Tag Archives: insulin

Understanding Diabetes

Diabetes, medically known as diabetes mellitus, refers to a group of conditions that affect how your body uses blood sugar (glucose). Glucose is vital to your health because it’s an important source of energy for the cells that make up your muscles and tissues. It’s also your brain’s main source of fuel. The underlying cause of diabetes varies by type. But, no matter what type of diabetes you have, it can lead to excess sugar in your blood. Too much sugar in your blood can lead to serious health problems. So what are the types of diabetes and why is it important to avoid, if possible, this metabolic disease?

Types of Diabetes

There are four classifications of diabetes: Type 1 (juvenile diabetes); Type 2 (formerly known as adult onset diabetes – more on that later; Prediabetes (an attempt by the drug companies to push more medication); Gestational (occurs during pregnancy). Of the four, gestational diabetes of course only affects women and is generally resolved after the baby is delivered. Those with Type 1 diabetes are born with the condition, usually genetic, and do not make enough or too little insulin, the hormone that regulates blood glucose. For the rest of their lives, they are subjected to regular injections of insulin. As previously mentioned, Type 2 diabetes, formerly referred to as adult onset diabetes, is rampantly affecting a much younger population. Where Type 1 diabetes can be classified as a genetic, possibly susceptibility disease, Type 2 is classified as a lifestyle, environmental disease. (I.e. it can be avoided). Prediabetes, introduced first by the ADA (American Diabetics Association), is a fabricated state if you will, determining whether someone has a high susceptibility to becoming Type 2 diabetic. If the blood sugar concentration is between 100-125 mg/Dl (normal is considered 70-99 mg/Dl), they are classified as pre-diabetic. When you examine the proximity of the normal versus prediabetic ranges, about 85% of the population could be classified as prediabetic! A prediabetic diagnosis is a yellow flag that changes need to be made, which should not include medication which is generally prescribed.

The Best Treatment

Unfortunately for the Type 1 diabetic, there is no treatment, only management. Drugs are sometimes prescribed as a precaution to keep the patient from developing Type 2 diabetes. But the same non-drug treatments that a Type 1 diabetic should follow is the same prescription for the Type 2 diabetic – plenty of exercise, moderation of the diet, and monitoring of their weight. Someone diagnosed as being prediabetic is a wake up call to “get your ass” moving. Most will claim to exercise but believe me, it’s not enough. They’ve reached the point where exercise has to become something they do daily, not just here or there or when they feel like it. Exercise comes down to one simple function: muscles move, they require glucose. If high blood sugar levels are detected, movement is a simple, pain free, drug free method of keeping it in check. Monitoring the diet goes without saying. Ingesting a bunch of simple sugar is not a good idea and it’s what has caused the great fear of sugar. Sugar is not bad or evil. Added sugar is and it’s everywhere. Eating fruit isn’t an issue as when you eat fruit you’re also eating the fiber with the fruit. Strip it down to just fruit juice and we’ve got a problem. Extra weight, which is one of the top precursors to developing Type 2 diabetes, should and can be controlled by doing the other two. With extra weight comes an increased resistance to insulin. Overtime, it progresses to the point where insulin no longer works. So, what’s the inherent dangers of becoming diabetic?

The Dangers of Diabetes

Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death. Bad news is that it’s on the rise because an increasingly growing number of individuals do not take good enough care of themselves. But just in case you needed the motivation, following are increased risks of a diabetic diagnosis:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Nerve damage (neuropathy)
  • Kidney damage (nephropathy)
  • Eye damage (retinopathy)
  • Foot damage
  • Skin disorders
  • Hearing impairment
  • Depression
  • Alzheimer’s disease

If you’re not a Type 1 diabetic, the good news is that you have a 100% chance of changing it all for the better. If your doctor tells you your blood sugar is higher than he or she is comfortable with, let them know that that’s the last time you’ll ever hear them say that to you again.

 

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

 

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

(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

Your Nutrition Isn’t That Bad

healthy-familyBefore you read too much into the title of this article, let me first explain I haven’t the faintest clue about how or what you eat but like the recent headlines, apparently neither do they. Nutrition has taken a beating this week in the news: processed meat causes cancer; sugar is toxic. The endless cycle repeats of what’s good to eat, what to avoid eating, and what to eat more of as the media spreads more propaganda based on shoddy research and ratings grabbing attention. While I whole heartedly agree that processed meats aren’t the best choice nor is copious amounts of sugar, it is more than apparent that we have a calorie surplus issue. But the problem isn’t that we’re unaware of the issue. The real problem is that we’ve just become so diluted in our knowledge of separating nutritional fact versus nutritional fiction that we just don’t have a clue about what are we supposed to eat. The result: too many experts; too much information; too many blind followers; too many faux products; no solution to a worsening problem.

Correlation is Not Causation

We’re a desperate society, wanting results now and/or blaming someone or something else for not achieving them. When that route hits a brick wall, it’s easier to just believe and buy into the thought that if X causes Y then it must cause Z. For example, smoking is correlated with, but not the single cause of lung cancer. You have a better chance of developing lung cancer if you smoke but there are many factors that potentially cause lung cancer. Eating more than you burn is correlated with weight gain, but there are several factors that can cause weight gain that have nothing to do with calories consumed. It’s an important distinction to make and one that will serve you well when making healthy food choices. Chances are you probably do make good choices. Question is how often and how consistent are you with making those choices.

Everything is Processed

Unless you live on and off your own farm, everything on your plate has had some degree of processing. The movement of “clean eating” is a good thing and isn’t too far-fetched for it emphasizes eating whole, real foods as close to their natural state as possible. A simple, common sense idea that’s hard to argue or disagree with in theory. When the report came out earlier in the week about processed meat causing cancer what they were really referring to is meat that is treated, handled, or consumed in a highly processed state with numerous salts, chemicals, nitrates, etc. such as bacon, ham, lunch meats, etc. Well here’s the part the media forgot to mention. Of the 8.2 million deaths from cancer in 2012, only 34,000 were attributed to consumption of processed meat. You have a better chance dying in a car crash (10.7 for every 100,000 drivers). Some bacon at breakfast or ham during the holidays certainly isn’t going to be the stake to the grave. It’s a bit more involved than that.

Insulin and Insulin Resistance

There are hundreds of hormones in the body each with its own purpose and function, none of which is more popular than insulin and rightly so. Insulin is an anabolic (or growth) hormone with the primary responsibility of being the feeder or transport of energy to all of our living cells. Without sufficient insulin (Type 1 diabetes) or an inefficient insulin mechanism (Type 2 diabetes) in which the cells don’t respond to or are resistant to the insulin markers thus staving off energy to the cells. This overtime leads to elevated blood sugar levels (not good for the body) and the gradual increase of adipose (fat) tissue. (also not good for the body). The very important concept here (and often taken out of context) is that elevated blood sugar levels can happen from several factors, most of which (and preventable) are caused by dietary influences. High intake of sugar is generally to blame, and not just added sugar but simple carbohydrates that are easily converted to sugar thus raising the insulin response levels. Long story short, while there’s plenty of data to show the effects of certain foods on raising insulin levels, a nationwide hysteria grew that carbohydrates are bad for you, spawning fear of literally thousands of types of foods, everything from breads to pastas and beyond. Fruits and vegetables are carbohydrates too but no one said a thing about decreasing their intake. So before you banish all “carbs” from your existence, the important concept to remember here is how your blood sugar levels respond (a simple blood test will determine that for you) correlates to any weight loss or weight gain issues, and not what the guru in the book or on TV has to say.

Common Sense

The subject of nutrition is very gray, not as black and white as some would have you believe. Why? Because we are all different and don’t consume and process food the same way whether here in the good ol US of A or the Far East reaches of the world. Food is fuel and fuel is energy. We need to eat and variety as well as moderation is the spice of life. There is food that is healthier to consume in larger quantities and there is food that is better consumed in lower quantities. Chances are as previously stated, you’re nutrition is probably not all that bad. It’s senseless to make yourself crazy on eating a particular food item or group just because it was correlated to cause unfavorable outcomes. There are thousands of things that can be correlated to just about anything with never being the cause. Not eating snacks or sweets doesn’t necessarily make you a healthier eater any more than an occasional adult beverage makes you an alcoholic. Do yourself a favor and don’t get fooled by media sensationalism.

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

12 Days of Fitness 2012 – Day 8: Artificial Sweeteners 101

(This is Part 8 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful fitness tips over the holiday season)

I wanted to talk to you today about artificial sweeteners because it’s been my experience over the years that there’s a lot of confusion and misconceptions revolving around these non-caloric sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners and the huge list of products sweetened with them are marketed to you relentlessly as “diet foods”, “healthy foods” or “healthier” than sugar or corn syrup sweetened products. But are they really? Here are some of the most popular artificial sweeteners on the market today are:

  • Splenda (sucralose)
  • Aspartame
  • Saccharine
  • Acesulfame Potassium (aka – acesulfame K)

These artificial sweeteners are used in abundance in almost every “diet” drink, “lite” yogurts, puddings, and ice creams, most “low-carb” products, and almost all “reduced-sugar” products. And for you muscle minded folks, even most protein powders are loaded with artificial sweeteners too.

Not So Healthy

Splenda is probably one of the worst offenders of them all claiming to be “healthy” as they say that it’s made from real sugar. Don’t be fooled! It’s still an artificial substance. What they don’t tell you is that Splenda is actually a chemically modified substance where chlorine is added to the chemical structure, making it more similar to a chlorinated pesticide than something we should be eating or drinking. The truth is that artificial sweeteners are not even close to being healthy, and as you’ll discover in a minute, can easily be just as bad for you, if not worse, than sugar or even corn syrup. Most people think that they are doing something good for themselves by choosing the “diet” or “lite” brands compared to the full sugar-laden versions, but the problem is that you’re exposing yourself to a whole new set of problems with the artificially sweetened drinks and foods. The fact is, artificial sweeteners vs. sugar or corn syrup is really just a battle between two evils. Which evil is worse?

The Truth Behind The Science

Most of us are at least familiar with the problems associated with sugar or high fructose corn syrup sweetened products. The excess empty calories, blood sugar spike, and resulting insulin surge this creates in your body not only promotes fat gain, but also stimulates your appetite further, making things even worse. On the other hand, artificial sweeteners may save you on calories, but there’s growing evidence that they can increase your appetite for sweets and other carbohydrates causing you to eat more later in the day anyway. Therefore, you don’t really save any calories at all. Also, studies have shown that artificial sweeteners can stimulate high insulin levels in your body too, which again can promote fat storage.

All of the 4 artificial sweeteners listed above are nasty chemicals that the human body is simply not meant to ingest. However, most of us are ingesting a whole lot of these chemicals on a daily basis. Aside from the problems I touched on so far, other health issues that have been related to artificial sweeteners in scientific studies as well as observations are:

  • some have been linked to potential cancer risks
  • negative effects on the liver, kidneys, and other organs
  • stimulating cravings
  • gastrointestinal problems
  • developmental problems in children and fetuses
  • headaches

Consequently, some of the above potential health problems have not been proven as fact in human studies. However, some of them have been shown conclusively in animal studies given high doses. Despite all of the health issues potentially associated with artificial sweeteners, the companies that sell the products will continue to claim that they are fully safe and they have studies that prove that they are safe. The bottom line is that the body was not designed to deal with foreign substances like artificial sweeteners.

A Sweet Alternative

Your best alternatives? Well for starters, real raw sugar in moderation. There’s also raw honey, organic maple syrup. All three actually provide some nutrients and antioxidants as well as sweetness, so it’s not just empty calories. Empty calories stimulate your appetite more because your body is lacking nutrients.

And if calories still concern you, there’s a natural sweetener called stevia. Stevia is not artificial like the other chemical sweeteners I mentioned above. It is a natural non-caloric herb grown in South America and when dried into a powder, has a sweetness about 200-300 times stronger than sugar.

So in a world where sugar is bad, it’s still superior to any artificial, chemically enhanced substance that could possibly do more harm to your body internally than any number you ever see on the scale.  I have a better solution for that. It’s called exercise!

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

See you tomorrow for Day 9 of the 12 Days of Fitness

My 2012 Fitness Challenge personal update – 35,100 push ups done as of publishing time