Insulin Resistance and Cardiovascular Health


When someone is eating a low fat diet, often times that means that they are eating a high carbohydrate diet, because the calories that would have come from fat sources are now replaced by carbohydrates due to the fact that a lot of proteins come with fat included (like meat and dairy items).

This high carbohydrate diet can be problematic for keeping blood sugar levels balanced if the carbohydrates are mostly refined. Every time you eat anything, your blood glucose levels rise, but the speed at which it rises and how high it rises is dependent on the type and amount of carbohydrates you consume. As the blood glucose rises, a message is sent for the pancreas to release insulin; a hormone, which has the job of communicating with the cells to shuttle glucose into themselves in order to give the body energy.

When blood glucose levels are chronically elevated stemming from a diet high in refined carbohydrates, the cells’ ability to respond to the insulin message becomes diminished and they will start to “resist” the insulin. Once in this state of insulin resistance, the body will work even harder to deal with the elevated blood glucose and will produce more and more insulin.

Being in this state of insulin resistance can not only eventually lead to diabetes, but it can also have a negative impact on your cardiovascular health. When there is too much circulating insulin, this causes the loss of magnesium (a very important mineral for many body functions) through your urine. Magnesium is needed particularly for the dilation of your blood vessels and its loss can make the body hold onto too much sodium, raising your blood pressure as a result.

Insulin resistance also causes higher levels of inflammation, which can in turn cause artherosclerotic plaque to form inside the walls of blood vessels, eventually causing a heart attack or stroke if the plaque becomes disturbed and a clot grows too large and creates a blockage. Artherosclerotic plaque is not simply just a “lump of fat” stuck to the inside of an artery wall. According to a 1989 analysis in Circulation by Kragel, Reddy and others it is actually comprised of: “68% fibrous tissue (tissue of repair mainly made out of collagen), 8% calcium, 7% inflammatory cells, 1% foam cells and 16% lipid-rich necrotic core.” It is also interesting to note that according to Mary Enig, PhD in Nutritional Sciences and author of  “Know Your Fats”, the majority (at 74%) of the fats included in the fatty part (lipid-rich necrotic core) of the plaque are unsaturated, and not the saturates that have been so demonized for allegedly causing artherosclerotic plaque for so long.

The bottom line is that cardiovascular conditions are more easily brought on by a low-fat, refined carbohydrate based diet, than a nutrient dense diet with adequate amounts of healthy fats. Some examples of healthy fats are: eggs from pastured hens, fatty fish (like wild caught salmon), avocados, coconut oil (unrefined), nuts and seeds (raw), grass-fed butter, ghee, lard (from pastured pigs) and tallow from grass-fed cattle. 

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