Is Insulin Really The Bad Guy That Some Make It Out To Be?

Poor old insulin…’s been labeled as being the devil in the details for quite a long time now. The entire Low-Carb movement basically hangs it’s hat on the idea that insulin is single-handedly responsible for

making humanity fat. I had an argument once, about Gary Taubes with a commenter on my Underground Nutritionist Facebook page, because he didn’t agree with my assertion that Gary blames Insulin above everything else for the Obesity problem. Sure there are other elements to the whole equation, but primarily, Gary’s aim is pretty firmly on Insulin aggravated by carbohydrate intake. I’ve read “Good Calories, Bad Calories”, and “Why We Get Fat” too, you know!

We know that one of insulin’s main jobs is to store fat, but is that the ONLY

thing it does? Does it ALWAYS store fat when carbohydrates are present, regardless of the amount of calories being eaten? Is insulin really the bad guy that some make it out to be?

Today, Sunday May 27th 2012, David Despain posted an interesting insulin based article on his blog “Evolving Health”, entitled “Good insulin, bad insulin: Its role in obesity?“.

Gary Taubes makes insulin out to be a bad guy. In his latest article in Newsweek Magazine commenting on HBO’s Weight of the Nation documentary, he once again challenges energy balance (energy intake versus energy expended) as a paradigm for understanding obesity. His alternative theory: refined sugars and grains trigger insulin, which leads to fat accumulation. He also doesn’t think much of physical activity as playing a “meaningful role in keeping off the pounds.”

Is he right? Not according to Jim Hill, Ph.D., a professor of pediatrics and medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Denver. Hill is the cofounder of the National Weight Control Registry, a registry of individuals who’ve succeeded in maintaining weight loss over time. He is also co-founder of America on the Move, national weight gain prevention initiative.

This statement actually has a lot of gravity viagra in canada pfizer when you think about it, “a registry of individuals who’ve succeeded in maintaining weight loss over time”, because people who have succeeded in maintain their weight over time obviously have it figured out. They have obviously found a way of eating that is sustainable and enables them to avoid the usual weight fluctuations that many people experience after losing weight.

At a session at Experimental Biology, Hill said that the the “energy-in energy-out” framework continues to dominate as correct in current scientific literature on obesity. When asked whether or not the rise of obesity epidemic is related to diet or physical activity, Hill responds (with a laugh), “Yes.” That is because studies have shown that either restriction calories or greater physical activity can lead to weight loss.

Then, what’s wrong with Taubes’s insulin hypothesis? First, it’s important to point out that insulin is also a good guy. As kinesiologist John Ivy, Ph.D., of the University of Texas, pointed out to me a few years ago, insulin is too often misunderstood of which the unfortunate consequence is a detriment of muscle and strength. Ivy’s own research is on muscle insulin resistance and how it is reduced with exercise.

Insulin’s role is much more clearly explained in Ivy’s book The Future of Sports Nutrition: Nutrient Timing. He writes that, yes, insulin is a promoter of fat synthesis. But it is also a crucial hormone for promoting protein synthesis, reducing protein degradation (including suppressing cortisol, which can be catabolic in nature), and promoting glucose uptake and glycogen storage in muscle.

I’m not going to quote anymore here… need to go on over to David’s blog and read the rest of this interesting article.

Is Insulin really the bad guy that some make it out to be?

My view on insulin continues to be this: If a person has some metabolic derangement, i.e. insulin resistance or diabetes, a low-carbohydrate diet that works by manipulating or limiting insulin is the best diet for this type of person. Short term….not long term. However, if a person has a properly functioning metabolism, insulin manipulation is not as important. Nowhere near as important actually.

The bottom line is that if a person has a properly functioning metabolism, and they are eating less calories than their body requires, no amount of insulin will cause the permanent storage of fat to occur. Even if fat is stored in fat cells by insulin, in a hypo-caloric state, that fat will be released and utilized at some point, because the body needs the calories.

What do YOU think?


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2 Responses to Is Insulin Really The Bad Guy That Some Make It Out To Be?

  1. Kev May 28, 2012 at 11:55 am

    I believe that the premise for the book was nothing about insulin, but about bad science.
    Ultimately, my take away from Taubes is not that insulin is the bad guy, but that refined carbohydrate are the bad guy. Insulin is just the mechanism to deals with the overload of the carbohydrates.
    Taubes also explain why calories in vs calories out does not tell us any thing with the lack of causation explanation.
    I believe this goes to the heart of the problem faced today; improper definition of the problem.
    We do not face a problem with to much insulin; we face a problem of too much refined carbohydrates.
    Once the problem is properly defined the solution should bear itself to be lower the refined carbohydrate intake.

  2. Suzie May 28, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    I do not participate in the National Weight Control Registry, but I have read about some who do. I think the questions they ask lead to confirmation of the ELMM paradigm. They are biased questions. Low - carbers get frustrated because their lifestyle isn’t listed as an option for answering their questions. As I have not participated in the survey, I can not say this is true from personal experience. It would be interesting if anyone out there who has participated would comment on this.