The Insulin and Cholesterol Connection

The sweetness of sugar tastes oh so good, and has brought us great joy in life. It has been fed to us since early childhood by the person in our lives we trust the most – our mothers.

Yet, sugar  is also terribly bad for us.

This white, crystalline goodness not only decays our teeth, it also causes our pancreas to secrete one of the body’s most powerful hormones – insulin. While insulin is necessary for the regulation of our blood sugar, an overabundance of it will eventually result to insulin resistance. The main culprit behind insulin resistance is overeating,  high sugar intake, inflammation, inactivity, genetics and increased body fat. A high level of blood sugar is associated with a host of complications, including cholesterol abnormalities.

The linking factor is insulin resistance!

Have you ever noticed the prevalence of media advertisements for diabetic drugs and statins for high cholesterol? Is it just a coincidence these advertisements have prevailed with the increase of sugar consumption?

What is insulin resistance?

Insulin resistance is when cells in your muscles, fat, and liver don’t respond well to insulin and can’t easily take up glucose from your blood. As a result, your pancreas makes more insulin to help glucose enter your cells. As long as your pancreas can make enough insulin to overcome your cells’ weak response to insulin, your blood glucose levels will stay in the healthy range.

With insulin resistance, you may also develop an abnormal cholesterol profile – low high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good cholesterol”), high low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad cholesterol”), and high triglycerides. These cholesterol abnormalities then greatly increase your risk for heart disease and stroke. Even if you are currently healthy, the smart money is on managing your blood sugar as a means of protecting your cardiovascular health.

Insulin Resistance and Cholesterol Changes

Once you have consumed a meal, all of the carbohydrates are then broken down into glucose by your digestive system. This glucose is then absorbed through the wall of your intestines into your bloodstream. Once there, insulin causes the glucose to be absorbed into various cells in order for them to have the energy to function and do their jobs. Insulin also blocks the breakdown of fat into fatty acids (lipolysis) within your body.

Insulin resistance is when the cells become less responsive to this process. As a result, blood sugar eventually increases, which is why it’s considered a precursor to pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes. Fats are also broken down within the body at an increased rate, and this ultimately leads to various cholesterol changes.

Specifically, insulin resistance lowers HDL and raises triglycerides and LDL.

 Insulin resistance increases your risk for both high glucose levels and abnormal cholesterol levels, which then increases your risk for heart disease!

Heart disease is the leading cause of death across the globe! People with insulin resistance are 93% more likely to also develop heart disease.

The following are risk factors for insulin resistance:

  • being overweight or obese, especially when the extra weight is around the midriff
  • a sedentary lifestyle or one that is low in exercise
  • smoking
  • sleep issues
  • high blood pressure has been linked to an increased risk of insulin resistance

You can take steps to reverse insulin resistance:

  • Exercise. Go for at least 30 minutes a day of moderate activity (like brisk walking) 5 or more days a week. If you’re not active now, work up to that.
  • Get to a healthy weight . If you’re not sure what you should weigh or how to reach a weight loss goal, ask your doctor. You may also want to talk with a nutritionist and a certified personal trainer.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Think fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, fish, legumes, and other lean protein. Follow our simple to follow plan here at David’s Way to Health and Fitness.

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