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12 Days of Fitness: Day 10 – Insulin and Insulin Resistance

December 20, 2018 0 Comments

(This is part 10 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

Question. Can you name a hormone other than thyroid that warrants a lot of attention. Give up? How about insulin? You’ve heard of it before but do you really understand it’s role, how it works, and it’s significance? If you do you’re probably one of the few but the number is growing of Americans who are impacted by insulin everyday. And if you haven’t best pay attention as you will want to know.

The Importance of Insulin

Insulin is an important hormone that controls many processes in the body. It is a hormone secreted by an organ called the pancreas. Its main role is to regulate the amount of nutrients circulating in the bloodstream. Although insulin is mostly implicated in blood sugar management, it also affects fat and protein metabolism. When we eat a meal that contains carbohydrates the amount of blood sugar in the bloodstream increases. This is sensed by the cells in the pancreas, which then release insulin into the blood. Then insulin travels around the bloodstream, telling the body’s cells that they should pick up sugar from the blood. This leads to reduced amounts of sugar in the blood, and puts it where it is intended to go, into the cells for use or storage. This is important, because high amounts of sugar in the blood can have toxic effects, causing severe harm and potentially leading to death if untreated. Problems with this hormone are at the heart of many modern health conditions.

The Issue With Insulin Resistance

Sometimes our cells stop responding to insulin like they are supposed to. This condition is termed insulin resistance, and is incredibly and unfortunately common. When this happens, the pancreas starts producing even more insulin to bring the blood sugar levels down. This leads to high insulin levels in the blood, called hyperinsulinemia. This may continue to develop for a long time. The cells become increasingly more insulin resistant, and both insulin and blood sugar levels go up. Eventually, the pancreas may not be able to keep up anymore and the cells in the pancreas may become damaged. This leads to decreased insulin production, so now there are low amounts of insulin and cells that don’t respond to the little insulin that is available. This can lead to skyrocketing blood sugar levels. When blood sugar levels exceed a certain threshold, a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes is made. The good news is that insulin resistance can be dramatically improved with simple lifestyle measures.

What Causes Insulin Resistance?

There are many potential causes and contributors to insulin resistance. Some of those found in the research include:

  • Increased amount of fats in the blood (circulating trigylcerides).
  • Having increased visceral fat, the dangerous belly fat that builds up around the organs
  • A high intake of fructose (from added sugar, not fruit)
  • Increased oxidative stress and inflammation in the body
  • Physical inactivity
  • Bacterial environment in the gut can cause inflammation that exacerbates insulin resistance
  • Overeating and increased body fat, especially in the belly area.

The Good News

The good thing about insulin resistance is that it is very easy to influence it. In fact, you can often completely reverse insulin resistance by changing your lifestyle. Here are several evidence-based ways to reduce insulin resistance:

  • Exercise
  • Lose belly fat
  • Stop smoking
  • Reduce your intake of added sugars, especially from sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • Eating a healthy diet based mostly on whole, unprocessed foods.
  • Improving quality of sleep
  • Manage your stress levels

Insulin resistance may be one of the key drivers of many (if not most) of today’s chronic diseases, which are collectively killing millions of people every year. The good news is that it can be significantly improved with simple lifestyle measures, such as losing fat, eating healthy food and exercising. Preventing insulin resistance may be among the single most powerful things you can do to live a longer, healthier and happier life.

See you tomorrow for Day 11 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

 

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

 

Day #1 – Weight Loss Once and For All
Day #2 – 10 Pieces of Equipment Everyone Needs to Work Out at Home
Day #3 – Are You Afraid of Eating Fruit?
Day #4 – Healthy Foods?
Day #5 – 21 Ways to Combat Emotional Eating
Day #6 – 8 Reasons Why Your Workout is Failing You
Day #7 – The Problem With Added Sugars
Day #8Dieting Made Simple
Day #9 – The Best Exercise You’re Probably Not Doing

About the Author:

Jeff Harrison is a fitness coach based in Pottstown, PA. He received a BS in Exercise and Sport Science from Penn State University and is an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), NSCA Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA-CPT) and ACE Advanced Health and Fitness Specialist (ACE-AHFS). Jeff's articles have been published in peer-reviewed journals as well as consumer oriented websites and magazines.

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