Insulin Resistance and the Carnivore Diet
Insulin resistance is a widespread condition that’s often associated with the diagnosis of pre-diabetes and type-2 diabetes and is estimated to affect 60-70 million Americans. The numbers are worse for obese people. Recent statistics show that the prevalence of insulin resistance in obese adolescents is 52.1% and over 70% in obese women.
What’s Insulin Resistance?
Our bodies generate energy from three different sources; carbohydrates, protein, and fats. But protein isn’t a great energy source, so the body mostly relies on carbohydrates and fats for energy. The process of breaking down these two energy sources is vastly different.
When you consume carbohydrates, your body breaks them down to sugar (glucose), which then enters the bloodstream. As blood sugar levels rise, the pancreas produces insulin, which triggers the cells to absorb the blood sugar for energy and storage. Excess glucose is converted to fat and glycogen for storing.
When blood sugar levels decrease, less insulin is produced, and when it rises, more insulin is secreted. In a metabolically healthy individual, this process is seamless to ensure a steady supply of energy and blood glucose levels are within a tight range.
Insulin resistance is when your body is no longer responsive to insulin. This happens when you’ve exceeded your ability to store energy, but there’s still abundant glucose in the blood. In response to the elevated glucose levels, your pancreas produces more and more insulin to try and push more energy into the cells. Over time, your body becomes less sensitive to insulin until the cells become resistant altogether.
What Causes Insulin Resistance?
While some individuals may be genetically predisposed to develop insulin resistance, the most significant risk factor for developing insulin resistance is the type of foods we eat. The recent change in our food environment coincided with an increase in obesity, metabolic syndrome, and other chronic conditions linked to insulin resistance. According to the CDC, carbohydrate consumption in the US increased by 25% while fat intake reduced by 30% from 1971-2000. Today, the standard American diet consists of only 10% of animal products.
Insulin resistance isn’t just caused by the interplay between insulin and glucose metabolism. Another major cause of insulin resistance is malfunctioning fatty acid metabolism. Research shows that fatty acids build up in the muscles and liver. This then impedes the cells’ ability to absorb glucose and react to insulin.
Hyperinsulinemia and Insulin Resistance
Hyperinsulinemia is most often caused by insulin resistance and is more prevalent in people on a high-carb diet, like the standard American diet. When your body is exposed to an unrelenting glucose supply through constant carbohydrate intake, insulin is continually secreted and remains chronically high, causing hyperinsulinemia.
Symptoms of Insulin Resistance
Most people with insulin resistance feel fine until they begin to experience high blood sugar symptoms like frequent urination, fatigue, and excessive hunger and thirst or are diagnosed with type-2 diabetes or pre-diabetes. But the most common indication of insulin resistance is increasing abdominal fat. That’s because the cells have a maximum threshold for storing fat.
When this threshold is reached, the body starts to store fat in the abdominal cavity and around organs like the pancreas and liver. That’s why the waist-to-height ratio is a powerful predictive measure of insulin sensitivity and resistance. Greater abdominal circumference in relation to height is a clear sign of insulin resistance.
Other symptoms of insulin resistance include:
- Dark patches of skin on the armpits, groin, or the back
- Skin tags on the armpits or neck
- Sugar and carbohydrate cravings
- Anxiety and mood disorders
- Cognitive difficulties
- Gum disease
- over 100mg/dl
Medical Conditions linked with Insulin Resistance
Insulin resistance is closely associated with most chronic conditions. These include:
- Heart disease
- Metabolic syndrome
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
- Cardiovascular disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
Carnivore Diet and Insulin Resistance Improvement
The carnivore diet is the ultimate elimination diet. It eliminates sugars, carbohydrates, and other processed foods that trigger insulin resistance. Out of the three energy-providing macronutrients, protein, carbohydrate, and fat, carbohydrates significantly impact raising blood sugar levels. It’s undeniable that a carnivore diet works for people with insulin resistance. Here’re three ways the carnivore diet can help reduce insulin resistance and ultimately reverse it.
1. Keeping Blood Sugar Levels Down
While proteins and fat can raise blood sugar levels, it’s to a much lower extent than carbs. Contrary to the standard recommended diet, a healthy diet for someone with insulin resistance is a low or zero carb diet that includes moderate protein and high in healthy fats. The carnivore diet eliminates all carbs from your diet, and as a result, your blood glucose levels will reduce, and insulin production will also decrease. After a while, your blood sugar levels will stabilize, and your insulin resistance will begin to lessen.
2. Steady Sugar Levels Mean Less Hunger
One aspect of insulin resistance and diabetes is excessive hunger. Both high and low sugar levels can induce hunger; that’s why most people with insulin resistance notice significant satiation on the carnivore diet. Less hunger means you don’t exceed your caloric intake, resulting in reduced insulin resistance and weight loss.
3. Weight Loss
As we’ve established, excess glucose results in increased fat production and insulin resistance is a significant cause of obesity. When you eliminate carbs from your diet, the body resorts to fat for energy. This induces ketosis, a process in which the body breaks down body fat to use as energy. Most people on the carnivore diet start to lose weight almost immediately. Research shows that weight loss enhances glucose homeostasis, a state of balance.
6 Tips to Reverse Insulin Resistance on the Carnivore Diet
If you’re suffering from insulin resistance, starting a carnivore diet will significantly improve your condition. But to completely reverse this condition, you have to take definitive action and be more intentional about stabilizing your blood glucose levels. Here’re some actionable ways to reverse insulin resistance.
1. Eliminate Carbs
Regardless of where on the carnivore diet spectrum, you are, strive for a zero-carb diet. It can be tempting to indulge in carbs you believe are less glycemic, but as we’ve seen, all carbs trigger insulin resistance. A study on the effects of a low carb diet on insulin resistance found that insulin sensitivity improved by 75%. Now imagine the impact a zero-carb diet will have on your insulin resistance.
2. Stop Consuming Fructose
Less strict carnivore dieters consume fruits in a bid to supplement their nutrient intake. But this is unnecessary since animal products contain all the nutrients your body needs. Besides, if you have insulin resistance and you eat fruits, you’ll worsen your condition.
This is because the body metabolizes fructose or fruit sugar differently. Unlike glucose, which is metabolized by every cell, fructose is only broken down and converted into fat in the liver. Fructose is metabolized without limits, so the more you ingest, the more fat is produced, leading to a build-up of fat in the liver, causing insulin resistance.
3. Cook With Saturated Fat Instead of Vegetable Oils
Cooking with vegetable oils like canola oil is damaging to your health. Vegetable oils have been shown to damage the GLUT4 transporter, an insulin-regulated glucose transporter. This study found that soybean and sunflower oil induced insulin resistance by targeting the GLUT4 transporter. So be sure to cook with unsaturated fats such as butter, beef tallow, and ghee.
4. Eat highly Nutritious Meat
By eliminating carbs and fruits, you’re on your way to reversing insulin resistance. The carnivore diet maximizes meat nutrient density and cuts out all the insulin resistance triggers. Eat highly nutritious meat and animal products. Grass-fed meat, organ meats, and seafood are highly nutritious, so be sure to include them in your diet.
Our sedentary lifestyle has vastly contributed to insulin resistance. There’s a lot of evidence to support the link between physical inactivity and insulin resistance. Research shows that insulin resistance develops after only three days of bed rest and after a prolonged period of physical inactivity. So try to move around throughout the day and engage in high-intensity training (HIIT). HIIT improves your insulin sensitivity and decreases body fat and body mass percentage.
6. Practice Intermittent Fasting
It’s not just what we eat that affects insulin resistance. When we eat is also crucial in reversing this condition. The carnivore diet is highly satiating, so you can go for more extended periods without eating. When you eat, your insulin levels increase as it signals the cells to absorb the energy from the bloodstream. But if you’re eating in close intervals, your insulin levels will stay elevated.
By practicing intermittent fasting, you give your body time to lower insulin levels and burn fat. When you wake up in the morning, your insulin levels are low, and your body is about to enter a fasting state. You can start with an 8-hour fasting window leveraging sleep time and skip breakfast.
Insulin resistance puts you at increased risk for metabolic syndrome, diabetes, cancer, hypertension, and a host of other chronic conditions. Thankfully, you can reverse this condition on the carnivore diet by eating highly nutritious meat, being physically active, eliminating carbs and fruits, and practicing intermittent fasting.