Dr. Pamela Smith talked about weight gain and insulin resistance. Her talk took place at the 26th Anti-Aging Conference of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine in Las Vegas (Dec. 13-15, 2018).
Dr. Smith pointed out that 80% of the adult population in the US has blood sugar levels that are too high.
High blood sugar cause
First of all, she explained that the cause of this is the fact that people eat too many refined carbs. An overload of refined carbohydrates are in processed foods, in candies and anything with added refined sugar.
Secondly, on top of that people are stressed. They drink caffeinated drinks and alcohol excessively, and despite all the warnings some people still smoke. The birth control pill can contribute to hormone disbalances and elevate insulin. A lack of exercise is also a contributing factor to high glucose levels.
Thirdly, when the doctor does blood tests, the common finding is that fasting insulin levels are high in patients with insulin resistance. These patients have insulin resistance where the insulin receptors are “lazy”, so the body overproduces insulin in an attempt to lower the blood sugar. But with insulin resistance this does not work.
Causes of high insulin
In female patients with high fasting insulin the doctor finds decreased estrogen levels, excessively high progesterone levels and increased testosterone. With males there is decreased testosterone. Both sexes show an increase of DHEA. Both males as well as females complain of sleeplessness, and they may also have hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormones).
Symptoms of insulin resistance
Dr. Smith said that there are a number of complaints that indicate that the person has insulin resistance. Such symptoms are acne, burning feet, constipation, ankle swelling, difficulties memorizing things and having problems to concentrate. Fluctuating high blood pressure, depression and fatigue are other signs. In addition there can be other symptoms of insulin resistance. Such symptoms are infertility, inability to think clearly, irregular menstrual cycles and irritability. Water retention and weight gain are other symptoms.
The key laboratory test for insulin resistance is the fasting insulin level as described earlier.
Lifestyle changes to treat insulin resistance
One of the first treatment principles is to encourage the person to exercise. To get health benefits, exercise should amount to at least 4 hours per week. Next, patients need to ensure they get enough sleep, because this will help to normalize the other hormones in the body. All patients with insulin resistance need to eat a healthy diet. The best diet is a Mediterranean style diet. It is a low glycemic index diet. Dr. Smith also stressed the importance to avoid high fructose corn syrup. Researchers have established that intermittent caloric restriction is very helpful in restoring normal insulin sensitivity. Nutritional supplements and botanical medicines can also be useful. With 4 hours of exercise per week insulin resistance can return into insulin sensitivity where the insulin system works normally again. Dr. Smith provided evidence of how important fiber intake is.
Nutritional supplements for patients with insulin resistance or diabetes
Dr. Smith said that common supplements used for patients with diabetes or insulin resistance are as follows: Chromium, magnesium, alpha lipoic acid, vanadium, vitamin D, Fish oil concentrate (EPA/DHA). In addition vitamin E, L-arginine, L-carnitine, L-carnosine, L-taurine are other supplements. Dr. Smith gave detailed reasons why the mentioned supplements make sense in terms of various actions in the body’s metabolism. However, further details of that would be inappropriate for this summary. Dr. Smith also provided several references from the literature regarding each of the mentioned supplements, which I will not mention here.
Common botanicals for insulin resistance or diabetes
Ginseng, bitter melon, aloe vera, fenugreek, psyllium fiber, nopal, cinnamon, bilberry and gymnema are all beneficial for insulin resistance or diabetes. In addition, Dr. Smith said green tea, Berberine, olive leaf extracts, green coffee beans, pycnogenol, ivy gourd, milk thistle, devil’s club and artichoke are all botanicals that help patients with insulin resistance. She mentioned references regarding clinical trials showing efficacy of them.
Insulin resistance is an important reason why many people suffer from weight gain. The reason is that the insulin receptors on the body cells are partially deaf to the insulin hormone signal. As a result sugar is high in the blood, but the body cells starve for glucose. This makes a person hungry despite being overweight or obese. Dr. Smith summarized the science that tells us that there have to be lifestyle changes to treat insulin resistance. The solution is to adopt a Mediterranean-like diet, eat enough fiber and exercise regularly (at least 4 hours per week). It is important to cut out all refined sugar intake including high-fructose corn syrup. This includes also cutting out most processed foods, which contain either sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. In addition get enough sleep every night.
These are the ingredients that a person needs to overcome insulin resistance. It is also a tool to lose weight. Nutritional supplements and botanicals can complement the lifestyle changes. Dr. Smith mentioned numerous examples. But without lifestyle changes the supplements will not work. Start with lifestyle choices first, after which some supplements can bring additional success in your quest for getting healthy!