In Part 1 of the Avoiding Disease series we covered metabolism and insulin. Insulin is a growth and storage hormone released in response to blood sugar levels increasing. It allows the uptake of glucose for energy in skeletal muscle and major organs, synthesises glucose and fat, prevents the breakdown of glycogen and fat cells, and enhances protein synthesis. Insulin is therefore an essential hormone.
As is often the case with the human body, insulin was first learnt about through diseases that resulted in it abnormal activity. The hallmark pathology of insulin is the family of diseases known as diabetes mellitus, most commonly referred to as type 1 and type 2 diabetes. In type 1 the body doesn’t produce enough or any insulin, whereas in type 2, insulin levels are normal but the body is resistant to it’s effects.
While the insulin and diabetes relationship is well known, not much else about insulin and health is ever published. Not so much because science and the medical profession doesn’t know, but because it’s likely withheld and suppressed.
Way back in 1989, Dr. Norman Kaplan published a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine about the deadly quartet – upper body obesity, glucose intolerance, hypertriglyceridemia and hypertension – and its relation to hyperinsulinemia (chronically elevated levels of insulin). The study proved that hyperinsulinemia was in fact the root cause of these conditions.
If you are normally tolerant to increases in blood glucose, your blood glucose will rise immediately after a CHO dense meal but it rapidly decreases following insulin secretion. If you are glucose intolerant your blood glucose levels remain high even if sufficient insulin is present (synonymous with type 2 diabetes). This is a result of hyperinsulinemia.
Upper Body Obesity
This one should be pretty straightforward. It’s the accumulation of excess body fat, such that it negates health. Again, a result of hyperinsulinemia.
Triglycerides are the main constituent of body fat found in the blood. Put simply, it’s broken down fat being transported by the blood for energy. “Hyper” refers to levels being to high.
As with the above three markers, blood pressure has a health range. When your blood pressure is chronically above the healthy range, you have hypertension.
All of these markers are the result of hyperinsulinemia. That is, hyperinsulinemia is the cause. And what causes insulin to increase? The ingestion of carbohydrates. Therefore, hyperinsulinemia is a result of the habitual and excess consumption of carbohydrates, especially CHO with a high glycemic index (GI), and CHO ingestion in the absence of protein and fat.
To digress, the GI is a measure of a CHO’s propensity to raise blood glucose, and therefore insulin, levels. Some high GI CHO have an essential place in the diet of people who are exercising regularly, when consumed at the correct time (refer to Part 1 in this series). Refined and processed CHO and sugars are of the highest GI.
Back to topic. Excess and habitual consumption of high GI CHO causes hyperinsulinemia. Hyperinsulinemia causes obesity, glucose intolerance, hypertriglyceridemia and hypertension – the deadly quartet. The deadly quartet, either alone or together, are direct causes of atherogenesis and coronary heart disease.
Now the old school clinical view, which is unfortunately still the conventional view by many, is that first you get obese, then your cholesterol increases, which then causes hypertension, ultimately leaving you diabetic with high levels of insulin. It’s a massively flawed approach, and one that’s probably used to make you feel better about yourself. But no, you aren’t getting sick because you’re fat. You’re getting sick because you have a shitty diet, a diet with an excess of high GI CHO. No, dietary fat is not making you fat. Habitual and excess consumption of high GI CHO is.
Before you ask, genetics have nothing to do with this. If there are any physicians out there using genetics as causality, we call your bullshit. Some people, however, do have a genetic predisposition to eating poorly. That refers to how you were brought up, and can be likened to the predisposition to substance abuse – even if you did have the gene for substance abuse, you’d need to consume those substances in order to express that gene.
So how do you avoid hyperinsulinemia, and therefore disease? Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat. In Part 3 we’ll talk about how to control intake levels, but to end, body composition says little about your markers of heart disease.