Let’s get high

Some things in life are best kept to a minimum: war, crime, debt, rap music, and . . . insulin.

High levels of insulin–”hyperinsulinemia”–is among the fundamental steps that lead to so-called resistance to insulin that, in turn, leads to the cascade of events resulting in visceral fat accumulation, i.e., deep abdominal fat that encircles organs and is a virtual factory for inflammatory signals. Foods that trigger insulin to high levels thereby can be expected to contribute most to growing that belly hanging over your belt.

Below is a graph of blood insulin responses after oral glucose, white bread, whole wheat bread, and bread made from a finely-ground flour that the investigators called “ultra-fine-ground whole-grain wheat flour.” This was done by a group at the USDA to study whether the particle size of wheat made any difference on blood sugar, insulin, and other measures, but I think it demonstrates something different.

Here’s the effect of these 4 challenge foods on insulin:













From Behall et al 1999. Full text here.

Note that all 4 challenge foods increased insulin approximately four-fold–400%. That’s an awful lot. But did you notice what food increased insulin the most? Yup, whole wheat bread, even without the fine-grind.

Eat wheat-containing grains for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks and guess what? You’ll have sky-high insulin levels triggered repeatedly throughout the day. Given a few years of day-in, day-out high insulin and you will grow this collection of visceral fat I call a “wheat belly.”

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45 Responses to Let’s get high

  1. Vic Coulombe says:

    Does anyone have a link to a comprehensive insulin index for various types of food?

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Very easy, Vic: Look for foods that have a glycemic index of ZERO.

      This includes eggs, olives, meats, fish, poultry, nuts, non-starchy vegetables. If they have zero glycemic index, they do not provoke insulin.

  2. Lynn says:

    Am I reading this all wrong or does it look like the baseline for these subjects is a fasting insulin level of 150?!

  3. Mark B. says:

    Dr. Davis, the USDA statistical graph you use show that glucose is absorbed more quickly, but beyond that it shows NO statistical difference between ANY of the variable groups. They show no statistical differences. How can you rightfully claim that this graph validates your comments? Also, please cite evidence that shows that this insulin spike after consuming carbohydrates is unusual as you seem to suggest.

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