Insulin resistance by Daphne Lambert

When you eat a meal your blood sugar rises which prompts your pancreas to release insulin into your bloodstream. Insulin sends a signal to your muscle cells that they need to take up the excess sugar. Your muscle cells either use up the glucose as an energy source or store it in a slightly altered form called glycogen.

When you haven't eaten for several hours your blood sugar starts to fall. To restore equilibrium your pancreas pumps out a complementary hormone called glucogen that converts the glycogen back into glucose and then sends it back into your bloodstream. If all goes well your pancreas produces just enough of these hormones at just the right time to keep your blood glucose within optimal levels. A healthy body is described as 'insulin sensitive'

Our metabolism evolved aeons ago when our diet included carbohydrates of a more complex nature. Today most calories in the average diet come in the form of carbohydrates and most of these are simple carbohydrates – sugars that quickly enter the blood stream. The body has to release high levels of insulin to keep the level of glucose in the bloodstream from spiraling out of control. But in time the cells stop responding to this signal. The pancreas senses that glucose levels are still high and releases more insulin. Eventually the muscle cells respond but it takes an excessive amount of hormone to get the job done. As a result you have abnormally high insulin levels and at this point the body is known as 'insulin resistant'

Insulin resistance is an underlying factor in a range of health problems. The most obvious disease resulting from insulin resistance is type 2 diabetes.

The majority of type 2 diabetes could be prevented and this would cost far less than treating diabetes and its complications. The estimated global healthcare expenditures to treat and prevent diabetes and its complications in 2010 total at least 376 billion (US dollar). The estimated diabetes prevalence for 2010 is 285 million people with a prediction that by 2030 the number of people with diabetes will have risen to 438 million.

Far from being a disease of higher income nations, diabetes is very much a disease associated with poverty, with the major burden borne by low- and middle-income countries and disproportionately affecting lower socio-economic groups, the disadvantaged and the minorities in richer countries.

The biggest concern, has to be, that food choices and lifestyle are fuelling a worldwide increase in obesity in children and adolescents leading to diabetes being one of the most chronic diseases to affect young people

A diet to protect against insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes

Eat a seasonal diet and to ensure maximum minerals and vitamins choose organic. The best diet consists of a variety of leafy greens, vegetables, pulses, eggs, seeds, nuts, fruit and, if you wish, oily fish a little grass fed meat and dairy, these foods will enable you to meet the body's nutritional needs.

Some nutrients are especially important in protecting against type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance. Chromium (found in potatoes, onions, broccoli and whole grains) has long been known to support insulin function. Magnesium (almonds, pumpkin seeds, oats and dried figs)is a key factor in the regulation of insulin and is one of the most common micro-nutrients found to be depleted in the cells and bloodstream of insulin resistant and type 1 and type 2 diabetes patients. Vitamin B group (found in leafy green vegetables and whole grains) which is often depleted in people suffering from stress and Vitamin C (found in peppers, broccoli, berries and citrus)

General guidelines

Eat a diet of whole foods.

Avoid all processed foods. No 'white' food at all – sugar, pasta, bread.

Eat small regular meals. Breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack and supper.

Do not eat food containing processed fats.

Eat the right fats – polyunsturated fats from hemp and oily fish and saturated fats preferably unpasteurised from pasture fed dairy

Refined and sugar laden foods are a health hazard. A 2008 study showed, the effects of a single sugar hit, can last for 14 days and that our cells switched off genetic controls designed to protect the body against diabetes and heart disease.