Insulin



Insulin is an essential hormone, secreted by the Isles of Langerhans in the pancreas, that regulates energy availability in the body, mainly to keep the blood sugar under control. Additionally, it ensures storing enough fuel - glycogen, fat and protein - for use between meals.

When there is enough insulin in the blood, it means that the pancreas released it in response to blood sugar. Sugar is only effective when used for energy, everywhere else it causes all kinds of destruction. Insulin goes to work by stimulating the GLUT4 receptors of the cells to encourage the uptake of sugar into the cells. However, in the fat cells the sugar is metabolized into fat with a by-product of glycerol. The glycerol gets combined with fatty acids to form triglycerides.

To ensure that the sugar gets used up, insulin also increases the action of LPL (lipoprotein lipase) enzymes. LPL pull fatty acids out of the bloodstream and into the  cells, for use as energy in muscle cells and for storage in fat cells. When muscle cells have enough energy and its glycogen stores are full, the number of LPL receptors are reduced. With a continual sugar supply, the muscle cells do not need  fatty acids for energy, resulting that the only active LPL enzymes are on fat cells. 

The enzyme HSL (hormone-sensitive lipase) works inside fat cells releasing fatty acids into the bloodstream to be used for energy. The presence of insulin means there is enough sugar available for energy; thus inhibiting the action of HSL. 

The liver produces glucose from stored glycogen and by burning fatty acids. Insulin signals the liver to stop producing glucose and storing the glucose as glycogen for reserves, and repackage the fatty acids into triglycerides and ship them to the fat tissue for storage. The pancreas releases insulin in the portal vein, so that it passes by the liver first. Injected insulin is distributed throughout the body, delaying or even nullifying the desired reactions from the liver. Reduce the need for injected insulin by reducing glucose, which means eat less carbohydrates.

These actions of insulin continue until the blood sugar levels are suitably reduced, and the body can return to its natural state of using fat for energy. The body is designed to use stored fatty acids for energy between meals. Ingesting carbohydrates before the body processed all the glucose keep insulin levels elevated and fat utilization to a minimum. Consistent high insulin levels eventually cause the muscle cells to be less responsive to the stimulation of insulin (Insulin resistance), resulting in raised blood sugar levels.

Read more on the excellent explanation of the function of insulin by Gary Taubes in Why we get Fat.


For Contemplation

Saying that carbohydrates are the most important fuel for the body is like saying alcohol is the preferred beverage. Alcohol is detrimental to the body. Therefore, the body processes the alcohol as fast as possible. The same goes for glucose, even though it is a great energy source, it is extremely harmful when not applied as energy. Just because the body burns sugar first, does not mean it is preferred or even the best. It is harmful and must be processed as expediently as possible. That is why insulin is such an important hormone.


Less carbohydrates means less insulin needed

Insulin works to increase the fat we store and decrease the fat we burn, making us fatter. As a diabetic, the challenge is to keep the insulin/glucose ratios in balance. Too much insulin and we get fat or suffer from hypoglycemia, not enough insulin and hyperglycemia, with all of its damaging effects, is the result. The best way to keep the balance is to minimize eating carbohydrates. Fewer amounts of glucose will require less insulin, and any mistakes will result in only tiny swings in the balance, with smaller consequences.

You can learn more on how small amounts can only cause tiny mistakes, which are easily corrected from Dr. Bernstein's diabetic solution.


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