Virtually all doctors agree that elevated insulin resistance is very bad for human health, being the root cause of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. So, if it is so bad, why do we all develop it in the first place? How can such a mal-adaptive process be so ubiquitous?
As of 2015, over 50% of the American population has diabetes or pre-diabetes. This stunning statistic means that there are more people in the United States with pre-diabetes or diabetes than without it. It’s the new normal. Why does it develop it so frequently? There must be some protective purpose to it since our bodies are not designed to fail. Humans have lived for millennia before the modern diabesity epidemic. How can insulin resistance be protective?
You can discover many things by taking a different perspective. The golden rule states “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” A well-known quote says, “Before you judge me, walk a mile in my shoes”. In both cases, the key to success is change perspective. Invert (turn upside down) your perspective, and see how your horizons are immensely broadened. So let’s look at the development of insulin resistance from the opposite angle. Let’s not consider why insulin resistance is bad, but rather, why it is good.
What exactly is insulin resistance? One of insulin’s jobs is to help move glucose from the blood into the cells for energy. When blood glucose remains elevated despite normal or high levels of insulin, this is called insulin resistance. The cells are resisting insulin’s pleas to take up glucose. But why is this happening? What causes insulin resistance?
The current paradigm of understanding insulin resistance is the ‘lock and key’ model. The hormone insulin acts upon a cell surface receptor to do its job. The insulin receptor is like a lock keeping the gates to the cell closed. Insulin is like the proper key. When inserted, the gate opens to let glucose from the blood inside the cell for energy. Once you remove the key (insulin), the gate closes back up and blood glucose can no longer enter the cell.
During the phenomenon of insulin resistance, we imagine that the lock and key no longer fit together very well. The key (insulin) only partially opens the lock (receptor) and not very easily. Glucose cannot pass through the gate normally, and as a result, less gets into the cell. The blood glucose piles up outside the gate, becoming detectable as the clinical diagnosis of type 2 diabetes is made.
UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers have found that intermittent fasting inhibits the development and progression of the most common type of childhood leukaemia.
This strategy was not effective, however, in another type of blood cancer that commonly strikes adults.
“This study using mouse models indicates that the effects of fasting on blood cancers are type-dependent and provides a platform for identifying new targets for leukaemia treatments,” said Dr. Chengcheng “Alec” Zhang, Associate Professor of Physiology at UT Southwestern and senior author of the study, published online today by Nature Medicine. “We also identified a mechanism responsible for the differing response to the fasting treatment,” he added.
The researchers found that fasting both inhibits the initiation and reverses the progression of two sub-types of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, or ALL – B-cell ALL and T-cell ALL. The same method did not work with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), the type that is more common in adults.
I have long practised the art of fasting; for the weight control benefits sure – but also for the health and mental wellbeing that it affords. On the latter it is much more than mere wellbeing by the way. Fasting enables an extraordinary boost in mental acuity. With no doubt whatsoever, I am at my sharpest and most capable when fasted for about 20 hours or more. Thus I prepare for stressful or challenging situations – by not eating for a long period in advance.
Reading “The Complete Guide to Fasting” was a hugely enjoyable experience. While doing so the above quote from Julius Caesar sprang into my mind. Caesar sees the danger in Cassius, his intellect honed from lack of overfeeding. Deep down might we all like to be Cassius? Perhaps not the dangerous piece. But certainly the lean and sharp-minded aspects. How do we achieve this state of body and mind? How do we reverse metabolic disease and poor health status? Is it just by old-fashioned calorie-counting, and perhaps getting your macros right (i.e. healthy LCHF)?