What is insulin resistance?
70 % of Americans are genetically prone to insulin resistance! A benefit to our ancestors in an environment of scarcity of food and little if any sugar, it is a curse in an environment of plenty, especially processed highly glycemic food.
Our genes have not changed fast enough to adapt to a toxic diet of processed foods designed to make us crave more processed food. Google “bliss point” to understand how our food supply is being manipulated to our detriment.
The cells of the muscles, fat , and liver become insensitive to insulin causing the body to produce higher insulin levels to compensate. Eventually insulin production fails and blood sugar levels begin to elevate. We then declare: Diabetes!
But, before rising glucose levels are detected, insulin resistance and high insulin levels create inflammation that causes arterial damage. We call this damage atherosclerosis and it leads to heart attack, stroke, dementia and death. And it is enabled by a form of "tolerance" to the toxic effects of sugar and insulin, causing us to crave more sugar, driving our insulin levels higher.
This graph illustrates the relationship between insulin resistance, rising insulin levels and blood glucose levels associated with the progression from prediabetes to Type 2 Diabetes.
What are some of the indicators of insulin resistance?
Insulin resistance produces a large waistline, high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol (Metabolic syndrome), heart attack or stroke, gestational diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome, erectile dysfunction, ananthosis nigricans, and periodontal disease for starters.
How do we identify insulin resistance?
The best traditional method is a two hour oral glucose tolerance test. Blood is drawn before and after drinking a sugary liquid to see how your body responds to the glucose. Certain high cutoffs define diabetes and prediabetes. But truly normal glucose levels should be below 125 at 1 hour and 120 at 2 hours.
We perform body composition analysis on all our patients. Elevated visceral fat can be detected in a few minutes, revealing some of the earliest evidence of insulin resistance. The information from this device is a game changer. We use Measurement to Motivate and Maintain Momentum for change. A different kind of M&M's!
You should know about insulin resistance as early as possible, when a low glycemic diet and exercise can prevent the complications of insulin resistance.
How do we address insulin resistance?
First, cut out sugar from your diet. Excess sugar in your daily diet is stored as fat, exacerbating insulin resistance. Avoid sugar, bread, pasta, rice and processed foods. Avoid artificial sweeteners; they raise insulin levels even in the absence of calories and they perpetuate cravings for sweets.
Eat vegetables, protein and good fat. Get your carbohydrates from vegetables.
Exercise, preferably high intensity interval training. Build muscle with resistance training.
Get off the Carbs and off the Couch!!
Consider Time Restricted Feeding or fasting. We see the best results in those who restrict their good food intake to an 8 hour window each day, drinking only water or unsweetened beverages (preferably water) for the other 16 hours. For more information about this approach we recommend Youtube videos by Jason Fung and his books “The Obesity Code” and “The Diabetes Code.”
Get enough sleep each night. Find ways to relieve stress to reduce cortisol levels that raise glucose and insulin.
Finally, commit to being measured for your results every 2-6 weeks. Being accountable is key, and seeing results perpetuates the process. We call it the M&M’s: Measure to Motivate and Maintain Momentum
Supplements and Medications for Insulin Resistance and Stubborn Visceral Fat
Sometimes insulin resistance is so severe that a low carbohydrate diet and exercise do not achieve the reduction in fat that one might expect. This can be due to an incomplete commitment to carbohydrate restriction and insufficient patience. Once again, we cannot out prescribe a bad diet. But sometimes a little help is needed.
The highest reported visceral fat measurement on our InBody is 20. This can actually represent a plateau which may be reflecting visceral fat burdens much higher. Therefore, perseverance and focus on body fat mass reduction is the key to maintaining motivation and momentum until that number drops below 20.
Insulin resistance and high insulin levels are a vicious cycle. Rising insulin levels cause ingested glucose to be stored as fat, worsening insulin resistance and leading to rising insulin levels.
Medications used to treat insulin resistance include pioglitazone and rosiglitazone. Used in established diabetes, their side effects have limited their use. But prescribed “off label” to patients with prediabetes, they are well tolerated and are associated with benefits, including improved arterial disease related outcomes. The weight gain reported with these medications is mostly due to salt and water retention and is rare in prediabetics with healthy hearts.
Effective supplements include cinnamon, chromium, vanadyl, alpha lipoic acid and biotin. All support noninsulin dependent pathways for glucose to enter the cell. This creates less signaling for higher insulin levels and less glucose stored as fat. This would, in theory at least, make fat reduction more likely for any given level of glucose intake reduction.
Therefore, for those who are struggling to see any decline in their fat, including visceral fat, we can offer these supplements and sometimes medication. One that we stock in our office, Diaxinol, contains all these supplement ingredients.
Eventually, these supplements may not be needed. But they can provide a kickstart for difficult cases.