

July 11, 2021

Metabolic Problems of Processed Food #4: Insulin Resistance

Adult-onset diabetes is high blood glucose AND HIGH insulin. That's right. High insulin because the core defect in the cell on the path to diabetes is resistance to insulin. That means it takes a higher level of insulin to push glucose into the cell. Insulin is there, it's just that the cellular receptors are acting like it isn't.

Cardinal to this resistance is fatty liver, bigger tummy fat, usually high CRP and other markers of inflammation, higher levels of endotoxin. We can measure those things and see them. If your doctor will measure it for you, you want a level of insulin below 5. That's the level someone is at when they are optimally sensitive and their cells are open to its effects. Now, the "normal" range of insulin in many labs is listed as 2.5 to 25. That is because the lab collects 1,000 samples, discards the top 5% and bottom 5%, and calls everything in between "normal". It's not normal. It's what the population of Wisconsin has. Calling it normal suggests the population is normal. We know it's not. We do know that fully 50% of Americans have fatty liver and metabolic syndrome. They aren't normal. They have insulin resistance. "Healthy" insulin is below 5, when your glucose level is below 85, and your A1c is below 5.5. That is what you want to be.

What's going on that makes you insulin resistant? It's actually so complex and so multifactorial that there is intense debate as to the full cause. Fructose, added to 68% of American foods, might be the central lead actor. When you eat any fructose, you have no inhibitory controlling enzymes that limit how fast it floods into your liver. That might be the key tipping point. But not the only one! We do know that there are multiple inhibitory proteins that make you more insulin resistant. PC-1 is a prime candidate. We also know that fatty liver is clearly a player. Just look at what a fatty liver looks like under an electron microscope. If your liver cell is chock full of fatty globules, the fatty globules basically fill up the cell with "dead space" around which the cell has to signal to itself and manufacture the proteins it is tasked with making and digest the food it is tasked with digesting. That's a hard one to prove, but that's where multiple authors appear to be heading in their attempts at proof.

And the same hypothesis would work with your fat cell. As you put on weight, you don't make more fat cells. The ones you have just get bigger. Again, their central space is filled with one, huge, obstructing globule of fat.

There are dozens of inflammatory modulators, molecular signals, chemokines and hormones all of which have impacts, but the action can be best understood with the following explanation. Your fat cells are responsive to insulin when they are small and have only a tiny amount of intracellular fat. As you get fatter, your fat cells become larger and less responsive. You need more insulin. Bigger cells, higher insulin. Again, bigger fat cells, even higher insulin until finally, you can't get your fat cells to respond, even with the insulin level of 45...55....65?. And 45 isn't sustainable. Your pancreas acts as though it only has a fixed amount of insulin to produce and secrete in a lifetime. If you burn up your supply, you eventually are calling for your pancreas to make 50 units, and it can only make 45. Your blood glucose rises to 140. But your pancreas is pooping out. It can only then make 40. Your blood glucose rises to 170. You can then only make 30. Your glucose is 200. ...and on and on. Your doctor can always prescribe insulin shots, and give you a zillion units of insulin. We can finally whip those poor, beleaguered fat cells into submission. But what we can't fix is the damage caused by that high insulin, which is inevitable kidney damage and frontal lobe brain damage.

How does processed food make all that happen? Easy. It's front and center. Refined grains and sugars, the epitome of processing, deliver calories to your liver so fast, it just plain can't keep up. Fructose is the arch-enemy in that regard, as it rushes into your liver with no controls at all. You begin to get fatty liver with one good sugared soda. Processed food is the delivery method of choice to create insulin resistance because it comes with lots of little microtoxins that add to the mix: trans fats, pesticide residues, artificial sweeteners, and just too many calories, too fast.  Too many calories, too fast.  No fiber to modulate your immune response in your gut.  That whole field of medicine is just awakening but Lustig puts it front and center with his motto: "Protect the liver, feed the gut."

How do you fix it? Opposite of processed foods. Whole foods, plain and simple. Fasting for 18 hours a day and compressing your calories draws down on all the stored fats in your liver. Losing weight by fasting, whole foods, avoiding white carbs and sugar, sugar, sugar is the only real cure. Read labels. If added sugar is on the label, you can't have it. You can prove it to yourself by getting a ketone meter and measuring your blood glucose and ketones while you do a 5 days fast mimicking diet (800 calories of vegetables only, 50% fat, very low protein). Your glucose will drop to the 70-80 range. Just 5 days will do it. Keep up the 800 calories and your weight will come off you.

www.What Will Work for me. I do a 5-day fast-mimicking diet every month. I've been doing it for 3 years now and it doesn't feel so hard anymore. I measure my glucose and ketones each time. My insulin, which normally runs 7-10 (not quite what I want it to be, but below the average for men of 14) will drop to 2 on day 5. Last month my glucose hit 59 and my ketones got to 5.1 on day 5. A personal record. I have the genes within me to be insulin resistant and diabetic if I would succumb to ice cream, cookies, and bagels. It's harder to eat whole foods. But that's the journey I'm on. Join me. It's the only means of beating insulin resistance.

References: Metabolical by Lustig, Nature, Diabetes, WebMD, Nutrients, NYT,

Pop Quiz

1. Adult-onset diabetes has very low insulin levels. T or F. Answer: Trick question. In the beginning, very high. Anything over 15 is the sine qua non for Type II diabetes. But as your pancreas burns out, it starts to fall. Eventually, it burns out completely in some folks and they become essentially insulin-dependent.

2. What food group has no effect on insulin? Answer; Fats. Again, a trick question because we didn't go over it in the column above. But that means you can eat fats and not bump your insulin.

3. The only food that stimulates insulin is sugar. T or F. Answer: False. Any form of white carbohydrate, processed so that it is digested rapidly, will boost blood glucose and thereby insulin. But more unknown is that large amounts of animal protein also are potent stimulants to insulin release. The simplest form of "processing" that causes trouble is grinding up grains to first remove their fiber coat that slows down digestion, but then to pulverize them into talcum powder dust that allows them to be digested and converted to pure glucose very quickly. Think whole grains of oats turned into little small circles, stars or animals and coated with sugar.

4. Where do green vegetables come in in regard to insulin? Answer: Aha! Another trick question. The bacteria in your gut digest their cell walls and make beta-hydroxybutyrate, a short-chain fatty acid from green vegetables. BHB is all the craze right now. It's the ketone you measure in your blood. You don't touch insulin when you have BHB on board as a supplement. So green vegetables don't turn on insulin and allow BHB to stay around - meaning your fat cells and all the calories in them are available for use.

5. What is the single worst food you can eat that makes you develop insulin resistance the fastest? Answer: fructose in liquid form.