What Happens to a Meal
You sit down at the table and consume a three-course dinner. Somewhere between chewing and excreting, your body absorbs certain substances from your food, mostly across the surface of your small intestine. From the carbohydrate you eat, your body will absorb sugars, all of which are, or quickly and easily become, glucose. From fat, it absorbs glycerol and fatty acids, and from protein, it absorbs amino acids, the building blocks of all cells.
As Your Blood Sugar Rises
Consuming carbohydrates impacts your blood-sugar levels. The amount of carbs-and the typewill determine how your blood sugar responds. For example, a food full of refined sugar and white flour, such as a jelly doughnut, will raise blood sugar much more dramatically than does a salad.
To be useful to your body, blood sugar has to be transported to your cells. Think of insulin as the barge that transports glucose from your blood to your cells. Once it reaches the cells, three things can happen to that glucose: It can be mobilized for immediate energy; it can be converted into glycogen for later use as a source of energy; or it can be stored as fat.
A Host of Other Health Issues
Here are some further reasons why high insulin levels can lead to big problems:
- Insulin increases salt and water retention, a recipe for high blood pressure.
- Insulin is directly involved in creating atherosclerotic plaques, which, if not controlled, can lead to heart disease.
- High insulin levels have been shown to correlate with high levels of triglycerides and low levels of “good” HDL cholesterol.
- High insulin levels correlate with increased risk of breast cancer and polycystic ovarian syndrome. (Conversely, the lower the levels of insulin, the better the survival rates for breast cancer.)
Obesity increases insulin resistance. This means that you can sharply reduce your risk of blood-sugar disorders-and by extension, heart disease and other ailments-by simply keeping your weight down and controlling carbohydrate intake. Even if you have a hereditary predisposition to diabetes, you may be able to stall or completely avoid its onset.
A Subject of Intensive Study
Don’t think the mainstream medical profession hasn’t noticed the correlation between insulin resistance and disease. In the past fifteen years-and this is a trend that only keeps buildingmedical journals have published studies of the powerful association between obesity-usually accompanied by hyperinsulinism-and the probability of heart disease or stroke. All around the world the studies pour in. For example, using data from several epidemiological studies, Dr. B. Balkau found links between high glucose levels and mortality in thousands of men whose medical histories had been followed for two decades. Uniformly, high blood-glucose levels and insulin resistance signified markedly higher risk of death from cardiovascular causes.
This Is Why You Can’t Lose Weight
I am about to recount a horror story that might be headlined: Innocent Human Is Turned upon by Own Hormones! But we did it to ourselves, you know. Remember, no culture in world history has ever consumed even a fraction of the sugar we twenty-first-century Westerners do.
Perhaps you’ve been overweight for a long time. Once there was a stage in the progress of your metabolic disease when you could lose weight pretty easily, if you sharply cut your caloric intake. You’d gain the pounds back, but at least at the price of hunger, you could shed them again. Then, although your weight continued to yo-yo up and down, you began to notice that the yo-yo went up easily, but getting it to fall down again was harder and harder.
Willpower is not the issue. To lose weight, you’re going to need the controlled carbohydrate nutritional approach offered by this book. You will also need the two other legs of the Atkins triad: regular exercise and nutritional supplementation. I know I’ve produced a really heart-sinking analysis of how and why fat accumulates on your body. So, what do you do now? You adjust the insulin spigot. And so far as weight loss goes, the answer lies in two entwined concepts: burning fat and controlling carbohydrates, which we will explore in the upcoming chapters.