I did not know it but I had put my body on a high-glycemic roller coaster ride. For many years, it was not a problem. My body seemed to handled it just fine with no telling symptoms. Then, all of the sudden, I started putting on 10-15 pounds a year. I was always tired in the afternoon and I found that my memory was not as good as it had been before. The results of the roller coaster had finally caught up with me.
Here's how the glycemic roller coaster works. In a healthy person, blood sugars work best in a narrow range. The glucose levels should be maintained in the body between 70 to 150 mg/dl. In 1981, Dr. David Jenkins discovered that some foods will spike your blood sugar higher than others. In the chart below, you can see what happens when you spike your blood sugar. When it gets too high, your body protects itself by releasing a fat-storage hormone called insulin. A few hours after a high-glycemic meal, your blood sugars go below the normal range. This is dangerous, so your body protects itself again by producing cortisol and adrenaline in an attempt to bring your blood sugars back up to a normal level. This is usually when you crave another high-glycemic meal. The roller coaster starts all over again.
Over the years, this kind of insulin abuse leads to insulin resistance. Your body compensates by making more and more insulin. In turn, your muscles begin to reject the glucose sent their way. Normally, 85 to 90% of all the glucose produced after eating a meal goes to the muscle cells to be either utilized for energy or stored as glycogen for immediate energy reserve in the muscle. This means that only 10-15% of the glucose ends up in our fat cells. If the insulin and glucagon levels are normal, there is a nice balance of fat being produced and broken down, and no weight gain occurs.
It Starts In The Muscle
When insulin resistance develops, muscle cells start rejecting a majority of the glucose following a meal and it is redirected to our fat cells. It is like a train switching tracks and going in a different direction. This is when the unexplained fat starts to develop around your middle at an alarming rate.
When Is A Calorie No Longer A Calorie?
When insulin resistance is involved, a calorie is not merely a calorie any more. You can exercise and starve yourself all you want. The fact is, your fat cells start acting like a sponge and soak up all the glucose and efficiently change it into fat no matter how many calories you try to burn. The concept of "a calorie in and a calorie out" that has been the mainstay of weight loss therapy throughout the past century needs to change. When you begin to recognize the effect that insulin resistance throws into this equation, a calorie is no longer just a calorie.
Insulin resistance leads to Metabolic Syndrome (Syndrome X) and can finally lead to full blown diabetes. Unless you can find a way to "reverse the tracks" on insulin resistance and get back to normal, you simply will not be able to lose weight even with the most aggressive diets. In this state, the body is resistant to almost any weight loss program being advocated today. Only a program designed to reverse insulin resistance will successfully "flip the switch back again."
Here is a video of Dr. Ray Strand explaining how this all happens.
Why Care About Blood Sugar?
If you're not diabetic, you probably haven't given much thought to your blood sugar, but are some compelling reasons why you should care:
- You should care if you find yourself getting sluggish or tired every afternoon.
- You should care if you reach for cookies, candy or cola when you need a shot of energy.
- You should care if you find yourself hungry late at night and raiding the refrigerator.
- You should care if your attempts at weight loss have yielded little or no success.
- You should care if you've noticed your memory or vision slipping in recent years.
These are all warning signs of blood sugar imbalance. Blood sugar is to your body what gasoline is to your car – fuel. Every cell in your body depends on it for the energy to stay alive and function. Whether you're a diabetic or not, your goal is to keep your blood sugar tank full, but not too full. Without balanced blood sugar, in addition to the health problems above, you may be increasing the risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer.
How Does The Glycemic Index Work?
The glycemic index (GI) ranks foods by how they affect your blood sugar levels.
- Low-GI foods (less than 55) produce a gradual rise in blood sugar that's easy on the body.
- Foods between 55 and 70 are intermediate-GI foods
- Foods with high-GI numbers (more than 70) make blood sugar and insulin levels spike fast, which is a health threat.
Examples of low glycemic foods: Walnuts, peanuts, most fresh fruits and vegetables, chicken, turkey, tea (unsweetened), sugars like xylitol and stevia.
Research suggests keeping blood sugar from spiking pays off – low-GI foods stave off heart disease, prevent type 2 diabetes, help you evade serious side effects if you have diabetes, curb your appetite so you lose weight, and help boost energy.
Dietary glycemic index, an indicator of the ability of the carbohydrate to raise blood glucose levels, and glycemic load, the product of glycemic index and carbohydrate intake, have been positively related to risk of coronary heart disease
Arch Intern Med.+2001;161:572-576.
State of the Art Reviews: Glycemic Index, Obesity, and Chronic Disease.
Diets based on carbohydrate foods that are more slowly digested and absorbed (ie, low glycemic index diets) have been independently linked to reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some types of cancer. Although ongoing research is needed, the current findings, together with the fact that there are no demonstrated negative effects of a low glycemic index diet, suggest that the glycemic index should be an important consideration in the dietary management and prevention of obesity and chronic disease.
American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, Vol. 2, No. 2, 142-150 (2008)
Low-GI and/or low-GL diets are independently associated with a reduced risk of certain chronic diseases. In diabetes and heart disease, the protection is comparable with that seen for whole grain and high fiber intakes. The findings support the hypothesis that *higherpostprandial glycemia is a universal mechanism for disease progression.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol.87, No. 3, 627-637, March 2008
Results of this study suggest that there is a complex and predominantly unfavorable effect of increased intake of highly processed carbohydrate on lipid profile, which may have implications for metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and coronary heart disease. Further studies in the form of randomized controlled trials are required to investigate these associations and determine the implications for lipid management.
Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Vol. 25, No. 2, 155-163 (2006)
Nurses health study findings suggest a modest positive association between the consumption of potatoes and the risk of type 2 diabetes in women. This association was more pronounced when potatoes were substituted or whole grains .
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 83, No. 2, 284-290, February 2006
Dramatic increases in fast food consumption over the past 30 years have occurred in parallel with the twin epidemics of obesity and insulin resistance. Some of the properties of fast food, including its high glycemic index and its fatty acid composition, induce hyperinsulinemia and the development of insulin resistance, both peripherally (increasing energy deposition into fat), and centrally. Of course, fast food is merely the most extreme example of what has become the typical Western diet, so this phenomenon has implications for all patients with weight gain. Hyperinsulinemia is the primary initiator of CNS insulin resistance, which may in part be responsible for leptin resistance. This promotes reduced energy. Therefore, it is our contention that fast food, based on all its inherent properties discussed, must not be viewed as a marker, but rather as a primary etiologic agent in the genesis of the current obesity epidemic.
(+Arteriosclerosis,Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology.+ 2005;25:2451.)© 2005 American Heart Association, Inc.