I had such a great response to last weeks post that I decided to do a part 2 on carbohydrates (CHO) and its relationship to obesity! So once again the focus will be on insulin, and like last week the information is not all inclusive and does not cover everyone with a special need, disease, or condition. Of course before I dive in I want to remind everyone that for healthy individuals, insulin is very tightly controlled by the body and there is no reason at all to fear it. And as a refresher on what insulin does I’ll remind you that one of insulin’s main roles is to maintain glucose homeostasis.
– Increased sugar consumption has significantly contributed to the rise in obesity and metabolic diseases
– There is an association between risk of overweight and obesity and fructose-containing sugars consumed as sugar-sweetened beverages
– High intakes of highly palatable foods like refined grains, processed meats, red meats, French fries, and potato products play a role in weight gain
– Insulin levels are typically increased in obese individuals
At this point you may be asking yourself “wait what? I thought this was about how carbs aren’t bad for me?” I will say first and foremost thatassociation is not causation. This means that the previously mentioned issues are only part of the problem. To see the big picture lets focus back in on what else is driving the obesity epidemic.
– Physical inactivity!!!!!!!!!! (as I sit in front of a screen I realize that I’m a hypocrite… I’m doing 10 squats before I write more and so should you!)
– Over consumption of all foods is associated with overweight and obesity
– Western dietary pattern and lifestyle in general is just a culture of poor decisions
I say this because I really dislike absolutes. As in CHO’s are the reason why we have an obesity crisis. To me it doesn’t make sense. We have been eating the stuff forever without issue so why all of a sudden is it becoming a problem? Why are so many people blaming sugar and insulin to be the issue? Well the first, and most obvious, answer to this is that individuals want to make a quick buck off of a product, book, or alternative health care product. The second answer is that some individual just don’t understand whats really the issue. So here are some bullet point’s on why an increased insulin response to CHO consumption leading to lipogenesis (energy stored as fat) is not likely the mechanistic cause of the obesity problem.
– The supportive data for insulin being the bad guy are largely supported by ecological observations, rodent models of overfeeding (humans are not rats), and select human trials (all are poor evidence)
– There have been no high quality studies showing that fructose-containing sugars behave differently from any other forms of energy intake
– Although the food mentioned earlier are associated with increased levels of obesity, total sugars or other important sources of added sugars such as cakes, pastries and sweets have not
– If insulin was the true problem, we would observe increased insulin in all cases of obesity
– While there is increased insulin in obese people (in most cases), it appears its action is reduced (i.e. its action of lipogenesis and reducinglipolysis on fat tissue is decreased)
– Insulin can have short-term effects on how nutrients are stored in the body for things like muscle glycogen synthesis and muscle protein synthesis
So what the hell does this all mean? Well to sum it all up I can say that CHO’s do not cause obesity. They do however, play an important roll. It is way to easy to consume CHO’s in large quantities so it’s important to know how much energy you are taking in. Insulin is a substrate conductor that tells your cells what to use for fuel and can be manipulated to optimize fuel portioning to promote fat oxidation and recovery from workouts. What this all means is that obesity is likely the cause of insulin resistance, and NOT the driving factor behind it.