Unraveling Insulin Resistance: Linking Chronic High Blood Glucose to Obesity

Author: Yean Toh | Published date: August 29, 2023 | Category: Nutrition

Unraveling the Link: Insulin Resistance and Chronic High Blood Glucose

In the long term, your blood glucose level remains chronically high because whenever it drops, you consume some sugar to bring it back up. Meanwhile, the body is repeatedly exposed to an outpouring of insulin from the pancreas.

The Culprit Emerges: Understanding Insulin Resistance Development

Eventually, the body develops insulin resistance, a condition in which the cells no longer respond to insulin. Normally, insulin escorts glucose to the cells for energy production. When the cells develop insulin resistance, they stop accepting glucose. As a result, the excess blood glucose gets immediately converted into fat for storage.

Unlocking the Epidemic: Insulin Resistance as the Driver of Nutritional Obesity

This is the root cause of nutritional obesity or obesity caused by nutritional imbalances. It has become a major epidemic disease worldwide, particularly in the US where the rate of obesity has skyrocketed in recent years.

The Looming Threat: Metabolic Syndrome and its Multifaceted Impact

While obesity is a problem in itself, it is also a major cause of metabolic syndrome, a collection of diseases that includes obesity, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases and lipid disorders (high cholesterol and high triglycerides, which increase the risk of cardiovascular disease). Metabolic syndrome is a very serious problem. There is a growing concern that children of this generation have a good chance of dying from the complications of metabolic syndrome before their parents.

From Overeating to Underlying Causes: Evolution of Obesity Understanding

Overweight and obesity were initially viewed simply as problems of over-eating. And so the prescribed solution was either to eat less or exercise more, or to do both. Yet such prescriptions did not always produce the desired results.

Today, doctors understand that overweight and obesity are due to insulin resistance. So while normal healthy people may continue to eat fair amounts of sucrose and starch, those who are obese should limit their consumption to the minimum. In addition, they need intensive exercise to eliminate insulin resistance.

The Deadly Duo: Refined Carbohydrates' Role in Obesity

Besides excessive carbohydrates, there are two other less-obvious categories of foods that contribute to obesity:

  • "Comfort food", which people tend to eat when they are feeling down or depressed;
  • "Modern food", which consists of processed foods and beverages.

These two categories of foods tend to combine refined starchy carbohydrates (usually white flour) with large amounts of sugar (containing glucose and fructose). This combination of refined sugar with refined starch is deadly and has been identified as a leading cause of obesity.

Unraveling the Lean Paradox: Insulin Resistance Beyond Obesity

Although insulin resistance is directly linked to obesity, it is estimated that about 25 percent of lean people also have insulin resistance. To start with, they were epigenetically programmed with insulin resistance inside the womb while growing under a deprived womb environment. This may have been a result of an undernourished mother during pregnancy or a faulty placenta that failed to deliver nutrients across to the foetus. Such a deprived foetus is born "small for date" that is, smaller than average-sized babies.

Early Origins of Resistance: Epigenetic Imprints and Fetal Programming

This happens in order to prevent the body cells from consuming the limited available glucose - and reserved it for the growth and development of the foetus's brain, which has top priority. These small-for-date babies must be identified and prevented from eating excessive calories from sugar and starch throughout their life, so as to avoid activating their epigenetically programmed insulin resistance.

This content is adapted, with permission, from Book 1 of 2 : The Wonders of Nutrition by Dr Ang Poon Liat. MBBS, M.MED (PAED), MRCP (UK PAED), FAMS, MD.



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