Does Insulin Make You Fat?

Does Insulin Make You Fat?

Guest Blogger Contribution.

Have you heard the one where the question is asked, "Do these clothes make me look fat?" And the reply is; "No... the fat makes you look fat."

It is often promoted, by many doctors, nutritionists and other professionals that insulin is responsible for loading fat into our cells. For the past 29 years, as a Type-1 diabetic, I have enjoyed a very intimate relationship with insulin. After living a study of insulin for nearly three decades, I have become rather fond of it. With that, I feel compelled to come to its defense.

It is true that blood-insulin levels are always elevated when gaining weight. It is also true that insulin enables the energy used for storing fat. Even with these facts, I don't think it is fair to blame insulin as the villain. That would be like blaming firemen for fires because every time you see a building on fire, it is surrounded by firemen.

Everything our cells do requires energy and that energy is enabled by insulin. The amount of insulin required for any given energy is determined by the metabolic efficiency. High efficiency is synonymous with Insulin Sensitive (more energy with less insulin). Low efficiency is Insulin Resistance (more insulin, less energy). One of the top contributors to insulin resistance is fat. The more fat that is consumed, the higher the insulin resistance, thus the more insulin that is required, thus the more insulin that is produced. Likewise, less fat consumed means less insulin resistance, thus less insulin is needed and produced.

So, yes, while insulin does enable the energy to store fat; the fat must be provided (eaten) before it can be stored.

Please understand that I am not a medical professional in any capacity. This writing is only to share my experience and what I have learned from it.

Nothing in life is more inhibiting, failing or debilitating than the belief; "I Can't."
Nothing in life is more freeing, enabling or successful than the belief; "I Can."

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  1. Chris Dove

If consuming too much refined carbohydrate causes an overload of insulin that ultimately drives the glucose level too low which causes the body to release fat, where is that fat coming from if one is eating less than 10% caloric fat? Wouldn't the body just release glucose from the glycogen stores? I often wondered this.

Thanks!

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  1. Ken Thomas

Chris,
Excellent question! Actually, that is the subject of a blog that I am currently working on. But, to answer your question now; if everything eaten never exceeds 10% caloric fat, then insulin resistance would be so low that it would be nearly impossible to experience an insulin overload. That is; the insulin action efficiency would be so high that relatively little insulin would be required to deal with an elevated refined carbohydrate intake. Low blood-glucose or hypoglycemia is due to an insulin response lag - due to insulin resistance. I call this "Insulin Sync", which is the title of my currently in-work blog.
The other part of your question is yes. When in a state of hypoglycemia, glycogen is released by the liver and muscles, but the body considers that an emergency action (that should never happen), so it doesn't fill in as quickly as one might like.
Note: I don't mean to say that refined carbohydrates are a non-issue! I just mean that it need never result in an insulin overload or hypoglycemia.

Hope that helps!

Ken

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  1. Chris Dove    Ken Thomas

Yes, answered my question beautifully. Always look forward to your posts!

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  1. Sean Carney

Very Interesting Ken. And, Thanks Chris for asking such interesting questions.

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  1. Amy Johnson

Then what about the stored fat ALREADY in the body (in a Type 2, for example)? Even if a Type 2 eats a super low-fat whole foods plant-based diet, they still need to get that body fat off to reduce insulin resistance. That is my understanding.

I am a 52 year-old T2 and have lost quite a bit of weight (50-ish pounds with some more to lose). I eat 10-15% from WHOLE plant fats. I still have insulin resistance to a degree, though I am off all medications and managing my condition through food and exercise.

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  1. Ken Thomas

Hi Amy,

Congratulation! You are already on your way. Yes, your understanding is correct, but no worries. Losing weight is somewhat like charging a battery; the first 50% of charge goes quite quickly, but as the battery fills, the charge rate decreases. This is just a matter of physics and biology is no different. Mathematically, it is a percentage thing. As your body fat percentage reduces, the percentage of loss decreases as the body fat to body mass percentage decreases. But, don't worry, it is still going. Note: some cardio exercise helps speed it up. And, by that same percentage thing, the more cardio you do, the easier it gets. It's all a progression.

About that 10-15%: In my experience, 10% fat is the knee in the curve. It's my upper limit. 10% is where insulin resistance starts an upward bend in the curve. The lower you can get below 10% the lower the insulin resistance, but 10% is where the rapid climb starts. I do best in the 5-6% range. I have also found that because fat's chemical composition is storage, eating any item with a high fat content, like nuts, avocado, etc., gets stored, thus added to the next high fat item - even if the total daily...

Hi Amy,

Congratulation! You are already on your way. Yes, your understanding is correct, but no worries. Losing weight is somewhat like charging a battery; the first 50% of charge goes quite quickly, but as the battery fills, the charge rate decreases. This is just a matter of physics and biology is no different. Mathematically, it is a percentage thing. As your body fat percentage reduces, the percentage of loss decreases as the body fat to body mass percentage decreases. But, don't worry, it is still going. Note: some cardio exercise helps speed it up. And, by that same percentage thing, the more cardio you do, the easier it gets. It's all a progression.

About that 10-15%: In my experience, 10% fat is the knee in the curve. It's my upper limit. 10% is where insulin resistance starts an upward bend in the curve. The lower you can get below 10% the lower the insulin resistance, but 10% is where the rapid climb starts. I do best in the 5-6% range. I have also found that because fat's chemical composition is storage, eating any item with a high fat content, like nuts, avocado, etc., gets stored, thus added to the next high fat item - even if the total daily percentage is less than 10%. It does eventually get burned, but at a much slower rate (about 30 days for me) than carbohydrates.

Hope that helps!

Ken

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