I am most grateful to Dr Antti Heikkilä for permission to post this article here. It was first published in GreenMed Info.
Insulin resistance is a state where cells cannot take properly sugar from blood to use it as an energy source. Cells become resistant to the action of insulin. It therefore takes more insulin to keep blood sugar in balance. People with insulin resistance syndrome will consequently have normal blood sugar levels but elevated insulin level
Measuring insulin resistance
There is no single test that would reliably measure insulin resistance. The diagnosis can be made through clinical symptoms and some laboratory tests. The insulin fasting value is an essential test but it is not the only one. The insulin values may temporarily vary without being insulin resistant. Another indicative laboratory test is The Triglyceride-to-HDL Cholesterol Ratio. In insulin resistance triglycerides start to rise and HDL decrease. The more important is TG/HDL-C ratio must be less than 2 in US values and in countries who use mmol/l like Europe, Australia and Canada TG/HDL-C less than 0.87. Normal official fasting values of serum insulin are 2–20mU/L, but I think that’s too high. It should be less than 5mU/L.
Symptoms and diseases linked to insulin resistance
We know that continuing insulin resistance leads to metabolic syndrome and thus prediabetes but it leads to many other diseases as well. According to studies 70% those who have prediabetes develop type 2 diabetes if significant lifestyle changes aren’t made.
Symptoms include elevated blood pressure. Insulin Resistance in the early stages may develop a skin condition known as Acanthosis Nigrircans. This condition creates dark patches often on the back of the neck, groin, and armpits. Other symptoms are, feeling hungry even after meal, craving carbohydrate-rich food and sugar, sugar addiction, compulsive overeating, hormone imbalance, PCOS, female androgenic alopecia, swollen ankles and general swollenness, complexion problems, lethargy, sleepiness after a meal, difficulty concentrating (brain fog), poor memory and impairing learning abilities, mental fatigue, anxiety, mental swings, depression. It’s a long list of all kind of symptoms, what is not rightly understood, that all may be due to the same reason. Usually these patients have a long list of different medicines targeted only to various symptoms. Excessive fatigue and other mental disorders are due to chronic hypoglycaemia, which is one of the earliest sign of Insulin Resistance. Weight gain or even severe obesity is typical among these patients but not for all. Patients may have normal weight but the excess fat is visceral fat.
There is increasing evidence that insulin resistance leads to many diseases like high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, fatty liver, fat metabolism disorders, dementia and even cancer. Using the old phrase. Insulin resistance is “the mother of all diseases”
The main stream medicine has totally ignored the basic role of insulin in all that affects the metabolic balance. All symptoms are treated with medicines, which is typical of medicalisation. Insulin resistance is not treated with medicines but with lifestyle changes, which does not cost anything. We can call this approach a lifestyle medicine that is the future.
Insulin resistance as an indicator/predictor of disease
Many may ask why this has not been previously discussed. Knowledge has existed but it is guided to the siding. Many are aware of the role of money in the medicine. Lifestyle changes are free and do not benefit anybody else. In a world where everything is for sale, this is simply not acceptable. A good example of this is Helsinki Policemen Study, where the effect of insulin on cardiac diseases was studied. The study lasted 22 years and the study showed that those with the highest levels of insulin had nine times heart attack compared to those with the lowest values. It was a staggering result. None of the research related to cholesterol has not been able to present such results. Finland is a small country. When the global food and pharmaceutical industry supported the country’s cholesterol party, which also supported the interests of the nation’s medical elite, all was forgotten. A few years later, the researcher responsible for the study was nominated as a “Doctor of the Year” but regrettably the significance of the results was completely ignored. It was little comfort to him but a great sorrow to us.
The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism published August 2001 an article “Insulin Resistance as a Predictor of Age-Related Diseases” The study was initiated to evaluate the ability of insulin resistance to predict a variety of age-related diseases. The graphic tells more than words
3 groups median follow up time 6 years.
- Low insulin 2. Moderate 3. High
CHD: Heart disease
Type: 2 DM
The group 1 had been healthy throughout the follow-up period. The group 2 has created Hypertension and Cancer and some Heart Disease. The group 3 got whole scale all diseases, Hypertension, Cancer, Heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes and Stroke.
Not just Type 2 Diabetes
It is interesting to notice that the primary problem of Insulin Resistance is not Type 2 Diabetes but Hypertension and Cancer. Group 3 had Hypertension and Cancer as much as the group 2. It is therefore reasonable to assume that Hypertension and Cancer are the first diseases caused by insulin resistance. Diabetes is not the first problem. No wonder cancer has increased in the world. The official side erroneously blames being overweight and diabetes for the problem when the real cause is insulin resistance. That’s why the official conception leads completely to fraudulent treatments. One study tells that non-obese people with hyperinsulinemia were at higher risk of cancer mortality than those without hyperinsulinemia and suggests that improvement of hyperinsulinemia may be an important approach for preventing cancer regardless of the presence or absence of obesity. Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) is a result of insulin resistance and is significantly associated with colon cancer in men, and breast cancer in women.
The only way to solve this complex problem is to identify the early symptoms of insulin resistance and the treatment is a lifestyle change. Drugs do not help but lead to the wrong illusion that things are in order. It is vital to detect all these warning signs so early as possible. The possibility of insulin resistance should be assessed for each patient with hypertension. The same applies to all of the above-mentioned symptoms that often lead to numerous medications. This research has also been silenced but it does not matter. Many patients are frustrated when they know that they have been misled. Old Greek wisdom says: “if you want to change the world so start it yourself.” It is also the core of Insulin Resistance treatment.
How Type 2 Diabetes develops
The process of eating a high-sugar, high-refined carbohydrate diet day in and day out pressurises your pancreas to secrete more and more insulin in the attempt to lower your blood sugar. Over time, your cells start to become resistant, or numb, to so much insulin. This is when insulin resistance develops. Some drugs like statins increase insulin resistance, which raises a lot of questions if we look at things from this perspective.
The only drug, which improves insulin sensitivity, is metformin. Drugs are not a solution. Conventional diabetes medicines decrease blood glucose, which is meaningless in insulin resistance. Nutrition is the solution and the only way substantially change the situation. Exercise is helpful and supports the diet but alone, exercise is of no use. Aerobic exercise can be disadvantageous because it adds cortisol, which is very bad in this case. The best type exercise is anaerobic exercise like High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and weight lifting. The combination of diet and for example HIIT gives fast results. The diet is naturally Low Carb or an extreme form Ketogenic diet. We can see the whole situation as some form of carbohydrate sensitivity because not everybody gets problems of insulin even they eat sugar. It is a bit same that one can smoke without any harm or drink alcohol without being an alcoholic. It is difficult to estimate how many people are sensitive to carbohydrates. According to assessment Joseph Kraft 60%-70% of the population are sensitive to carbohydrates. It’s a lot. If this were to be understood by an official side, it would bring radical change to everything that concerns nutrition and medicines. Most have T2DM because they have developed progressive insulin resistance over decades as a result of diets that are too high in sugar and carbohydrates and too low in fat and protein.
Adjusting to a Low Carb diet
There are many versions of the Low Carb diet. Some address meat and some not. It’s about fat diet. Too much protein is harmful and exacerbates insulin resistance. Everyone can build their own version of the of the Low Carb diet. Simple rule is to leave sugar and starch and use good fats like extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil. I recommend a diet which is based on lots of vegetables. Unprocessed vegetables contain a great deal of micronutrients that are of great importance to the health of the body. There is a lot of research information about how vegetable micronutrients inhibit inflammation, protects against oxidative stress and have a positive influence on the genetic level. Diet without vegetables is always unhealthy. Unfortunately, many fruits have been processed to be too sugar-rich. Berries are a better option.
The benefits of herbs and vegetables
Unfortunately, researchers in the Western world have not studied the potential benefits of herbs to a significant extent. Most studies are oriented in the direction of developing chemicals that can be patented. That’s why I encourage people to avoid processed food and make their own food. Many of the plants used in Asia are exotic and difficult to find in an average food store. But now we know that many ordinary plants have the same features. Turmeric is a very potent herb that inhibits quite effectively the glycosidase enzyme but also a direct effect on muscles by improving insulin resistance.
Food quality is very important for several reasons. It should be as nutritionally dense as possible. Many of these nutrients protect the body from the harmful effects of sugar. Asian countries have a long history of diabetes nutrition therapy. Many of the herbs taken for example in China balance blood sugar. People have learned how to use herbs without knowing how they affect the body. Today we know how these herbs and plants counteract the effects of diabetes. The nutrients in plants inhibit the alpha glucosidase enzyme, which breaks down starch and disaccharides into glucose.
The inhibition of the enzyme slows down the absorption of sugars. Enzyme inhibitors mainly reduce the increase in postprandial plasma glucose. Among patients with non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, these inhibitors can decrease postprandial plasma glucose by 40 to 50 mg/dL (2.2 to 2.8 nmol) and hemoglobin A1C by 0.5% to 1.0%. Herbs are remarkably effective in the treatment of diabetes.
All plants and herbs contain anthocyanins, polyphenols, flavonoids, terpenoids and, of course, curcuminoids. That essentially means that all spices, herbs, berries, fruit and vegetables are useful for diabetics. My favourite is marjoram. There is a potent antioxidant called pygcocenol, a French maritime pine bark extract, which is a member of the anthocyanidin family. In the old days in northern Europe, people added powdered pine bark to flour when there was a shortage of grains. People were healthy in those days; this all turned upside down when wheat was introduced.
Some mushrooms also inhibit the glucosidase enzyme. The most studied mushrooms are Maitake, Reishi, Shitake mushrooms, but I believe that many other mushrooms have same effect. Ganoderma lucidum is an old Chinese medicinal mushroom. It has also been used in Siberia and in Finland for many other purposes as well. The Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) is a traditional Russian folk remedy, which helps fight cancer and also helps prevent the formation of the glucosidase enzyme. Chaga mushrooms are quite popular today among health-conscious people in Finland. Chaga mushrooms grow on birch trees. Birch trees also grow in the north states of the US and in Canada.
Epigenetics is future. Epigenetics will revolutionize everything that concerns nutrition. It is a method to find out how food affects our genes. The Spanish olive oil study best shows what is expected in the future. The study included three groups (A, B, and C). A got traditionally produced olive oil and B got processed olive oil. C was a control group. After 3 months expression of the genes related to atherosclerosis were significantly reduced compared to other groups.
Dr Antti Heikkilä has always been interested in nutrition and the effect that food has on our bodies. Already in the 1980s, he began studying how the mind and nutrition affect our overall health after discovering that surgery only helped a fraction of patients suffering from constant pain. He started to use various integrative methods on his patients; a nutrition-rich natural diet played a key role in helping his patients avoid all processed food. Dr Heikkilä is a surgeon and an orthopaedic and traumatology specialist. He works at Eira Hospital in Helsinki, Finland. View his book Nutrition Therapy for Diabetes.