We have all heard of insulin, however, there is uncertainty to the role it plays in our body. Insulin is a hormone secreted by beta cells found in the pancreas; one of the most crucial functions of insulin is to tell the cells in the body to absorb carbohydrates (glycogen) from blood once it has been digested into its simplest form (glucose). So for instance, you ate a huge bowl of pasta with a side of linguine for lunch, this would be digested into glucose and enter the blood stream. Insulin is then released, signalling to cells to uptake glucose. A critical point to keep note of is once the muscles and liver cells are fully saturated with carbohydrates, insulin then allows carbs to be stored as fatty acids in fat cells. This is a growing problem with todays society as the vast majority of our diet is carbohydrate (complex and non complex) based, enhancing storage of fat due to insulin resistance.
In type 1 diabetes the beta cells no longer work, as carbs are broken down into glucose the pancreas can not excrete insulin necessary to mop up blood glucose. This leaves the body extremely vulnerable as blood glucose levels are left dangerously high which can result in comas and death. Unfortunately, this leaves types 1 diabetes sufferers insulin dependent.
With type 2 diabetes the beta cells still work allowing the excretion of insulin, however, due to regular intake of carbs (more so refined non complex carbs) blood sugar levels are spiked so often that there is a constant presence of insulin. This is a detrimental problem as it results in the body becoming resistant to the amount of insulin it would normally secret. To allow the uptake of blood glucose into cells, beta cells have to secret more and more amounts of insulin. If this eating habit continues eventually the beta cells die out, insulin can no longer be secreted and the person becomes insulin dependent. It is also worth noticing that sufferers of type 2 diabetes are frequently obese contributing to a higher risk of other chronic diseases as insulin has a knock on affect other hormone systems.
The good news is that type 2 diabetes is usually reversible with diet. The human body needs carbs to survive, and when I say ‘needs carbs’, I mean unrefined complex carbohydrates (rice, potatoes, oats). The human body does not need refined non complex carbs (sweets, chocolate, donuts) but who are we kidding we love this stuff, so of course it would be near impossible to completely cut it out of our diet. What I would suggest with every other person who values their health is to have some self control, limit the amount of bad stuff we put into our bodies, which can be easier said than done when you don’t know where or how to start. An easy place to start is to have the bulk of our carbs to come from complex unrefined carbs and a small portion to come from the stuff that we loose control with. If you like numbers 80:20, 80% complex carbs and 20% refined non complex carbs daily or weekly.
Remember everything in moderation is ok, don’t get carb scared they aren’t the enemy! But they are the most effective way to put on weight, we will save that topic for another time.