Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
26 Jun

Reader Response: Insulin Index

2093368235 79204e055cReader Pete asked for some thoughts on the “Insulin Index,” a measurement chart similar to the glycemic index. While the glycemic index calculates the relative blood sugar rise induced by given foods, the insulin index evaluates the insulin response generated by 38 different foods.

The insulin index, which first made its appearance in a 1997 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition article, was primarily the creation of Susanne Holt, a graduate student at the time and now a doctor. Interestingly, Holt, her supervisory co-authors, or other researchers haven’t chosen to conduct further research to update the “preliminary” results of their insulin index study since its creation eleven years ago now.

While Holt and her co-authors found a high correlation between glycemic index and insulin index measurements, they stumbled upon an intriguing exception. High protein, virtually no-carb foods like meat and eggs, while low on the glycemic index, measured high on the insulin index. In other words, while the meat and eggs didn’t cause a spike in blood sugar the way most carbohydrates do, they did result in an unexpectedly significant rise in insulin. (Baked goods, with their high levels of refined carbs, elicited a very high rise in insulin as well. Of course, this comes as less of a surprise.)

Obviously, the index has some eyebrow-raising potential, especially in those of us who choose a high protein diet. But there’s more to the story here. First off, let’s remember that the protein-rich foods didn’t result in the physical stress of blood sugar spikes. But what about that rise in insulin? Why? Should I be concerned about that omelet I ate for breakfast?

Insulin, in and of itself, is a good and necessary thing. It promotes the storage of nutrients after all. In our natural, primal state, this was an essential process. Even in our modern lives, this storage process is still vital. (We just have a nasty habit of flooding the system these days.) In the case of high protein foods, it makes perfect sense that the body recognizes the need to store amino acids. (Primal life wasn’t a perfect set schedule of three square meals a day after all.)

The insulin helps drive amino acids into the muscle cells where they’re needed. At the heart of this process, one thing is for certain: the body knows what it’s doing.

But there’s another dimension to the protein-insulin issue. When we eat protein-rich food, another chemical is released by the body that actually has a contrary effect to insulin. Protein-rich foods also result in a release of glucagon. (Carb-rich food does not.) Glucagon raises blood sugar levels in part to allow for absorption of amino acids in the liver and their subsequent transformation there to glucose. In our evolution, we developed the capacity to make what we required out of what was available. If dinner was going to be part of a mammoth carcass, then the body could enjoy the protein it needed and use insulin response to store essential amino acids. Simultaneously, it had the glucagon to keep blood sugar stable in the absence of carb-based foods.

What does this tell us? It underscores the fact that we don’t need to (and shouldn’t) include extra carbohydrates in our diet. The carbs we get from vegetables and the glucose that can be made even from protein-based foods offer plenty of the right fuels our bodies need.

For people without diabetes, the insulin and glucagon responses mitigate each other, and we’re looking at a healthy picture. For people with diabetes or impaired insulin response, however, this picture is much different. In diabetics, this crucial equilibrium is damaged. The body not only has difficulty compensating for blood sugar spikes from carb intake, it’s also at a disadvantage when it comes to low-carb, protein-based meals with the lack of insulin-glucagon balance. (Another reason to avoid developing diabetes from the outset.) Nonetheless, diabetics fare better with a low-carb diet.

In short, while the insulin index raises some intriguing points, I don’t think it undermines the Primal Blueprint or unravels existence as we know it. It’s another bit of research that illuminates the natural interaction of our body’s systems with the diet we feed it. The index highlights the need for responsible food choices based on our inherent physiological functioning.

Now, pass the bacon.

Thoughts? Comments? Insights?

Mr. Gunn Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

The Importance of Blood Sugar Level

The Definitive Guide to Grains

The Definitive Guide to Insulin, Blood Sugar and Type 2 Diabetes (and You’ll Understand It)

Subscribe to Mark’s Daily Apple feeds

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. so wouldnt this mean that when u eat a high protein high fat meal, that the fat will get stored due to high insulin? if fat + carbs results in a synergistic insulin response, might fat and protein result in the same thing?

    kady wrote on June 26th, 2008
  2. What I would really like to find out is whether eating fat really corresponds into storage as fat.

    From what I gather – eating protein and fat help to repair the body as the body is essentially made up as amino acids and fatty acids.

    Carbs (glycogen) is actually used by the body as fuel. So, if you eat excess carbs, then you store it as fat. But apparently if you eat fat, unless you eat more than your caloric expenditure, you don’t store it as fat, because fat is used by the body for structural and repair reasons…

    I wish someone would explain once and for all what happens to fat when you eat it!

    Arthur wrote on June 26th, 2008
    • Read “Good Calories Bad Calories” by Gary Taubes. He explains it all. Basically you can eat all the fat you want, in fact fat is the only thing that doesn’t raise insulin. Carbs and Protein raise insulin (protein less than carbs of course). If you keep carbs very low you can eat all the fat you want and your body fat will decrease and decrease. Read the book! We’ve been told WRONG!!!

      Jill wrote on December 31st, 2009
      • Jill,
        This is exactly what I believe… and this (in my opinion) is why the French Paradox makes sense. They eat meat in modest portions and most definitely fat (sauces, gravies, cheese).

        So, meat, in small portions generates smaller amounts of insulin (I would assume it’s a volume-related thing).

        Fat, generates no insulin (to my knowledge) and is satiating; plus, one can only eat so much fat until one feels full.

        LowCarborator wrote on January 10th, 2010
        • If you take in a normal amount of calories (what would maintain a healthy weight), then diet composition probably doesn’t matter very much. Wasn’t there some study that demonstrated this?

          If you’re obese and trying to lose weight, I have no doubt that diet composition DOES matter. Obese people have malfunctioning metabolisms and cannot process foods the same way as healthy weight people.

          tamara wrote on January 20th, 2010
      • Sorry, but it’s ridiculous to claim that you can “eat all the fat you want” and not get fatter if you keep the carbs low. If you eat 3000 calories of fat per day, you’re going to be fat, possibly obese, AND you’re going to increase your risk of CHD.

        tamara wrote on January 20th, 2010
        • Tamara, it’s not ridiculous. You may not lose weight on 3,000 calories of fat a day, but studies have shown you won’t necessarily gain weight on it as long as carbs are very low. And studies continue to show that sat fat has no correlation with increased risk for heart disease.

          Mark Sisson wrote on January 20th, 2010
        • You are describing what is technically known as the thermodynamic theory of weight control. Thermodynamic because it talks entirely about calories, which are a unit of energy, specifically, the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one kg of water one degree Celsius.

          The model does not work because it treats the human body as an incredibly simple static system, which it is not. The body is an amazing homeodynamic system that actively works to maintain an internal environment irrespective of environmental shocks. As a very simple example, consider involuntary shaking ( ie shivering ) in order to raise internal temperature by the action of muscular contraction.

          If you were to apply the equivalent of the thermodynamic model of weight control to the regulation of body temperature, you would conclude that if the external temperature is lower than the internal temperature then the internal temperature will drop. Well, we all know this does not happen, because the human body will actively seek to counteract the effects of environmental disturbances to its internal state.

          It is surprising then, that the above logic runs into a brick wall when applied to energy intake. So, unlike the regulation of temperature, people believe that when it comes to food, the body lacks any mechanisms to alter its energy consumption rates in response to changes in available energy in its environment. If this were true, it would be a very strange thing indeed.

          It turns out, of course, that this is not true, your body does in fact respond to the energy available in its environment, and its response is fundamental to the survival of the organism.

          In a nutshell, if you want to lose fat you need to control your insulin levels. It all boils down to that. It has nothing to do with your caloric intake per se, but more with how those calories impact your adipose tissues via insulin.

          I can’t find this anywhere online, it’s from the “Handbook of Physiology, Section 5, Adipose Tissue” published by the American Physiological Society 5 and containing over 800 pages of everything you ever wanted to know about fat metabolism but were afraid to ask:

          “The release of fatty acids from adipose tissue is strikingly susceptible to hormonal influence. Many hormones, under one or more experimental conditions, increase the output of fatty acids by adipose tissue. The list includes epinephrine, norepinephrine, growth hormone, corticotropin and thyrotropin, …, thyroid hormone, corticosteroids, alpha and beta intermedin, glucagon and vasopressin … By contrast, insulin is the only hormone known to decrease the output of fatty acids and this seems to be an important physiological action of insulin.”

          It is interesting to note that the classical symptoms of Type I diabetes, where the pancreas is incapable of producing insulin, are polyuria (frequent urination), polydipsia (increased thirst), polyphagia (increased hunger), and weight loss. Or in other words, and organism that cannot produce insulin is incapable of storing it’s food. When insulin is administered, the weight loss is reversed.

          Given that it is commonly accepted that different foods all have different effects upon serum insulin levels, the thermodynamic claim that “a calorie is a calorie is a calorie” start to sound increasingly simplistic. It follows, then, that eating a diet consisting of 3000 calories of simple sugars would have a dramatically different effect on one than a calorically equivalent 3000 calorie fat diet by virtue of their impact on serum insulin levels, and the consequent insulin effect on fatty acid metabolism.

          This is the science, and there is no debate about it. But you don’t need to take anyone’s word for it. You can test this on yourself. Eat nothing but simple sugars for 30 days and record how that makes you look and feel. I predict you will find yourself constantly hungry, thirsty ( carbohydrates make you retain water ), and fatter.

          Then, for the subsequent 30 days, eat a high fat, high protein diet that is isocaloric – that is, eat the same number of calories that you did on your simple carbohydrate diet. This is very important in order to enable you to compare your results.

          Again, I predict that you will lose weight ( admittedly the initial weight loss will be from all that water that you stored on the carb diet ), you will find yourself to not be hungry ( you may even find it hard to eat the required number of calories ), and you will be leaner.

          You don’t need me, or any other authority figure to tell you what to do. You can test these principles on yourself. Be proactive. In the immortal words of a well known footwear campaign … just do it.

          Pablo Klopper wrote on November 16th, 2010
        • In ‘Good Calories, Bad Calories’ Gary Taubes mentions an obese man who was eating 7000 calories of fat / day, all the while losing weight.

          Jody wrote on January 11th, 2011
        • @Pablo – good information and good read. Insulin is fat storage trigger.
          However, I don’t think the first diet is a good comparison. Ofcourse if all one was to do is eat simple sugars they would gain weight more quickly. How about comparing a balanced diet vs. a low carb one. In that case I think you would find they are nearly the same. The Atkins diet proved successful ultimately because it was simply another LOW Calorie diet. Not because of the high protein and fat. There was nothing special in the diet. No magic. People could eat as much as they wanted and still lose weight, but this was because they simply didn’t eat as much. It was ultimately the lower calories that were responsible for the weight loss. Insulin spikes will occur with both diets to varying degrees depending on how many high glycemic carbs are in the one and how much protein in the other. Also, remember fat isn’t the only thing that helps control insulin spikes, so does fiber. An all fat diet would be different though. However, you have other problems with an all fat diet such as maintaining the right balance. Fat is a real balancing act or else inflammation results. I would choose a high fiber/low everything else diet over the all-fat one.

          scott wrote on June 9th, 2012
        • It does indeed seem ridiculous. And in fact, for some people, it may be. But calories in/calories out is not the thing. For 38 years I thought it was. Then I read Taubes (Why We Get Fat) and yeah, it’s hard to undo that much wrongness over so many years. I implore you to read the book.

          Bryan wrote on October 10th, 2012
        • Here’s the book, “Handbook of Physiology”, online that Pablo references:

          https://archive.org/details/handbookofphysio0102amer

          Nuwanda wrote on April 13th, 2014
        • Tamara, that’s why Jill said to read Gary Taubes’ “Good Calories; Bad Calories.” If you read it, you’ll be much less confused and much less doubtful. Through March this year I spent at least 8 years studying nutrition and health for personal reasons. I controlled my fat and protein intake and exercised regularly. However, for some strange reason I didn’t lose weight and wasn’t able to “cure” certain ailments as they appeared. Since I was in my late 30s to 44-years-old during this period, I was certain that my inability to lose weight was due to age. However, while investigating hypothyroid symptoms, I stumbled across the low carbohydrate idea of health etc… My wife and I whom gained the same amount of weight (25 kgs/56 lbs) over the 11 years we were together (mainly due to our baking business the first 4 years of our marriage) lost the same amount of weight over the past 6 months (minimally 15kgs/34 lbs) not adjusting for gain in muscle mass due to an increased endurance/capacity for exercise with greatly decrease injuries… 11 of those first 15 kgs/25 lbs lost was with light exercise. So, the weight loss can NOT be equated with exercise. The exercise is for other things… such as toning and oxygenating cells and improving mental processes etc… And, truthfully, I didn’t come across Gary Taubes’ wonderful piece of writing and investigating until the end of the 5th month. As for truly weight loss equating for increased muscle mass; the best judgement is in appearance and clothing sizes. In late February my waist size was 38-40. Today it is 34-36… Even without Gary Taubes shedding light upon the “American” 20th century scientific tendency towards ignoring the scientific process and intentionally subjecting us to a horribly misleading hoax that directly leads us to waist trillions of dollars in healthcare and lose so much time and energy in suffering, illness and loss, not to mention relationship and psychological problems etc, Margarita and I would have discovered that obesity or overweight was not about calorie or fat consumption combined with laziness and inactivity but what it is you put in your mouth. Look, my passion has been international cuisine from Korea through Vietnam/Thailand/India, Persia, the Middle East, North Africa, North-East Mediterranean to the Americas, focussing greatly on refined carbs… My first business here in Mexico (I’m from New York City) was a gourmet filled cupcake business. My current business is selling my father-in-law’s coffee with my wonderful Frappuccino recipes… (that I don’t drink/enjoy since March). In fact, what pays our lifestyle etc is not the highly prestigious coffee bean, ground coffee or cup of hot coffee we sell, but the frappuccinos…that offer between 60 and 95 grams of sugar per 16oz cup… Our friends and customers have seen our incredible weight gain and ask for the secret. When I tell them the secret, they turn their backs and continue to harm themselves and continue gaining weight… So, maybe I should just keep my mouth shut… But, we know the truth. And, I guess that’s all that matters; even if you don’t want to believe it. But, before you close you mind, try the “diet” and/or pick up Gary Taubes’ book, “Good Calories; Bad Calories”…

          Ross without half his digestive tract wrote on September 6th, 2014
      • I, too, am a Taubesian acolyte. Just finished Why We Get Fat, and have been following the advice. Protein, greens, and and fat, and I’ve been losing weight. Exercise is a non-factor. Believe me, it still seems as weird to me as it does to you. I’m just trying to lose about 20 lbs. I lost eight and sort of hovered, trying a lot of exertion and calorie counting. I went to the meat/greens/fat diet with a significant restriction on carbs, and I’ve been losing about 1-2 pounds a week. It’s anecdotal, but Taubes appears to be on to something.

        Bryan wrote on October 10th, 2012
  3. If protein creates a large insulin response, it gets kind of complicated to understand how to maximize the natural release of growth hormone. Exercise (especially anaerobic exercise) stimulates an extra release of growth hormone. I am among many exercisers who try to eat some protein right after exercising to take advantage of a “window of opportunity” to replenish muscles and to minimize muscle soreness; and some research has shown that eating protein stimulates an extra release of growth hormone. Insulin supposedly dampens the release of growth hormone so many people advise against eating carbs right after exercising. I plan to continue to eat unflavored whey protein after exercising, but this news make me wonder.

    Mark L. wrote on June 26th, 2008
    • You’d be better off consuming a 4:1 (carb:protein) mixture after your workout. Regardless of understanding the mechanisms behind it, results from numerous studies indicate that the mixture is better than protien alone. Refer to the book, “The Future of Sports Nutrition; Nutrient Timing”.

      Correctness wrote on February 11th, 2010
    • A couple of points that need to be made here:

      Although insulin has been vilified in many circles, it is fundamental to the survival of the organism. If a given food does not produce an insulin response, then it cannot be assimilated by the body. The extreme example of this is Type I diabetes where the pancreas, due to a congenital defect is unable of producing insulin. Unless treated, type I diabetics literally will starve to death irrespective of the quantities of food that they ingest.

      So, when you diligently take your whey protein after your workout, you are explicitly relying on an insulin response to drive those amino acids into your muscles. Try to keep in mind what is meant by that “window of opportunity” you refer to. This is that 90 minute or so period immediately after exercising where the muscles have increased insulin sensitivity. Note, however, that insulin sensitivity means nothing if in your bloodstream there is 1) no insulin, and 2) no nutrients. So, your whey intake dovetails quite nicely with these requirements. It provides amino acids and promotes an insulin response to mediate the transport of these amino acids into the muscle cells.

      After 90 minutes, muscles return to their relatively insulin insensitive state, and the “window of opportunity” closes. The only tissues that remain insulin sensitive are the adipose tissues, and that is not something that we want to be feeding.

      When it comes to growth hormone, I would need to know what it is that you are trying to accomplish by raising GH levels? If it is increased release of free fatty acids from your adipose tissue, then that is brilliantly accomplished by fasting. If you are after muscular growth, ie increased protein synthesis, then you are better off trying to increase your testosterone levels and letting the GH take care of itself. Heavy exercise in and of itself ( within reason, don’t overtrain yourself into the ground ) will serve to boost your anabolic hormones.

      Pablo Klopper wrote on November 16th, 2010
  4. Kady and Arthur,

    Interestingly, we know that higher fat mitigates the insulin response, so a high fat/high protein meal will likely elicit a lower insulin response than just high protein. It was the “trimmed beef” tested alone and the almost-non-fat fish that had the relatively higher insulin responses among the high protein groups. I think this all falls in line with the Primal Blueprint.

    Mark Sisson wrote on June 26th, 2008
  5. Does whey protein isolate powder, one without any carbs, cause an insulin spike? If so, does the rise in blood sugar give way to any excess protein consumed being converted to fat for storage? Thanks for the help.

    marc s. wrote on June 28th, 2008
  6. Marc,

    The people who did the insulin index only tried it on a few foods. Whey powder wasn’t one, so we don’t know if it causes a spike. If it did, it probably wouldn’t by itself promote fat storage.

    Mark Sisson wrote on June 30th, 2008
  7. Mark-
    Belated thanks for this post. Interesting stuff. It looks like acute insulin spikes are probably not as detrimental as chronic ones, and happen for different reasons.

    Reader Pete wrote on July 5th, 2008
  8. Researchers tell us that milk is insulinogenic. That is, it causes an insulin spike that cannot be explained merely by its concentration of carbs. Some people attribute this to the whey protein. But what does this all this mean for health? Is this good or bad? I have heard that it can be helpful for diabetics to prevent blood sugar spikes. What about everybody else? And what if you drink milk without any additional carbs, wouldn’t that theoretically cause short-term low blood sugar? And finally, I’m curious to find out how milk compares with milk-derived products, like cottage cheese (which I love) and yoghurt. Cottage cheese, for example, has almost no carbs (especially lactose), but I assume it still has whey protein.

    jimmy wrote on September 2nd, 2008
  9. Jimmmy:
    There are many explations for the insulinogenic nature of milk. Here are some ideas for you:

    1) Lactose is converted to galactose (a blood sugar similar to glucose) which causes insulin spikes just like glucose.

    2) Protein also causes a lesser insulin response so the whey protein is certainly a contributing factor. Casein protein (also found in milk) causes a very low response because it takes a long time to digest. I remember reading that casein protein doesn’t always digest fully and might even cause health problems because of this.

    Other things to think about when it comes to milk are:
    The chemicals/hormones injected into most cattle to increase size and production of milk (specifically Insulin-like Growth Factor I (IgF-I) which is used by scientists to grow cancer cells, and an abundance in the body is not a good thing.) For more on these see: http://www.notmilk.com and/or google: Milk – The Deadly Poison by Robert Cohen.

    Plus, cow milk is for calves, nature never meant it for human consumption so if you want to be strict Paleo/Primal then limiting intake might be a good idea.

    To answer your question about blood sugar spikes and health. The short answer is: yes, it does matter (if your goal is health and longevity) to minimise insulin spikes. The long (very long) answer can be found here: http://drbass.com/rosedale2.html it’s a great article!

    Hope that all helps!!! I’m currently researching the hormonal systems etc. of metabolism so it might not be perferct but at least it’s fresh in my mind!

    Russ

    Russ wrote on September 3rd, 2008
    • “Lactose is converted to galactose (a blood sugar similar to glucose) which causes insulin spikes just like glucose.”

      Actually, lactose is a disaccharide composed of 1 glucose and 1 galactose unit, so lactose is converted to glucose and galactose. It’s the glucose that would affect the blood glucose levels, not the galactose.

      Also, people should be aware that drinking pasteurized milk is the problem. On the other hand, raw milk from pastured dairy cows (brown Swiss, Jerseys, and, Guernseys (not Holsteins bred for large quantities of milk) provides good nutrition, including good butterfat. Weston A. Price traveled widely in the 1930’s and studied diets of healthy people of the time. He found that one of the best sources of good nutrition for certain populations was raw milk and raw butter, particularly milk from cows eating rapidly growing green grass in the spring. This is documented in his outstanding book called “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration”.

      Many people are lactose intolerant (up to 75% of the world’s population, by some estimates, particularly African Americans and Asian populations) meaning they do not produce the enzyme lactase to digest the lactose. This is a problem with drinking pasteurized milk because the pasteurization degrades the natural lactase enzyme found in milk. It is my understanding that many (maybe most) lactose-intolerant people can drink raw milk without a problem.

      Unfortunately, in most states of the U.S., sales of raw milk are illegal and so raw milk is not available. I live in California and can purchase and drink raw milk.

      The Weston A. Price Foundation has a lot of information about raw milk versus pasteurized milk at realmilk.com.

      It is also true that some people are sensitive to the casein protein in milk. There is some evidence now that the sensitivity might be to a specific type of casein. One form is called A1 and the other is A2. A1 is found in the newer breed of Holstein cows which are the predominant source of dairy in the U.S. A2 is produced by older breeds of dairy cows such as Jerseys and African and Asian cows. A1 casein is the protein that causes problems, whereas A2 does not, for most people. For a more detailed explanation of A1 vs. A2, you can go here: http://thebovine.wordpress.com/2009/07/10/mercola-advocates-raw-milk-discusses-a1-a2-beta-casein-in-connection-with-autism-diabetes-heart-disease-etc/

      So, if you choose to drink milk, do not drink pasteurized milk. Drink only raw milk.

      Bonnie G wrote on April 21st, 2012
      • Galactose is converted to glucose by the liver, unless you are lactating. Galactose is not stable enough to be left in the body. So, technically, it eventually contributes to energy. It is just a lot slower than the glucose component :).

        Erica wrote on May 3rd, 2013
  10. Russ, great reply to Jimmy’s question. My jury is still out on dairy.

    Mark Sisson wrote on September 3rd, 2008
  11. FYI, there have been several studies done on dairy and I suggest you guys to check them out. The studies indicated that milk does, in fact, raise insulin but it doesn’t raise your blood sugar from the glucose.

    That being said, it is not possible for the glucose’s presence in the blood stream to cause the high secretion of insulin. My assumption would also be similar to the author here in that the levels of amino acids from the milk caused the spike in insulin.

    Anonymous wrote on March 16th, 2009
  12. In a study released earlier this year, researchers suggested the following.

    “Protein increased insulin but had no effect on C-peptide or the insulin secretion rate, which suggests decreased hepatic insulin extraction or increased C-peptide clearance.”

    In other words, protein may cause increased insulin levels not by stimulating increased release of insulin by the pancreas, but by decreasing the rate at which the liver removes insulin from the blood.

    That might explain why eating protein after working out wouldn’t have a detrimental affect on the release of other hormones such as GH. The suppression of GH release might be associated with increased demand for insulin production/release, not to absolute blood levels of insulin. I’m just speculating here though. One thing’s for sure, biology is complicated.

    This would add a new wrinkle to Mark’s “It’s all about the insulin” philosophy, which might need to be amended to “it’s all about the release of insulin from the pancreas” or something like that.

    I’m almost finished reading the “Primal Blueprint” and it is fantastic, just the detailed information I was looking for. I realize this post and discussion are over a year old, but I came upon them while investigating this issue via Google, so maybe others will end up here as well.

    Info about the study:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19923374

    Lan-Pidhainy, X., & Wolever, T. M. (2010). The hypoglycemic effect of fat and protein is not attenuated by insulin resistance. Am J Clin Nutr, 91(1), 98-105. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.28125

    Gordy wrote on October 1st, 2010
  13. This study also implicates whey as the problem in milk:

    “Milk proteins have insulinotropic properties; the whey fraction contains the predominating insulin secretagogue.”

    http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/full/80/5/1246

    monkeyadded wrote on October 8th, 2010
  14. I’m following this discussion with interest. I’m puzzled as to the response I get to some high fat food. I’m hypoglycaemic. I don’t understand why when I eat high fat food, especially for example chicken thighs or beef, stewed or roasted, for dinner, I wake up at 4am with a hypo. I have tested the effect of whatever I’ve eaten with the meat, eg carb/veg, and this doesn’t seem to be the problem-ie the common food for these hypos are the chichen thighs or beef. Any thoughts? I’d really love to know the answer?

    Tess wrote on January 11th, 2011
  15. if you want to maximize HGH after an intense cardio workout, would it be best to avoid consuming whey protein due to it’s insulinogenic properties?

    reamz wrote on January 27th, 2011
  16. Type 2 diabetes is what you refer to in your article as impaired glucose response. It is also referred to as Insulin Resistance. The effect of having high insulin levels results in insulin resistance. Therefore, your advice is dead wrong!!

    Bringing up insulin levels by eating more protein is far worse of a diabetic than eating carbs! Insulin resistance is a result of the liver being unable to break down the protein insulin after it is used. In order to survive, cells become resistant to insulin. Adding more proteins to the mix just worsens the ability of the liver to breakdown the protein insulin.

    A diabetic should avoid proteins far more than avoiding carbohydrates!! I can’t believe you advised to eat after being well aware that proteins raise insulin levels!

    SaveMe wrote on June 10th, 2011
    • Insulin is a hormone produced by your pancreas in response to high levels of glucose in the blood. The primary purpose of insulin is to clear blood sugar spikes and push the energy from the consumption of glucose rich foods into the cells. Consumption of carbohydrates causes blood sugar spikes, the pancreas responds by pumping out the hormone insulin, insulin stores this fuel into your fat cells. People who have high body fat have chronically elevated blood sugar and consequently chronically elevated insulin which is perpetually cramming triglycerides into their fat cells. Fructose is an especially nasty sugar that causes your liver to pump out vast quantities of triglycerides and turns your liver fatty.

      Alex wrote on October 12th, 2011
  17. “A diabetic should avoid proteins far more than avoiding carbohydrates!! I can’t believe you advised to eat after being well aware that proteins raise insulin levels!”

    Where do you get this from? I’d love to see your reference because this totally turns on its head everything I know about food.
    Carbohydrate raises insulin much much more than protein. Ever tried eating carbs to stabilise insulin levels? – you’d just end up on a bit of a yoyo there- and how to get insulin resistant- well its not through eating protein!

    david wrote on June 10th, 2011
  18. Did I get it right, that for example, if tomorrow I’ll be eating only high fat cheese I won’t gain any weight?
    What about protein, in high amounts it’s used like “carbs”, won’t it spike the insulin levels?:)
    Calories are in the past?

    Julie wrote on July 16th, 2011
  19. This is very attention-grabbing, You’re an overly skilled blogger. I have joined your rss feed and look ahead to seeking more of your wonderful post. Also, I’ve shared your site in my social networks

    monster supplements wrote on August 1st, 2011
  20. Hi my friend! I want to say that this post is amazing, great written and come with almost all significant infos. I would like to peer extra posts like this .

    sugar meter wrote on August 17th, 2011
  21. So protein breaks down into amino acids, signals glucagon raise, which releases stored glycogen as glucose, which raises blood glucose levels, which raises insulin levels, which then directs the glucose and amino acids into muscles and fat cells.

    Correct? Yes? No?

    Peter wrote on January 3rd, 2012
  22. My brother, 21 was just diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. I tend to follow the a more paleo/perfect health diet. However, if my brother eats dinner based on more of a meat and veggies meal his blood sugar usually crashes (below 60)two hours afterwards and he is forced to eat some fast acting carbs like orange juice and bread to bring his sugars back up into the low 100’s. I’m wondering if a type 1 can really follow a low carb diet. He is thin and active and has a tough time eating enough calories without extra carbs- so what is the best plan for a type 1?

    kd-rex wrote on February 23rd, 2012
    • I’m surprised no-one has answered yet.
      Avoiding the blood glucose slump in the first place would negate the need for high glycaemic carbs.
      It’s a matter your brother needs to iron out with his primary care provider.
      Lowering carb intake requires a lowering of insulin to prevent blood glucose slumps.

      Ralph, Cleethorpes, UK wrote on March 17th, 2012
    • I agree with what Ralph mentioned in his reply. I am a Type 1 diabetic and since I do not produce any insulin, my blood sugar levels would become extremely high no matter what I ate. There is no way for me to go too low on my own. It’s the amount of insulin your brother is taking before eat that is too high (also possibly his basal insulin rate is too high if he bolused correctly for the amount of carbs in his meal).

      And to SaveMe who said, as a diabetic, I would be better eating more carbs and less protein, do some research. As an insulin dependent diabetic, I give myself a dose of insulin based on the amount of CARBS I’m going to eat as calculated by my insulin:carb ratio (which can differ for each individual). Why would I want eat more carbs and have to dose myself more?

      SarahB wrote on September 24th, 2012
    • As SarahB indicated, the amount of insulin he doses needs to be adjusted. He needs to discuss this with his doctor, and if his doctor doesn’t provide sound advice, find a new one (unfortunately most Dr’s still completely misunderstand the insulin relationship – my father in law is a well respected primary with a degree in nutrition and still advises his patients to eat “plenty of whole grains”).

      I don’t have it with me unfortunately, but in the book Wheat Belly he cites a study/dr who has his patients dramatically cut their insulin dose within a very short period after starting a low carb diet as the body responds completely differently to insulin at that point.

      scott wrote on September 25th, 2012
    • I wonder if a portion of cooked oat bran would help level out the insulin response.

      Emory wrote on April 29th, 2013
    • Type 1 diabetics cannot produce insulin effectively enough to have it usable in the bloodstream. When eating only proteins and fats, the body signals to make keytones (a glucose alternative). When the body starts down the keytone path, it doesn’t stop until it gets a negative feedback signal from a insulin response. In type 1 diabetics, this insulin signal or signal from glucose never arrives and beta-hydroxybutyrate continues to build up in the blood leading toward ketoacidosis.

      John wrote on June 6th, 2014
  23. I have read through the comments and they all seem to point to the fact that elevated glucose levels = elevated insulin levels. I am ‘insulin resistant’, so the insulin doesn’t do its job, and I’m finding it extremely difficult to find an eating plan (that I can live with)which will control the insulin. Blood glucose levels DO NOT give me any indication of my insulin levels. My last tests showed a BGL of 5.1 mmol/L (sorry don’t know how to translate that into the American equivalent), which is quite acceptable, and a Serum Insulin level of 29 mU/L (which is over the top – acceptable levels are 0 – 10). Both were fasting tests. I’ve tried Atkins, and believe in it, but my carb cravings did not decrease, and that is where my problem lies.
    My dietician insisted I needed more than the 20 carbs daily I was trying to stick with, but her advice of following a low GI diet (no other restrictions) is what has caused this blowout – and the carb cravings were worse than ever. Now I’m looking into low GL and have discovered the Insulin Index, but there is not much on that, certainly not enough to base a complete eating plan on. What is an acceptable level, etc.?
    Anyone got any ideas, suggestions – I’m desperate!

    Denise wrote on April 29th, 2012
    • You may wish to take a look at intermittent fasting. Essentially, you want to vary the intervals between your meals, because every meal will produce an insulin response, unless you are eating pure fat.

      From what you’ve posted, it seems that you’ve tried varying the macronutrient breakdown of your meals, with mixed results, at best. It may be time to experiment with meal timing instead. In this approach, you are changing your strategy from trying to minimize per meal insulin release, with minimizing the meals, and therefore, the overall insulin release.

      I’ve posted quite a bit here about this topic, and you can also take a look at my website @ cogitoergoedo.com.

      Good luck.

      -PK

      Pablo wrote on April 29th, 2012
    • I suggest you get a blood ketone meter. Take your diet all the way to “Dietary Ketosis”. Generally, this means approximately 5 – 10% carbs, 10 – 15% protein and 75 – 80% fat (as calories). Your meter should always read 0.5 or more AM and 1.0 or more evening. Adjust as necessary to maintain those numbers.

      The as far as I know is the best and only scientifically tested (since 100 years ago) way to get insulin down. Oh, and great blood sugars are a definite side-effect.

      S Morgan wrote on January 7th, 2014
  24. Perhaps its not a bad idea to use unsweetened almond milk, some whey protein, and a tablespoon of peanut, cashew or almond butter, as a shake or use lactose reduced milk as the base for a shake.
    It would seem that the fat from the nut butter would slow absorption of the protein but not be such a large amount to hurt your fat loss goals as long as total calories don’t exceed your daily goal.

    Thoughts?

    emory wrote on May 28th, 2012
  25. Although it’s true that glucagon release is increased by two amino acids, namely Arginine and Alanine, it’s not accurate to state that eating protein causes higher levels of glucagon.

    Eating protein raises insulin levels, which inhibits the release of glucagon. So eating protein actually achieves the opposite of what the article claims.

    Arginine and Alanine only increase glucagon release during exercise when naturally the body requires more fuel.

    It’s worth mentioning as well, that anyone on a keto-diet will end up having low Glucagon levels anyway, since ketones and fatty acids inhibit glucagon release.

    Michael wrote on June 12th, 2012
    • Then why have I never heard of anyone going hypo after eating meat? If it triggers insulin release, which would lower blood sugar, what counteracts that such that blood sugar does NOT drop after eating protein?

      S Morgan wrote on January 7th, 2014
  26. Why do professional bodybuilders inject insulin?

    Peter wrote on September 27th, 2012
    • Insulin is the most anabolic hormone. It shuttles available glucose and amino acids into myocytes to expedite recovery and hypertrophy. It can also shuttle glucose into adipocytes to be stored as triglycerides which increase adipose tissue/fat gain. The latter is mitigated given adequate training and androgens, and assuming the caloric surplus is not unreasonably large. Skeletal muscle fiber damage from training + androgens/non-insulin anabolics + insulin + excess glucose and amino acids in the blood = the milieu for partitioning towards muscular hypertrophy.

      BradK wrote on February 17th, 2013
    • Body builders do it when they’re using steroids because steroids allow macronutrients to be utilized far more effectively by the body. If fat is being metabolized quicker and protein synthesis is more efficient, it just makes sense for them to use the best storage hormone (insulin) to get the nutrients there faster.

      Bart wrote on May 24th, 2013
  27. i believe that the results from the research in the article have been skewed because of the way the foods were prepared.

    many of them were cooked, stored, and reheated in a microwave before serving. since microwaving has an effect on the molecular structure of food, shouldn’t we assume the pancreas is going to react differently to it?

    Taylor wrote on March 5th, 2014
    • Science doesn’t work on assumptions, rather it looks for evidence.

      If our hypothesis is that the pancreas responds differently to food that has been warmed in a microwave as opposed to other means, then we can conduct an experiment and derive some data that can hopefully answer the question.

      To the best of my knowledge, no rigorous test have shown any difference between microwave and conventional cooking.

      When it comes to heating food, at its most basic level, this is a transfer of energy and when you heat food in a conventional manner, what you are doing is increasing the molecular motion of the food by hitting it with other molecules which are energized ( i.e. the hot frying pan ).

      Microwaves work in exactly the same way, except that instead of contact with a hot surface, what you are doing is imparting energy to water molecules in food via a short wavelength radio frequency. When the water molecules absorb this energy, they increase their molecular motion, and effectively heat your food up from the outside in.

      At a molecular level, there is no practical difference. At the macro level, the principal difference is that microwaves can dry your food out, making it taste like cardboard, but not changing the ‘molecular structure’ as you put it.

      The biggest changer of the molecular structure of food is called digestion.

      -PK

      Pablo Klopper wrote on March 6th, 2014
  28. Hi,
    (preamble:)This is my first post to this blog, though I’ve tried to poke around as best I can first to see if this question is already answered. I’m getting a fair amount of my daily protein from whey these days, mostly for reasons of convenience and cost-effectiveness. I recently discovered that whey can spike insulin, which has me thinking that, even if it’s a different beast from the kind of spike associated with ingesting too much glucose, it still might be a little hard on the system if it’s happening multiple times over the course of the day. I’m also trying to drop a little excess body fat, so anything that puts me into ‘fat storing’ mode has me a little concerned as well.

    Here’s my question: I like to mix whey protein with my oatmeal in the morning (usually with a little coconut oil as well). Does having the whey break down gradually as a result of being mixed in with the oatmeal prevent an insulin spike (assuming that the spike results from the body rushing to deal with a sudden influx of amino acids) *or* am I going to get an insulin spike anyway (somehow just as a unique characteristic of the whey) and then is all the oatmeal just being queued up to be converted into body fat at that point?

    Thanks for any clarification — I’m feeling a bit puzzled here!

    -Ben

    Ben Harrison wrote on August 11th, 2014

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

© 2014 Mark's Daily Apple

Subscribe to the Newsletter and Get a Free Copy
of Mark Sisson's Fitness eBook and more!