Insulin Resistance Insulin Sensitivity

Insulin Resistance Insulin Sensitivity

Guest Blogger Contribution.

As a Type-1 Diabetic and due to the manner in which I learned to manage it, Insulin Resistance became a passionate topic for me as it is a fundamental element of metabolic control. I learned that the lower the insulin resistance, the less insulin I had to inject and the better I felt. However, it wasn’t until two and a half decades later that I discovered that there was actually a technical term for this metabolic relationship; Insulin Resistance.

What is insulin?
Insulin is a hormone that enables the metabolism (“burn rate”) of glucose. Insulin is produced by a portion of the pancreas and is secreted into the blood stream. It is produced in direct response to the level of glucose in the blood stream to regulate a near constant blood-glucose level. As glucose rises, more insulin is produced to burn the glucose into energy, as blood-glucose decreases, less insulin is produced.

What is Glucose?
Glucose is the simple sugar that is biology’s fuel.

What is insulin resistance?
Insulin resistance is an extremely common condition affecting almost every American, however it is rarely diagnosed. Most commonly, when it is diagnosed it is labeled under various other terms, including chronic fatigue syndrome. It is important to understand that insulin resistance is by degree and that everyone has it and that it is continuously variable and that it is lifestyle related and that it is reversible and that it is not genetic or something you catch or something you get and are stuck with. It is something to overcome.

There are two primary lifestyle elements that influence insulin resistance: food and exercise. Insulin resistance is variable in step with each of these, however, it is possible to become insulin sensitive (opposite of insulin resistant) with food alone. The object is to become insulin sensitive. The more insulin sensitive you are, the more energetic, healthy and vibrant you are.

How does it work?
Insulin resistance is when insulin is impeded from enabling metabolism of glucose. Insulin resistance could also be called energy resistance. Insulin resistance causes a delay between insulin production and cell metabolism. As blood-glucose rises, the pancreas increases insulin production in step. With insulin resistance, however, glucose is metabolized too slowly, allowing blood-glucose levels to continue to rise, prompting the pancreas to pump out even more insulin. Eventually, metabolism starts to catch up, but now the insulin level is too high, burning glucose too fast resulting in blood-glucose falling too low. This is called Hypoglycemia. Without insulin resistance; blood-glucose, insulin production and metabolism all respond in sync. With an in-sync metabolism, every part of your body functions at peak efficiency. That is where you feel the best; where you are never “tired” and where you crave physical effort just because it feels so good.

Foods that cause and elevate insulin resistance:

  • Oil – any oil, any amount. There is no such thing as “a little bit”.
  • Animal products – any, including meat, egg, cheese, milk, butter, yogurt, etc…
  • Fat – any fat.
  • Nuts
  • Nut Butters
  • Avocado
  • Coconut
  • Seeds

Foods that elevate insulin sensitivity: 

Important – there are no foods that counteract or reduce the effect of foods that increase insulin resistance. Foods that increase insulin sensitivity only do so in the >absence of foods that increase insulin resistance.

  • Vegetables and Leafy greens, especially Kale, spinach, etc.
  • Beans, Legumes
  • Whole fresh Beets, including steamed, but not pickled, etc.
  • Root vegetables; Carrots, Parsnip, potatoes, beets, etc.
  • Whole grains; Brown Rice, Whole wheat, Whole kernel corn, etc.
  • Squash
  • Fresh fruit

 Foods that may spike blood-sugar if insulin resistance is high: 

Note: sugar, of any type, does not cause or contribute to insulin resistance, however, if insulin resistance is already high, metabolizing sugar will be slow, resulting in blood sugar spikes.

  • Any processed food; anything made with flour, anything out of a box or bag. Note: practically all processed foods are processed with oil. Products with “low fat” on the label are not required to actually be low fat.
  • Sugary drinks
  • Anything with processed sugar
  • White potato (not a problem when insulin sensitive)
  • White rice (not a problem when insulin sensitive)
  • Dried fruit (not a problem when insulin sensitive)

Things other than food that reduces insulin resistance:

• Aerobic exercise

Management Notes:

The object is to keep insulin resistance as low and insulin sensitivity has high as possible. The lower the resistance the more efficient your metabolism, the more energy you have, the healthier you are and the better you feel.

Keep total fat calories of every food item below 10%. Example: a 100 calorie food item should have less than 10 calories of fat. Fats are essential nutrients, however, no worries about too little fat. All fats are extremely concentrated. Except for starving to death, you simply cannot be fat deficient.

Keep total protein calories of any food item below 10%. Example: a 100 calorie food item should have less than 10 calories of protein. Proteins are essential nutrients, however just like fat, no worries about getting too little. (Note: the wide spread belief that protein is such a vital nutrient and that “the more the better” began several decades ago from a beef and dairy industry advertising campaign.) Click here for more information on protein.

Animal sourced protein causes insulin resistance by a different mechanism from fat. Instead of directly inhibiting insulin, it inhibits your efficiency by damaging the endothelium cell lining of the blood vessels, reducing nutrient and oxygen transfer. It also disrupts the immune system resulting in inflammation and autoimmune conditions among a long list of other issues. More information from Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn .

Initially, all this sounds very limiting – having to give up many or most of your beloved foods - but it is not. Not even a little bit. Here is what I learned about giving up damaging foods.

For more information about the popular medical analysis of insulin resistance, please see my blog post: Glycemic Index and Attention Span.

Maximizing insulin sensitivity by keeping total fat, of everything eaten below 10% and elimination of animal sourced products will give you a lifetime of liberating energy and feel-good. Among countless others, this is what happened to Ruth Heidrich. Her image, below, illustrates what insulin sensitivity feels like at 80 years of age:
Ruth Heidrich Ironman

What I Eat

Other Favorites

More favorites

Cookbooks for Insulin Resistance Reduction:
While not evident by the titles, these two cookbooks are perfect for reducing and maintaining low insulin resistance. I mean seriously… these are gotta have cookbooks!!
Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook
Happy Herbivore Light & Lean Cookbook

Recommended Media for Insulin Resistance Reduction:
Jeff Novick’s DVD’s
Chef A.J.
Dr. Carney

Handy website for fat calories data:http://nutritiondata.self.com/.
1 SelfNutritionData enter food item select results
2 NutritionData Select category
3 SelfNutritionData select measure
4 SelfNutritionData details

Disclaimer: Please understand that this writing is not medical advice and 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.

DrCarney.com allows Member Blogs. Opinions in Member Blogs are views of the Member Blogger and not necessarily of Dr. Carney. Registered Users may request a FREE upgrade for blogging permission. Bloggers agree to support Dr. Carney's Starch-Smart-System.

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Comments (4)

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  1. Wes

Thank you for this post Ken, it is so informative! Seems that you were really ahead of your time coming to these findings before insulin resistance was even in the vocabulary of most Dr's. I've switched over to a LFWFPB diet very similar to yours (most days avg. 5% fat) in an effort to reverse insulin resistance brought on by a year and a half of a very low carb high fat diet as prescribed by a naturopath (ugh). I've found it a struggle to get in more than 1400 calories though and am suffering from really bad fatigue. I'm a lean 6'2 male and just can't seem to eat enough for my body. Getting about 500-700 calories from fruit, 500-700 from starch and 300 or so from veggies. Curious if you have eat around the recommended calories for your height/weight. I so want to feel this blissful energy of insulin sensitivity! Thank you for all of your excellent articles!

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  1. Ken Thomas

Hi Wes,

Thanks for the kind words!
Wow! 1400 calories per day? I am a small person; 5'4", 120 lbs. and I eat more than 1400 calories per day. I no longer count calories and I have found that the higher my insulin sensitivity is, the less calories I need. It's an efficiency thing. Still, I think 1400 calories is way too low.
It is true that the calorie density of a LFWFPB is far less than what's on the western diet. This only means that you have to increase the portion sizes and / or frequency of eating. I no longer pay attention to "serving size" labels. I consider a serving of cantaloupe is a cantaloupe (the whole cantaloupe), not just a slice or two. A serving of baked potatoes is typically one and a half or two giant Russets or a plate full of smaller, fist size, potatoes. My lunch is typically 2-1/2 heaping cups of brown rice, a large naval orange plus a bunch of grapes and a banana or two. I guess you get the idea. Even with larger meals, I do find it easier to eat more meals per day. It is not uncommon for me to have ten "snack" meals per day. Snacks, being air fried potato wedges, fruits, rice, etc.

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  1. Denise Rose

Ken, can you elaborate on this point: "Animal sourced protein causes insulin resistance by a different mechanism from fat. Instead of directly inhibiting insulin, it inhibits your efficiency by damaging the endothelium cell lining of the blood vessels, reducing nutrient and oxygen transfer."

I understand the issues of injured endothelium for heart disease & leaky gut, but not for insulin resistance. I understand if the endothelium can't make nitric oxide that impairs the blood vessel by making it stiff and blood flow isn't as easy, resulting in less oxygen going to cells, but I don't yet understand how this interferes with glucose being guided into the muscle cells through the insulin receptors.

Loved seeing examples of your food. So simple, yet so healthy. It really does feel like a miracle. The miracle of plants!

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  1. Ken Thomas



Denise Rose 19 hours ago

Ken, can you elaborate on this point: "Animal sourced protein causes insulin resistance by a different mechanism from fat. Instead of directly inhibiting insulin, it inhibits your efficiency by damaging the endothelium cell lining of the blood vessels, reducing nutrient and oxygen transfer."


Hi Denise,
That statement is actually a bit over broad for the context of the sentence. The issue actually goes far beyond the endothelium cells; basically, the whole body. Cell biology is actually quite complex with many interconnected elements. Insulin resistance is not solely limited to the insulin receptors and passing glucose into the cell is not the end of the line. Once glucose enters the cell, something has to be done with it. It must be metabolized (dissipated as energy). For that, the cell must be healthy in more ways than just insulin receptors. There are many elements within the cell that is responsible for that. One of which is the mitochondria. If there is an issue with the mitochondria or any of its support mechanisms, then it can't metabolize the glucose (or enough of it), so the end result is the same as fat induced insulin resistance, but...



Denise Rose 19 hours ago

Ken, can you elaborate on this point: "Animal sourced protein causes insulin resistance by a different mechanism from fat. Instead of directly inhibiting insulin, it inhibits your efficiency by damaging the endothelium cell lining of the blood vessels, reducing nutrient and oxygen transfer."


Hi Denise,
That statement is actually a bit over broad for the context of the sentence. The issue actually goes far beyond the endothelium cells; basically, the whole body. Cell biology is actually quite complex with many interconnected elements. Insulin resistance is not solely limited to the insulin receptors and passing glucose into the cell is not the end of the line. Once glucose enters the cell, something has to be done with it. It must be metabolized (dissipated as energy). For that, the cell must be healthy in more ways than just insulin receptors. There are many elements within the cell that is responsible for that. One of which is the mitochondria. If there is an issue with the mitochondria or any of its support mechanisms, then it can't metabolize the glucose (or enough of it), so the end result is the same as fat induced insulin resistance, but the real issue in that case is cell health or cell damage.
Inflammation is a very damaging process - often exaggerating the damage being inflicted by the offending agent. Importing cells from another animal is considered a hostile invader by the immune system prompting a rush to attack it. In the process, there is collateral damage - the cells we wish to keep. As you know, this process spreads inflammation throughout the body; some of which we are aware of such as arthritis and pimples and some we are not, such as coronary artery disease. There are also conditions that mimic insulin resistance, but is not actually related. Any sort of illness; viral, bacterial and even inflammation regardless of source prompts the liver and muscles to excrete glycogen into the blood stream. This is to be countered with an increase of insulin to increase metabolism for energy to fight the illness. This process, when taken to extreme results in fever as the body is burning fuel at an overwhelming rate in the effort. This appears as insulin resistance because of the very large insulin requirements for that level of energy production, but it isn't really insulin resistance. For me, fat induced insulin resistance is obvious when insulin requirements elevate, insulin/glucose control slide out of sync, onsets in 12-24 hours and lasts for 30 days. Conditions like illness requires huge doses of insulin, but it is still in sync and subsides as quickly as the illness, often abruptly.
I hope this helps!

Ken

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