How Carbs and Sugar Are Connected to Insulin - dummies

How Carbs and Sugar Are Connected to Insulin

By Dan DeFigio

Diabetes is one of the biggest threats to modern human health. With high sugar intake, low amounts of exercise, and too many calories overall (which unfortunately describes most of America these days), the body is forced to produce more and more insulin, a hormone that’s essential for preventing a dangerous buildup of sugar in your bloodstream but that, at high levels, can cause problems.

High insulin levels cause you to store fat and crave more food. This cycle continues over the years, and as you gain weight, your body becomes less and less sensitive to insulin, and it craves more and more sugar. The end result is obesity and insulin resistance, which lead to diabetes.

The most important source of fuel for your body is glucose, which enters the bloodstream after you eat. Glucose then travels throughout your bloodstream and is used by every cell in your body for energy.

The pancreas, an organ located behind your stomach, is in charge of releasing hormones that make your body either store or release calories. One of those hormones is insulin.

Insulin “unlocks” your cells to allow the sugar circulating in the blood to enter the cells, where it can be turned into energy. After you eat a meal, your pancreas senses a rise in your blood sugar level and releases the insulin needed to move sugar from your blood into your cells.

When you eat too many carbohydrates (especially sugars and low-fiber carbs), your pancreas is forced to secrete a lot of insulin to manage all that sugar.

Insulin generally does an adequate job of shuttling all that sugar to the right places (including turning all the extra sugar into fat), but regularly having high insulin levels causes several serious problems:

  • High insulin levels decrease your ability to burn body fat for fuel.

  • Over time your body becomes less sensitive to all the extra insulin, and it requires more and more of it to control blood sugar levels. This is called insulin resistance, and it inevitably leads to type 2 diabetes.

  • High insulin levels lower blood sugar levels — that’s insulin’s job, after all. Too much insulin lowers blood sugar levels too far. Sugar crash! This causes more cravings.

  • High insulin levels make you sleepy and sluggish.