The way carbohydrates affect insulin release could be the major key to developing type 2 diabetes. When I was in my teens and twenties, I could literally eat a pizza a day (plus everything else, maybe even some beer) and still look great. Fast forward twenty years and this is not really (not at all!) the case anymore. Why is that?
Many researchers believe it is because, long term, carbohydrates adversely affect insulin release which can cause obesity and ultimately type 2 diabetes. Let’s take a look to see how this happens.
Our body processes carbohydrates into glucose (blood sugar). This glucose is the energy we use in our cells to help us grow and move about during the day. Insulin is needed to take the glucose out of the blood and be processed by our cells into usable energy.
THE PROGRESSIVE EFFECT OF INSULIN SPIKES OVER TIME
When we were younger, our bodies were very efficient. We processed food quite well. We also tended to be more active before we had kids, careers, etc. Traditionally, our diets have been very high in two forms of carbohydrates, sugar (e.g., high fructose corn syrup) and processed grains (e.g., white flour used to make white bread, pizza dough, white pasta, white rice, etc.).
Neither of these carbohydrates have any real nutritional value; however they cause our bodies to effectively go into shock to process the huge amounts of glucose created by them.
When we were young, our pancreas produced massive amounts of insulin to digest the glucose. So far, so good. However, over time our cells become resistant to all of the excess insulin, leading to insulin resistance. This is not good.
The excess glucose not processed by the cells begins to be stored by our body as fat. In ancient times, this was good. People would eat a lot during the summer to fatten up for the lean winter months. We would then burn the fat as energy when food was less plentiful.
Nowadays, it is just fat. Combine this with a lack of exercise, which helps burn more glucose, and most Americans now have a weight problem.
The next step is that the pancreas typically stops producing insulin as much and the glucose tends to build up even more fat and is also excreted through the urine. Ultimately, scientists believe this cycle may end as type 2 diabetes.
So, this is how carbohydrates affect insulin release. Our bodies simply cannot process the amount of glucose, particularly certain carbohydrates, we are consuming. Thus, the effects of carbohydrates over time have a varied but devastating effect on our insulin production and use.
By Erich Schultz – Last Reviewed May 2013.