Thursday, May 29, 2008

Insulin--Your Friend and Your Enemy, Part I

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas. It is released in response to food--specifically it is released when you eat carbohydrates or protein. It is not released in response to eating fat, but it does have an important role in the way your body handles fat.

Insulin is a storage hormone. When nutrients are absorbed by the gut, they enter the blood. If allowed to remain unchanged in the blood, these nutrients are somewhat toxic. Insulin is your friend because it promotes the use and storage of the nutrients we eat. Carbohydrate is burned as fuel, stored as glycogen, or stored as fat. The protein you've eaten is absorbed from your gut as amino acids. Insulin promotes the storage of amino acids in the form of other proteins (lean muscle, for example). If there are excess amino acids, those can be used as fuel. Fat is also broken down and then stored in response to insulin. You can think of insulin as the grocery stocker who sees to it that a shipment of food is stored in the proper places rather than rolling around randomly in the aisles.

But what if the grocery stocker develops an attitude? What if he decides not to tell management when new stock has arrived? What if he avoids putting certain items onto their appropriate shelves but leaves them in the aisle? What if he continues to add other items to the correct shelves, but won't let the customers take those items off again? When that happens, insulin also becomes your enemy. More tomorrow.

No comments: