Diabetes is a common health problem in the United States. Nearly 40 million Americans (about one in ten) have some form of diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and about one in five people with diabetes are undiagnosed.
Insulin is essential in regulating blood sugar and supplying the cells with the energy they need to function.
Certain health and lifestyle factors, like obesity, poor diet, and a sedentary lifestyle, can lead to insulin resistance, which can trigger health challenges when your body is forced to produce more insulin as a result. Some of the most common are high blood pressure and atherosclerosis.
Dr. Harmanpreet Buttar and our team offer a range of services, including a medical gym and weight loss services at Vital Clinic and Spa, designed to help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle.
The role of insulin in your body
Here are some of the primary functions of insulin in your body:
Regulate blood sugar
Insulin helps regulate blood sugar by assisting cells to absorb glucose from the bloodstream. When you eat carbohydrates, they're broken down into glucose, which is released into the bloodstream.
Insulin enables cells in the liver, muscles, and fat tissues to absorb the glucose for energy as needed.
Glucose is the primary source of energy for your cells. Without insulin, the cells can’t effectively use the glucose in your bloodstream, leading to high blood sugar levels and an inability to convert the glucose to energy.
When blood sugar levels are high, insulin stimulates the conversion of excess glucose into glycogen, which is stored to use later when your blood sugar decreases. That helps maintain a stable supply of glucose between meals or during periods of fasting.
Insulin also influences protein metabolism. It helps the cells absorb amino acids, which are the building blocks for protein synthesis. Insulin helps regulate the balance between protein synthesis and breakdown, facilitating tissue repair, growth, and cell maintenance.
How diet and lifestyle affect insulin
Diet and lifestyle choices can significantly impact insulin levels and insulin resistance.
Here are some examples of the relationship between diet and insulin:
The type and amount of carbohydrates you eat can affect your insulin levels. Simple carbohydrates, like refined sugars and white flour products, are digested quickly and cause your blood sugar to spike, leading to a surge in insulin production.
Complex carbohydrates, like whole grains, legumes, and vegetables, take longer to digest, so insulin is released gradually and helps keep your blood sugar levels stable throughout the day.
Fiber slows the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, preventing rapid spikes in blood sugar and reducing the demand for more insulin. High-fiber foods, like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, also help stabilize blood sugar levels.
Too many saturated and trans fats increase your risk of developing insulin resistance. Alternatively, healthy fats (monounsaturated fats), like avocados, nuts, olive oil, and omega-3 fatty acids from fish, chia seeds, and flaxseeds, help fight insulin resistance and improve your health.
Protein has a minimal impact on insulin levels compared to carbohydrates. It slows the absorption of glucose from carbohydrates, preventing blood sugar spikes. Eating protein-rich foods can also help with weight management since protein-rich meals make you feel fuller and reduce the risk of overeating.
A regular exercise routine with cardio and strength training helps your body metabolize glucose into energy and keeps your blood sugar levels steady. Since being overweight is linked to insulin sensitivity and resistance, exercise is essential to maintain a healthy weight.
For more information about insulin's role in the body and what you can do to safely achieve and maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle, contact us today to schedule an appointment with Dr. Buttar at our office in Cypress, Texas.