(April, 2014) Because insulin plays a number of vital roles, poor insulin health can affect us in many ways. Insulin controls blood sugar; it also regulates utilization of nutrients for energy, and affects certain genetic processes. It is particularly important for the regulation of blood fat. Most energy stored in our body is in the form of fat, but blood fat needs to be kept low to keep the blood flowing properly. When energy levels are low, the liver will release fat (triglycerides) into the blood for fuel. After a meal, insulin stops the liver from releasing fat into the blood, but chronically high insulin levels (from a hi-carb diet) promote fatty liver. Eventually the liver becomes insensitive to insulin. Unable to hear the insulin signal, the liver thinks the body is starving, and releases fats and sugars into the blood to feed it. Insulin resistance resembles starvation, despite the excess of energy stored in the body.
When insulin levels rise to compensate for insulin resistance, a number of other problems may result. Elevated insulin leads to high blood pressure, fluid retention and congestive heart failure. Overweight children with high insulin are likely to have high homocysteine levels in the blood, which can raise the risk of heart disease, stroke and birth defects.
Osteoporosis is another problem resulting from insulin resistance. Since insulin is a master hormone, it controls other hormones such as growth hormone, cortisol, testosterone and progesterone. Inulin resistance interferes with maintenance and repair processes, such as bone building, with resulting calcium loss. Unhealthy levels of insulin also increase “cellular proliferation,” which can promote cancer.
Most symptoms of insulin resistance occur following a carbohydrate meal. The common signs and symptoms of insulin resistance are:
- Obesity. Increased fat storage, especially in the tummy. High insulin levels suppress fat burning, so this vast source of energy cannot be used.
- Elevated blood pressure. Most people with hypertension are insulin resistant. As insulin levels rise, so does blood pressure.
- High triglycerides. High-carbohydrate meals are converted to fat, which eventually starts spilling into the bloodstream as insulin resistance progresses.
- Fatigue. Insulin resistance wears people out. Energy is taken in but is not being utilized.
- Cognitive problems. Inability to focus, memory problems, loss of creativity and learning disabilities. The brain requires enormous amounts of sugar, but can also become insulin resistant.
- Hypoglycemia. Insulin spikes can lower blood sugar below normal, which can result in agitation, jitters and moodiness that are relieved with food.
- Bloating. A high-carbohydrate diet produces gas.
- Sleepiness. Especially after a high-carbohydrate meal.
- Depression. Typically accompanied by carbohydrate cravings.
Perhaps you’re putting the picture together. If a person continues to take in energy-rich foods minus the nutrients to help utilize that energy, the whole mess gets stored as fat. Yet that fat cannot be burned for fuel if the person is living on carbs. Resulting high insulin levels keep the liver from releasing fat into the bloodstream and promote more fat build up in a vicious cycle. So, energy stores, in the form of fat, are not available as long as insulin levels remain high and carbohydrates are the main staple. The body acts like it’s starved, despite an abundance of energy stores available.