Rob: So what are we talking about tonight?
Dr. Kevin: I want to talk about a disease that most North Americans do not know that they have and yet it is a potential cause of the following diseases; cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, kidney stones, gout, obesity, depression, anxiety, sugar/carb cravings, high blood pressure, dyslipidemia, hypoglycemia, inflammation, insomnia and PCOS to name a few.
Based on studies in the United States in 2012 more than 50% of U.S. adults aged 20 years or older have this disease. This condition occurs in more than 50 percent of obese children, according to a 2006 study published in the Journal of Diabetes Care. Current studies suggest that 50% to 70% of women with PCOS have this disease. Anecdotally as far as patients that I have seen over the last 20 years I believe these percentages are low……. and the vast majority of North Americans who have this disease have never heard of it.
Rob: So what is this little known disease?
Dr. Kevin: It’s called insulin resistance or hyperinsulinemia
Rob: So this means that people can become resistant to insulin – how so?
Dr. Kevin: To better understand insulin resistance, let’s review some basic biochemistry. Insulin is a hormone produced by the islet cells of the pancreas. When blood sugar rises after food is eaten, the pancreas pumps out insulin, whose job is to shuttle glucose into cells, where glucose is used for energy or stored as glycogen.
To do its job, insulin must fit like a key into receptors lining the outside of the cell. Each cell contains 20,000 or more insulin receptors. Once inserted in the cell’s receptors, insulin activates an enzyme in the receptors called tyrosine kinase. This triggers a series of events that allows glucose to enter the cell. With insulin resistance, the cells “resist” this process, so instead of entering the cell, glucose builds up in the blood. The pancreas responds by pumping out higher than normal levels of insulin in an attempt to reduce blood glucose to normal levels.
Rob: How does one get this disease?
Dr. Kevin: Genetics plays a small role in the disease but the most common cause can be attributed to lifestyle factors especially poor diet, lack of exercise and smoking. Sugar, carbs, soda, juice, processed food
Rob: I know we have touched on insulin in our episodes on sugar. Remind us again why elevated levels of insulin are so harmful to our health
Dr. Kevin: Elevated insulin levels can cause; inflammation which can show itself in a blood test called C – reactive protein. Inflammation can lead to damaged blood vessels, fat deposition, blood vessel constriction causing hypertension also too much insulin causes sodium retention which also can be linked to hypertension. Fluid retention can also cause damaged blood vessels, arterial plaque formation. High levels of insulin can promote serotonin suppression which can result in anxiety, depression, sleep disturbance, obsessive/compulsive thoughts and behaviours, negative thinking, repetitive thoughts, brain fog, addictive behaviour, low energy, irritability, craving carbohydrates and increased appetite!! So if we are insulin resistant we can crave the very foods that cause a blood sugar spike which when we eat them promotes elevated insulin which in turn pushes us back through the viscous cycle with ongoing craving. Insulin resistance also causes hypoglycemia (with this also comes increased blood glucose = link to cancers, insulin also increases the growth of malignant cells), increased triglycerides and higher levels of bad cholesterol (LDL), premature aging (liver spots and skin tags). High insulin levels are also linked to an inability of the kidneys to clear uric acid = kidney stones and gout
Rob: How do we find out if we have it?
Dr. Kevin: There is a test called the glucose-insulin tolerance test
Rob: If our listeners don’t have access to this test are there other signs and symptoms that one should be watching out for?
Dr. Kevin: Abdominal weight gain, difficulty losing weight despite regular exercise, energy dip in the afternoon, tired after eating, cravings for sweets and or carbs, feeling hungry or having the desire to eat despite having just eaten, feeling hungry throughout the day, liver spots and/or skin tags, high blood pressure that can be transient, cold hands, feet, buttocks and/or nose, low serotonin symptoms, PCOS (is the most common cause of infertility in women with symptoms of acne, hirsutism, increased androgens, pelvic pain, anxiety and depression) and endometriosis.
Rob: If you have insulin resistance doesn’t it increase your chances of getting type 2 diabetes?
Dr. Kevin: Current stats show that 11 % of North American adults currently have type 2 diabetes and 35% have pre-diabetes. In both diseases insulin resistance is the precursor. So yes having IR dramatically increases ones chances of type 2 diabetes
Rob: So how can we turn this disease around – it sounds like lifestyle is the big player here?
Dr. Kevin: Reference episode 11
Rob: That’s great. I’d like to thank you for listening to “Your Best You Today.” Check back soon for another episode. If you have any comments or questions please leave them below.
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