Previous post in this series.
The Result of High Fasting Insulin
In my last post I introduced the idea of insulin as the cause of excess body fat and obesity. In this post you’ll discover that it’s actually high fasting insulin that’s the big problem. Let me just highlight a couple of things from that last post:
- Insulin controls how our body handles incoming energy (food)
- At high levels insulin partitions incoming energy (food) into storage as fat
- When insulin is high the body will NEVER use (burn) stored fat as energy
O.k., I hope that reminds you why insulin is a factor when it comes to body fat and weight loss. Based on that information it seems pretty simple, keep insulin levels low and you’ll be a lean, mean fat burning machine! It is and isn’t that simple.
The body takes great care in what’s called homeostasis. That is a fancy word for balance. When we do things to knock our hormonal balance off the body will compensate by adjusting other hormones in order to find a balance that will allow us to function. At this point we are no longer functioning at an optimal level. The goal of nature is to make sure we survive and function for an amount of time that allows us to reproduce and pass on our DNA. Once that is done nature really has no need for us and could care less if we die.(1) So, just because you are functioning doesn’t mean you are going to be healthy and live a long life. The body made adjustments and continues to function but once you move away from optimal you are undermining your health, wellness and longevity.
WELL, that’s less than good. What to do? Short answer, bring insulin down. Long answer, get all metabolic hormones balanced and functioning at an optimal level again. Not doing anything really isn’t an option and the fact that you are reading this means that you have already arrived at that conclusion. Well done, you’re already moving in the right direction.
Insulin is really the key. Once we get that straightened out the body tends to readjust and the other metabolic hormones that control hunger and satiety balance out and you are no longer a slave to your appetite and cravings. Food actually gives you energy, you sleep better and even your mood balances out. You may find that hard to believe but it’s true, believe it.
I ended the last post with an equation for body weight set point. Remember, this is the set point or body weight thermostat setting that your body is always going to try and maintain.
Fasting Insulin Level + Body Weight = Set Point
I’m sure you all know what body weight is. You may not know how it relates to insulin so we’ll get to that in a moment. Let’s talk about fasting insulin first.
Basal Insulin Secretion Rate
Your basal insulin secretion rate is your fasting insulin level. This is the lowest your insulin ever gets, your “floor”. The lowest constant level of insulin your body ever drops to. We all have different fasting levels of insulin. The difference is most notable in studies between normal vs. obese subjects.(1) (2)
- The higher your fasting insulin level the further you are along the path toward obesity, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
- The more insulin you secrete, the more resistant to the effect of insulin your body becomes and therefore you continue to secrete more and more insulin trying to get the same function/effect that used to happen at lower levels.
- The longer you’ve been over weight/obese the higher and higher your fasting insulin goes
If you look at the graph above, notice that the fasting insulin level in the obese participants is always higher than that of the participants with normal body weight. The thing to take particular notice of is that the fasting insulin in the obese, the dips on the graph are at levels equal to the insulin spikes of the normal weight participants.
The above equation for body weight set point might be starting to make a little more sense. Your fasting insulin level is a constant background level of insulin. It represents about 45-50% of the insulin produced each day. The other 50% comes from other lifestyle factors like diet and stress.
High Fasting Insulin and Fat Burning
Here’s the thing, when are people with high fasting insulin ever burning fat? The answer is never. When are they partitioning all incoming energy into storage? Always. This creates constant hunger. Fat stores can’t be tapped into for energy so the only available energy is glucose. Glucose is a fleeting fuel, it burns fast and has to be replenished constantly, hence the hunger. Carb cravings will be high because the body is hungry for energy and it knows that quick energy comes from sugar and carbohydrates provide that sugar. Energy levels are low because the energy that enters the body is quickly burned up or partitioned off to fat storage.
Now we’re to the body weight part of the equation. High fasting insulin + higher body weight = a higher body weight set point.
Alrighty. Now that we have established that high FASTING insulin levels and excess body weight create a horrible catch 22 of fasting insulin levels that continue to climb, which increases fat storage and weight gain resulting in a higher body weight set point making weight loss success and long term maintenance virtually impossible, what are we going to do about it?
What to do
The answer is multi-tiered. FIRST control insulin spikes through dietary change. Once the new diet has been established and metabolic hormones start to get back in line which can be measured a number of ways, it’s time to focus on the basal insulin secretion rate or high fasting insulin levels. Body weight set point will never move (reduce) until we reset fasting insulin levels back to what would be considered normal baseline levels.
In the next post i’ll talk about macronutrients and their effect on insulin.
In the mean time, remember to eat well so you feel good and are able to have fun!!
Part 1 – Weight Gain, is it Calories or is it Hormones
Part 2 – Body Weight Set Point
part 3 – Insulin, your key to weight loss
Part 5 – Macronutrients and Weight Loss
Part 6 – Not Enough Fat, Too Many Carbs
Part 7 – It’s the type of Calories that Count
Amy White MS HNC
I am a holistic nutrition counselor and believe real food is the true path to wellness. If you are interested in learning more about me and how I can help you, please see my story.
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