Carbohydrates, Insulin and Fat around the Middle
Eating too much, eating too many refined carbohydrates and moving too little are the fundamental cause of many diseases. Our ancestors engaged in hard labour to produce enough food from their environment to survive. In contrast modern life has given us more to eat and less to do. Unfortunately this is the perfect recipe for becoming overweight, and for developing chronic disease such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The complex interaction of hormones in our body enables us (amongst other things) to break down and metabolise our food to create energy. The hormone insulin is a principle regulator of metabolism. It is released by the pancreas when we eat carbohydrates. After eating, our blood is flooded with sugar (glucose). Insulin delivers the glucose from the blood to the cells; either for use as ready energy or for storage as fat. Insulin is also responsible for requesting the breakdown of fat from fat cells in times of need.
There are a key few things to understand and remember about this process that affect the way that fat is used in the body:
By constantly eating refined carbohydrates (sugar, white bread, white pasta, and cakes) insulin is sending a message to the cells that there is no need for the body to allow fat deposits to be broken down and used for energy.
Not only does excess insulin inhibit our ability to burn body fat, it also increases the rate at which we store body fat. This is because excess insulin preferentially puts calories into our fat tissue. More than this, fat is stored around our middles. This strategy was developed by the body to allow fat to be accessed easily by our livers so that it could be converted back to glucose and used as energy in times of famine. Trouble is that these days there never is a famine and fat deposits simply build and increase and we start to see the development of the muffin top and eventually the apple shape. The apple body shape is considered a risk factor for the development of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes because it indicates high levels of circulating insulin.
The more bad carbohydrates we eat, the more insulin we require to remove the sugar from our blood and deliver it to our cells. The problem is that over-used glucose receptors on the cells can become resistant to insulin. The body tries to compensate by producing more insulin to try and get the glucose from the blood – this state is known as insulin resistance. This over production of insulin can lead to burn out in the pancreas which ultimately stops us being able to produce insulin at all – this is known as type 2 diabetes.
Nutrition is a preventative medicine. Looking after your nutrition today by changing your dietary habits away from excess bread, pasta, cakes and sugar will not only help you to feel and look fitter and healthier today, it will help to safeguard yourself (and your family) from the development of chronic disease in the future.