What Causes Insulin Resistance and Metabolic Syndrome?
The last 20 years has seen an epidemic rise in Obesity, Metabolic Syndrome and Diabetes Mellitus in the United States. Extensive research has helped us to understand that the combination of high carbohydrate diets, lack of exercise and increased portion sizes has lead to this problem.
Prehistoric humans consumed approximately 1 cup of carbohydrates (starches and sugar) per year. The modern American consumes 1-2 cups per day! Simply put, we are not designed to consume the large amounts of carbohydrates we commonly do.
Additionally, our intake of high fructose corn syrup has risen from about 0.5 cups per person per year in 1970 to 90 cups per person per year in 2007! Recent research suggests that the increase in highly process carbohydrates such as high fructose corn syrup may in fact be the single most important cause of the Obesity and Diabetes epidemics in the United States!
Do You Have Insulin Resistance?
Insulin resistance is difficult to measure by a simple blood test so doctors depend on a combination of other simple lab tests and medical conditions in order to make the diagnosis. If one or more of the following is true for you, you may very likely have Insulin Resistance:
- Body Mass Index is equal to or greater than 29. (Click her to find a BMI calculator)
- Fasting blood sugar level that is higher than normal (>100).
- Fasting triglycerides are higher that 150.
- HDL Cholesterol is less than 50 for women or 40 for men.
- You have an excessive amount of fat around your waist (> 40 inches for Men & > 35 inches for Women; measure a relaxed abdomen at the midpoint between the top of the pelvis and the lowest rib of your flank)
- One (or more) of your brothers, sisters or parents has been diagnosed with diabetes.
- A history of Diabetes during pregnancy.
- Have been diagnosed with Sleep Apnea.
- Have been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.
- Have been diagnosed with Fatty Infiltration of the Liver.
- You have a skin condition known as Acanthosis Nigricans.
Do You Have Metabolic Syndrome?
The presence of 3 of the following 5 criteria means you have Metabolic Syndrome:
- Systolic blood pressure greater than 130 or diastolic blood pressure >85 or on treatment for hypertension.
- Central Obesity (more than 40 inches for men or 35 inches for women)
- Fasting blood sugar greater than 100 mg/dl or on treatment for elevated blood sugar.
- Triglycerides >150 mg/dl or on treatment for elevated triglycerides.
- HDL Cholesterol levels below 40 mg/dl for men or 50 for women.
Why Should I Care if I Have Metabolic Syndrome?
The diagnosis of Metabolic Syndrome is associated with a very high risk of heart attack, stroke or death over the next 10 years. The constellation of diagnoses above leads to a harmful synergy that is very dangerous. Fortunately Metabolic Syndrome is often reversible with a change in diet.
How are Insulin Resistance and Metabolic Syndrome Treated?
The key to tackling the Metabolic Syndrome lies in a better detection, earlier diagnosis and effective treatment of Insulin Resistance. While no single treatment for the Metabolic Syndrome as a whole yet exists, we know that lifestyle changes can significantly reverse the effects of Insulin Resistance.
Decreasing the proportion of carbohydrates in our diet from the common 50-60% of daily calories down to 25-30% (about half of your present intake) has a profound positive impact on blood sugar levels, blood pressure, triglyceride and HDL cholesterol levels and results in a surprising amount of fat reduction around the abdomen with often very little total weight loss. This is not an extreme reduction in carbohydrates like you might find with the “Atkins Diet” (about less than 5% of total daily calories) and is attainable by the majority of patients just simply trimming out the mindless consumption of carbohydrates that goes on through their day. Additionally, weight loss of only 5-10% can dramatically reverse many of the components of Insulin Resistance and Metabolic Syndrome as well.
The point of these 2 posts is not to scare the heck out of everyone but to make you more aware of the danger that Insulin Resistance poises to you and your family members and to give you encouragement that you can reverse this health risk by changing predominantly reducing your carbohydrate intake.
Remember, not every medical condition requires medication. In my practice, I have many patients who have successfully put the components of Insulin Resistance and Metabolic Syndrome into remission by simply reducing their carbohydrate intake and increase their exercise a little. If they can do it, you can to.