Unraveling the Intricacies of Insulin: A Deep Dive into Metabolic Harmony and Disarray

Written By Brady Wirick

Introduction:

Every human needs to have a basic understanding of metabolism. The simple definition of metabolism is your body’s process of turning food into fuel. Understanding this is life changing because if you fuel your body with chips, pizza, and fast food, your metabolism will fail. When it fails, you will end up at the doctor’s office wondering why it failed and the only answers you will get is to take a drug.

To break this cycle, you have to learn how your body works. This is why I am starting what I call Metabolic Monday. I will take this opportunity to help you understand how your body works and how you can treat it right to get the most out of it!

Today’s topic is insulin!

I posted this quote on my social media channel on Thanksgiving: “That sleepy feeling you have right now? That’s not from tyrptophan from the turkey. That’s from too much sugar! Happy Thanksgiving!”

To which someone asked: “What if you didn’t eat any sweets? Do you get insulin any other way?”

The short answer is yes. When the smell of food reaches your brain, regardless of the type of food, your body starts releasing digestive enzymes and stomach acid. That stomach acid is a chemical signal for your body to release insulin. Insulin, which is released by your pancreas, is a hormone that is a key player in metabolism of all types of the 3 basic macro nutrients: fat, carbohydrates, and protein.

Understanding  the role of insulin in metabolism requires a detailed exploration of its functions in fat, protein, and carbohydrate metabolism, as well as its connection to the Standard American Diet (SAD), weight gain, and metabolic inflammation.

The orchestration of metabolism is a finely tuned symphony within our bodies, and insulin plays a pivotal role as the conductor. In this exploration, we’ll delve into the multifaceted functions of insulin, its involvement in fat, protein, and carbohydrate metabolism, and the intricate dance it performs with the foods we consume.

Insulin and Carbohydrate Metabolism:
Insulin is perhaps best known for its role in regulating blood sugar levels, particularly after the consumption of carbohydrates. When we ingest carbohydrates, whether simple sugars or complex starches, our body responds by releasing insulin from the pancreas. Insulin facilitates the uptake of glucose by cells, ensuring energy needs are met and excess glucose is stored for future use.

Insulin’s Dance with Fat Metabolism:
Beyond its primary role in carbohydrate metabolism, insulin extends its influence to fat metabolism. Elevated insulin levels signal the body to store excess energy as fat. This process, known as lipogenesis, is crucial for energy balance. However, dysregulation, often influenced by dietary factors, can tip the scales towards excessive fat storage, especially around the mid section.

The Protein Connection:
Insulin also plays a role in protein metabolism, facilitating the uptake of amino acids into cells. This process is essential for cell growth, repair, and overall protein synthesis. A balanced interplay of insulin ensures that proteins are utilized efficiently, contributing to muscle maintenance and overall metabolic health.

Insulin Dysregulation and the Standard American Diet (SAD):
The Standard American Diet, characterized by high levels of refined sugars, processed foods, and inflammatory oils, has been implicated in the dysregulation of insulin. Excessive consumption of simple carbohydrates, such as those found in sugary beverages and snacks, can lead to insulin resistance—a condition where cells become less responsive to insulin’s signals.

Inflammation and the Insulin Connection:
Insulin dysregulation is not only linked to metabolic imbalances but also to chronic inflammation. Elevated insulin levels can trigger inflammatory responses, contributing to conditions such as metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. The SAD’s proclivity for promoting insulin resistance exacerbates these inflammatory pathways, creating a vicious cycle that further disrupts metabolic harmony.

Insulin, Weight Gain, and the Body’s Set Point:
The relationship between insulin and weight gain is intricate. Insulin promotes fat storage, and consistently high insulin levels may contribute to the accumulation of excess body fat. Moreover, insulin resistance can disrupt the body’s natural weight-regulating mechanisms, influencing the “set point”—the weight at which the body strives to maintain equilibrium.

Breaking the Cycle:
Understanding the interplay between insulin, weight gain, and metabolic inflammation is crucial for breaking the cycle. Adopting a balanced diet rich in whole foods, fiber, and lean proteins can support insulin sensitivity. Additionally, incorporating regular physical activity into our lives promotes optimal insulin function and helps manage body weight.

Conclusion:
In the grand narrative of metabolism, insulin emerges as a central character, influencing the fate of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats within our bodies. The impact of the Standard American Diet on insulin regulation underscores the importance of mindful eating choices. As we unravel the complexities of insulin’s role, we empower ourselves to make informed decisions that promote metabolic health, resilience, and overall well-being.

For further reading and references, please refer to Dr. Ben Bikman’s book, Why We Get Sick. It will change your life.

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