Life Extension Magazine

Life Extension Magazine September 2004

Novel Fiber Limits Sugar Absorption

LE Magazine September 2004
Novel Fiber Limits Sugar Absorption

The public has awoken to the fact that high-glycemic carbohydrates promote weight gain by causing insulin to surge. In response to a wave of media publicity, “low-carb” diets have become enormously popular. Weight-loss books warning of insulin’s fat-inducing effects have sold millions of copies.

Anecdotal reports of people shedding huge amounts of body fat have caused dieters to avoid high-glycemic foods. Published scientific findings reveal that weight loss occurs in response to low-carb diets, but the average reduction in body fat has not been overly dramatic. Nevertheless, there are benefits to shedding (rather than gaining) fat pounds each year, along with enormous disease-preventing effects if excess insulin secretion is reduced.

This article examines the dangers of excess insulin, the role of insulin in promoting obesity, and a new dietary supplement that has been shown to reduce after-meal insulin release by 40%.

Why the Confusion Over Insulin?
Those afflicted with type I diabetes do not produce enough insulin. For these individuals, supplemental insulin is a lifesaving therapy. The public often associates insulin with healthy hormones, but insulin has an insidious dark side.

As normal aging and poor diet deprive cells of insulin sensitivity, many people produce excess insulin to force serum glucose into cells. This excessive insulin production is a contributing cause to a host of degenerative disorders, including heart disease and cancer.

The most immediate and noticeable effect of excess insulin production is unwanted weight gain. Insulin drives fat into cells, prevents fat from being released from cells, and makes people chronically hungry. High insulin levels contribute not only to obesity, but also to the disease states associated with being overweight.

While insulin saves the lives of type I diabetics who are dependent on it, it becomes a “death hormone” to aging people who secrete too much insulin. Reducing excess serum insulin is thus a critical component of any weight-reduction and longevity program.

What Is Hyperinsulinemia?
Insulin is produced by the beta cells in the pancreas. Insulin stimulates uptake of glucose (sugar) from the blood into the body’s cells. The resistance of the body’s cells to the action of insulin is called insulin resistance. As a result of insulin resistance and other factors, the pancreas produces more insulin than normal. This is called hyperinsulinemia.

In a normal person, one unit of insulin might be needed to help 10 mg of glucose go into a cell group. In hyperinsulinemia, ten units of insulin might be needed to get the same 10 mg of glucose into the cell group.1 Hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance create myriad problems, including elevated triglycerides, low HDL, type II diabetes, and obesity.

Figure 1 below shows the pathways to obesity and several degenerative diseases associated with insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia.

Insulin and Age-Related Disease
Numerous published studies reveal that excess serum insulin (hyperinsulinemia) is a major health problem. High serum insulin promotes hypertension by impairing sodium balance.2,3 Too much insulin harms the kidneys.4 The vascular system is severely damaged by prolonged exposure to excess insulin.5,6 By acting as a catalyst in promoting cell growth, excess insulin increases the risk and progression of certain cancers.7-11 High insulin promotes the formation of beta-amyloid in brain cells and may contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.12 Overproduction of insulin is even a contributory factor to prostate enlargement because of its effects in promoting the overgrowth of prostate cells.13

High serum insulin is associated with the development of abdominal obesity and the many health problems induced by abdominal obesity, including atherosclerosis and impotence.14-20 Obesity is associated with excess insulin and reduced insulin sensitivity, both risk factors for type II diabetes.

Perhaps the simplest way to evaluate the toxic effects of excess insulin is by examining its effects on human mortality. One study showed that over a 10-year period, the risk of dying was almost twice as great for those with the highest levels of insulin compared to those with the lowest.21 The study authors stated that hyperinsulinemia is associated with increased all-cause and cardiovascular mortality independent of other risk factors.

INSULIN BLOCKAGE EXTENDS MAXIMUM LIFE SPAN

The magnitude of insulin’s impact on body fat accumulation was demonstrated in a study published last year in the journal Science. Researchers altered the insulin receptor gene in the fat cells of mice so that the cells would not respond to insulin. Because insulin is needed to help cells store fat, these mice had less body fat and were protected against obesity.

The altered mice ate 55% more food per gram of body weight than normal mice, yet had 70% less body fat at three months of age. Moreover, the genetically altered mice had increased median and maximum life spans. After three years, all of the normal mice had died, but one-quarter of the mice whose fat cells were genetically altered to not respond to insulin were still alive.

The mice in this study were able to eat whatever they wanted and still stay slim because their fat tissue was programmed to not respond to insulin. The scientists concluded:

“A reduction of fat mass without caloric restriction can be associated with increased longevity in mice, possibly through effects on insulin signaling.”28

While it is not yet possible to alter human fat cells so that they do not respond to insulin, humans can take relatively simple steps to reduce the surge of insulin into the blood that occurs after eating.

Why Aging People Gain Weight
The number of overweight people is staggering. A review of the published literature indicates that a significant percentage of degenerative diseases is attributed to excess body fat. Those who are overweight face a significant risk of developing type II diabetes.22-24 The treatments for obesity and type II diabetes are interrelated. By effectively treating either one of these diseases, doctors can mitigate or control the other.

Poor diet, obesity, and aging result in excessive secretion of insulin, a factor in the development of type II diabetes. Suppressing the overproduction of insulin is a crucial component of a medically supervised weight-loss program.

A noticeable effect of surplus serum insulin is constant hunger, which results in a vicious cycle in which overeating causes more and more body fat to accumulate, which in turn causes even greater amounts of unwanted insulin to be secreted from the pancreas.25 We now know that hyperinsulinemia predicts diabetes mellitus.26 Even in children, serum insulin levels are far higher in obese than in non-obese children of the same age.

The effects of consuming high-glycemic foods and the subsequent hyperinsulinemia, hunger, and weight gain that occur are the subject of an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association titled “The Glycemic Index.”27 The article’s authors summarized their position as follows:

“It is possible that the hunger incident to hyperinsulinemia may be a cause of overeating, and therefore, the obesity that so often precedes diabetes.”

Dangerous After-Meal Sugar Levels
The excess elevation of blood sugar after eating wreaks havoc in the body via multiple pathological mechanisms. Elevations in postprandial (after-meal) blood sugar, along with the accompanying insulin surge, are major contributors to the development of diabetic and age-related disorders such as heart disease, as well as diseases of the microvasculature (small blood vessels within the eyes, kidneys, and nerves).

People who have normal fasting glucose levels but whose average postprandial glucose level exceeds 200 mg/dL are three times more likely to suffer diabetic retinopathy than those who do not.29

Growing evidence indicates that severe spikes in postprandial blood sugar are a major problem for non-diabetics as well. The two primary mechanisms by which post-meal hyperglycemia causes such problems are formation of advanced glycation end products (the binding of glucose to body proteins) and increased production of free radicals that lead to severe arterial wall damage.30,31

To investigate the relationship between glucose metabolism and the severity of heart disease, one study measured how many coronary arteries were blocked in relation to postprandial glucose-insulin blood levels and other atherogenic risk factors. All of the men participating in the study had normal fasting glucose blood readings, but in response to a glucose challenge, demonstrated significantly different rates of glucose-insulin spikes. Men with the highest levels of post-load glucose, insulin, and other measurements of glycemic imbalance had the greatest number of blocked coronary arteries.32

These studies make it abundantly clear that blunting the after-meal increase in blood sugar is an important goal for those seeking optimal longevity.

FOODS TO AVOID

Eating foods and beverages that are high in sugar causes the release of excess insulin. Chronic insulin overload results in weight gain and the development of age-related diseases. Most people do not realize that many common foods (in addition to pure sugar) induce a dangerous insulin spike.

When evaluating the glucose-insulin-elevating effects of foods, the two established measurements are the “glycemic index” and “glycemic load.” Consumption of foods that are high in both of these measurements should be avoided or reduced. Here are some examples of how different types of foods compare:

High Glycemic Index + High Glycemic Load

 

Glycemic
Index

Glycemic
Load*

Instant rice

91

24.8

Baked potato

85

20.3

Corn flakes

84

21.0

White bread

70

21.0

Rye bread

65

19.5

Banana

53

13.3

Spaghetti

41

16.4

Lower Glycemic Index + Lower Glycemic Load

 

Glycemic
Index

Glycemic
Load*

Carrot

71

3.8

Apple

36

8.1

Lentils

29

5.7

Milk

27

3.2

Peanuts

14

0.7

Broccoli

negligible

negligible

* Glycemic load calculated on differing quantities of each food group.

The chart of high-glycemic foods offers guidance for dining out: avoid eating bread, ask for a double portion of vegetables in lieu of potato or rice, and refuse any kind of dessert offered.

While these dietary changes can be difficult to implement, reducing the carbohydrate-craving effects of excess insulin can make this diet modification tolerable over the long term. The use of a new dietary supplement that reduces the amount of glucose and insulin in the blood after ingesting high-glycemic foods can help curb cravings for foods that are high in carbohydrates.