Diabesity: Are Hormones or Calories to Blame?

Part 1: Insulin - the Driver Behind Obesity

Diabetes is a disease brought on by either the body's inability to make insulin (type 1) or by the body not responding to the effects of insulin (type 2). Insulin is one of the main hormones that regulates blood sugar levels and allows the body to use sugar (glucose) for energy. People with type I diabetes and some people with type 2 diabetes may need to administer insulin to keep their blood sugar levels from becoming too high. Insulin helps people with diabetes live a normal, active lifestyles. However, it can lead to serious side effects, especially if proper amounts are not administered.

Excessive insulin can cause hypoglycemia, or extremely low blood sugar, leading to nausea, sweating, shaking, and other symptoms. Prescribing insulin also makes people gain weight, regardless of what they eat. It’s just a matter of time before this happens. With leaner people, insulin levels quickly return to normal after eating. This is not the case with obese people. Insulin resistance leads to high fasting insulin. High fasting insulin is tightly correlated to weight gain. The more insulin that’s taken, the more inevitable obesity becomes. In type 2 diabetes, cells become resistant to insulin and insulin resistance rises. Insulin normalizes blood sugars, but weight still increases, despite reducing caloric intake. It’s not the calories that cause weight gain, but rather the insulin. 

The medication Metformin is also used to control blood sugar in diabetics. It decreases the amount of glucose produced by the liver and increases glucose uptake by the muscles. Insulin raises blood insulin level, whereas Metformin does not. Using insulin results weight gain, whereas using Metformin causes no more weight gain than those managing their conditions by diet alone. Is is frequently the case where type 1 diabetics cannot gain weight, no matter how many calories they ingest. This is because their insulin levels fall significantly, resulting in weight loss. We gain weight when our insulin levels are too high, which sets our body’s thermostat too high. Insulin promotes fat storage. Our hormones regulate our body weight. The hormone leptin, for example, is our satiety hormone, telling us when we’re full. Leptin reduces fat storage. Ghrelin is our hunger hormone. The hormone adrenalin increases our energy expenditure, whereas the thyroid hormone shuts down energy expenditure. 

We overeat because of hormonal imbalances, causing us to get fat. The cause of our weight gain is hormonal imbalance, not simply because we overeat. Therefore obesity is a hormonal, not a caloric, imbalance. As we overeat due to our hormonal imbalances (increasing insulin resistance), we gain weight, forcing our bodies to work against our satiety hormone, leptin. Therefore the key is to figure out how to balance our hormones, reducing our insulin.

Ref: Dr Fung, Jason (1986): The Obesity Code

Sinead Urwin