Insulin – a hormone produced in the pancreas regulates the amount of sugar in the blood.  In diabetics, the pancreas produces no insulin at all, too little, or it is defective.  Only about 10% of the people with diabetes are Type I where their bodies do not produce insulin.  The majority of the diabetic population produce too little or the system is defective.  The major function of this hormone is to distribute the broken down food (glucose) to leave the bloodstream and enter the cells of the body for energy.

Obesity is the excess accumulation of fat.  The excess fat is stored in the fat cells (adipose cells), which, collectively make up the adipose tissue.  So, how does this fat get into the fat cells?  The answer is Insulin.  It’s well known that insulin stimulates an enzyme on the surface of the fat cells that moves the fat into the cell.  So, if you produce a lot of insulin, there is going to be large amounts of fats moving into the fat cells.  People always ask about the fat in their diet.  You would assume a lot of fat in your diet would increase your fat storage.  That is not the case.  Take a look at Type I diabetics.  They can have large amounts of fat in their diet and eat ravenously but cannot store fat because their bodies don’t produce insulin.  So, dietary fat, even in enormous amounts, won’t even find the way to the fat cells without insulin.  The opposite holds true for a low amount of insulin.  With it low, insulin’s sibling, glucagon, plays a role in retrieving energy from the fat cells for usage.  Problems arise when this system becomes defective, which most commonly happens when people develop insulin resistance.  Insulin talks, but the cells don’t listen.  In other words, the pancreas keeps producing insulin and the blood levels continue to rise until the cells finally get the message.  But it’s a message that has taken a lot of insulin force to deliver. 

If all the different types of cells developed resistance to insulin at the same rate, we wouldn’t have as much of a problem.  But they don’t. Different cells develop insulin resistance at different rates.  Typically the first cells to become insulin resistant are the liver cells.  The liver cells are continuously producing sugar and dumping it into the blood.  Insulin shuts this process down.  If the insulin level drops to zero, as it does in type I diabetes, the liver dumps a huge load of sugar in the blood causing all the blood sugar problems associated with this disease.  Under normal circumstances, just a little insulin stops the liver cells in their tracks.  But if these cells are resistant to insulin, much more is required to get them the message to turn off the sugar flow.

In most people, the fat cells develop insulin resistance later, which creates the problem.  If insulin levels are high to control the liver’s sugar output, then these elevated insulin levels are sending a strong message to the non-insulin-resistant fat cells.  The message is take this fat and store it.  High insulin not only drives fat into the fat cells, it prevents it from getting out.  Fat is packed into the fat cells and kept there.

Between meals when insulin levels would normally fall, allowing the fat to freely feed all the body’s tissues, insulin remains high in an effort to keep the liver in check.  Fat can’t get out of the fat cells, and the tissues begin to starve.  Even though there is plenty of stored fat, the body can’t get to it because elevated insulin is preventing its release.

Starving tissues send a message to the brain, saying ‘we’re hungry.’  The brain responds by increasing the drive to feed.  We eat, and the carbs we eat are consumed by the cells for immediate energy, and insulin stimulated by the dietary carbohydrate drives the fat into the fat cells where it is trapped with the rest of the fat already there.  The fat cell mass gets larger and larger, and we become obese.

We make too much insulin because we eat too many carbohydrates, especially sugar and other refined carbohydrates.  The key is to stay away from these kinds of foods, increase your amounts of lean proteins, choose healthy fats, and moderately eat fresh fruits and vitamin packed veggies.

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