Thursday, November 19, 2009

Insulin's Far-Reaching Effects

Dr. Ron Rosedale is a medical doctor who is an internationally known expert in nutritional and metabolic medicine as well as a healthy aging expert. He is the author of The Rosedale Diet and has keynoted at various conferences, including the 8th Congressional International Medical Conference on Molecular Medicine and the 1st European Conference on Longevity Medicine and Quality of Life.

Those are just a few of his achievements. He also has some fascinating thoughts on the role of insulin in health. Here’s a recap of some of Rosedale insights:

When asked what the purpose of insulin in humans is, Rosedale says that its main purpose is to store excess nutrients, not just to support healthy blood sugar levels. He gives the example that vitamin C, for instance, has a similar structure as glucose and when sugar levels increase, then vitamin C and glucose compete for entry into cells. If there’s more glucose around, then less vitamin C will be allowed into cells.

The same holds true for other nutrients such as magnesium. Rosedale indicates that a little- known fact is that insulin also stores magnesium. If insulin levels are out of whack, though, the body loses magnesium—with urinary output. It just passes through and is not fully absorbed by the body.

That’s not great news, either, says Rosedale, because magnesium supports muscular and vascular health. A magnesium deficit can also have adverse effects on the cardiovascular system.

What’s more is that magnesium is necessary for the manufacture and action of insulin, so this can become a vicious cycle—one that can lead to increased insulin imbalances resulting in devastating health consequences. Areas that can be adversely affected by imbalanced insulin levels include the liver, muscle tissue, fat cells and other cells, as well as the endothelium—the lining of the arteries.

The same holds true for calcium when insulin levels are topsy-turvy. Most calcium can pass right through without going to areas the body needs it, including the bones.

Insulin levels can also directly affect weight. It’s pretty simple why this is true. When more energy in the way of food is ingested than is burned, the body stores it as fat. If you ingest glucose (sugar), then the body will burn that and stop burning fat. One of the effects of insulin on fat, says Rosedale, is that it prevents you from burning it.

Since the standard American diet is high in complex carbs and low in healthy fats, Rosedale comments that this high glucose diet—a high sugar diet—adds to the problem of unstable insulin levels.

In short, every time you have a surge in sugar, there is also a surge in insulin which results in a law of diminishing returns on insulin’s effectiveness. That can translate into nutrient absorption chaos and other anomalies.

Rosedale believes we really don’t need a lot of carbohydrates in our diet—certainly not as many as most Americans consume. According to Rosedale, the building blocks of a healthy diet include quality proteins and fats, but not much in the way of carbs—except for carbs high in fiber, including low-carb vegetables.

The good news, says Rosedale, is that you can help stabilize insulin levels by a diet rich in healthy fats and proteins (but not proteins from grain-fed sources) as well as those healthy carbs just mentioned.

Healthy insulin levels can definitely play a role in your longevity and your state of health. “It determines the rate of aging more so than anything else we know right now,” says Rosedale.

Now those really are some far-reaching effects.

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