If you made it through the encyclopedic posts that were part 1 and part 2 of this series on insulin, and you’ve come back for more, thank you! It is one of my biggest flaws as a writer: brevity is not my strong suit. (But at least I admit I have a problem. That’s the first step, right?) This post is no exception. In fact, it's probably longer than the first 2. So go grab a cuppa joe, or tea, or whatever you like, and hunker down for a nice, long read.
Okay. So I left off last time pointing out that, in covering the effects of elevated insulin and glucose on the cardiovascular system, reproductive function, the brain, kidneys, eyes, and inner ear & balance mechanisms, I had not said one word about obesity. I hope we’re all on the same page and can agree that insulin resistance is not something limited to people who are carrying around a few—or a couple hundred—extra pounds. Obviously, there are millions of non-overweight people who are infertile, have heart disease, kidney disease, vision problems, dementia, and more. (I have written about this before. One of my personal favorite posts on this entire blog is the one where I explained that obesity is simply one more effect of metabolic derangement, rather than its cause. I also wrote about this topic for Designs for Health.)
Nevertheless, we’d be missing a substantial piece of the insulin puzzle if we didn’t talk about the role of insulin in regulating body weight. Before we get to that, however, we first need to look at the actual functions of insulin, as well as the pancreas. It is an unfortunate byproduct of our epidemic of “diabesity” that we automatically think of blood glucose when we hear the word insulin. And there’s no doubt insulin does have an important role in regulating—or, more specifically, lowering—blood glucose (BG). But that’s not insulin’s only function. In fact, I would argue it’s not even the primary function. We will get to weight, I promise. But just like we did in the cancer series, we’ve got to trudge through a lot of biochemical weeds before we get to the good stuff. So here goes.
Time for a
brief extremely verbose endocrinology lesson.