Monday, October 30, 2017

The Obesity Code, glucose, insulin, and intermittent fasting

I recently read Dr. Jason Fung's book, The Obesity Code, and found it very informative. His basic premise is that weight gain and type 2 diabetes are caused by insulin resistance and insulin. I liked his hypothesis, for I have thought for the past several months that type 2 diabetes is an attempt to protect the body wherein the body combats a surfeit of insulin by shutting down the insulin-secreting cells in the pancreas.* Dr. Fung's recommendations for better health are to 1) decrease insulin resistance by steering clear (mostly--he understands the human need for occasional celebrations) of highly processed carbohydrates and snacking, and 2) lose weight as needed via intermittent fasting.

Intake of highly processed carbohydrates causes blood glucose and then insulin to spike, and eventually the body becomes resistant to insulin, if I rightly understand the studies cited by Dr. Fung. To minimize insulin spikes, I've been looking into natural sources of compounds that slow down absorption of sugar in order to utilize them more in my diet. With each meal, I now consume some ellagic acid--in the form of red raspberry seed meal--because ellagic acid ( is an alpha glucosidase inhibitor (i.e., it reduces the rate of digestion of carbohydrates) that tastes good and is easy to find. Giving up bread and cold breakfast cereal isn't currently a realistic option for my family, especially since only one older child and myself are overweight.

The story of how that one child started her life overweight is a point of evidence in support of Dr. Fung's hypothesis. I'm generally a fairly healthy eater. But while I was pregnant with her, I ate far too many simple carbohydrates because that was the set meal served in my workplace cafeteria. Lunch, my main meal, was usually rice, potatoes/pasta, a small portion of meat, a dessert, and "jugito," which was basically Kool-aid with a little dried fruit added. During my workday, I snacked on dinner rolls that I'd made at home out of white flour and sugar. I only worked at that location for two years, but unfortunately my pregnancy with that child fell entirely within those two years. She was born weighing 9.5 pounds and broke her collarbone during birth because of her size. And she has remained overweight her whole life despite attempts at dietary restriction and extracurricular sports. It appears, per Dr. Fung's hypothesis, that I passed on my excessive insulin levels to her in utero and made her insulin resistant. None of her siblings are overweight, and I ate far less in the way of simple carbohydrates during their gestational periods.

She has been eating the red raspberry seed meal with me at mealtimes. She and I also already do a monthly fast because of our religion (LDS), but we have recently added additional fasting for breakfast on Sundays. Just to keep the fast from being too unpleasant--and ourselves from gorging on simple carbohydrates at Sunday lunch--we are drinking a little extra virgin olive oil as a breakfast substitute because it has some calories but doesn't raise insulin levels.

* I wonder if the same paradigm could be used to help explain Hashimoto's thyroiditis eventually....

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