Insulin’s Role in Heart Disease

By Tina Paymaster, PHASE IV Functional Nutrition & Heath Specialist

As a recap from last week’s article, The Cholesterol-Heart Disease Myth, we discussed the role that cholesterol plays in the body.

Cholesterol is necessary for proper cell functioning.

VLDL, the precursor to LDL contains triglycerides. It helps to move triglycerides form the liver into the cells where it is burned for energy. What isn’t used is stored as fat. Triglycerides levels rise due to excess sugar consumption, not fat.

Once the triglycerides are dropped off, the VLDL becomes LDL, or low-density lipoprotein, otherwise, knows as “bad cholesterol.”

HDL, known as “good cholesterol” helps to keep LDL in check by protecting it against oxidation, and also supports the transportation of triglycerides in and out of VLDL.

What about insulin?

Leading researchers are now saying insulin, not cholesterol, is the leading culprit in heart disease.

Insulin is the master hormone of the body. Approximately 30 trillion cells in the body respond to insulin’s signals, so it’s quite important that the pancreas, which secretes insulin is working properly.

Carbohydrates that get broken down into glucose are the main stimulant that signals the pancreas to release insulin. The insulin pushes the glucose to the cells and liver. Most foods contain glucose. Fructose on the other hand is typically found in white sugar and high fructose corn syrup. Fructose goes straight to the liver for processing and too much will eventually make you liver and body insulin resistant.

In the early 1900s, the average American consumed a mere 15g of fructose a day, mostly from fruits and vegetables. Today, that number has quadrupled and most of it comes from refined sugars in cereal, soda, fruit drinks, desserts and other sugary foods and beverages.

Other factors that also contribute to insulin resistance include genetics, sedentary lifestyle, low sleep, low Vitamin D, low Vitamin K2, low Vitamin C, love Omega-3, high Omega-6, smoking, drinking and environmental pollutants.

Another important point to note is that the liver uses fructose to create fat through a process called lipogenesis. This combined with insulin resistance eventually leads to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease as fat builds up in the liver.

The breakdown of fructose in the liver can also lead to insulin resistance, high blood glucose, high blood pressure, and high visceral fat, which is the dangerous fat found the mid-section.

All of these factors lead to a rise in LDL cholesterol and oxidized LDL. None of these factors are beneficial for the heart.

An 2010 article in The New England Journal of Medicine found that those people with NAFLD were more likely to have plaque filled arteries and develop heart disease than people without the condition. Another study from the Framingham Heart Study has linked NAFLD with metabolic syndrome, which is strongly associated with heart disease.

Root Cause…

So as modern medicine continues to treat heart disease by simply looking at cholesterol levels and prescribing statins, there is a very important piece to the puzzle that is being ignored.

To bring the body back into balance, you need to identify the root cause and heal at that level, which may just be insulin resistance and elevated blood sugar.

So here are some diet and lifestyle tips that will help you reach optimal health and reduce your risk of getting a heart attack or stroke.

  1. Reduce fructose from refined sugar sources such as white sugar, high fructose corn syrup often found in soda, iced tea beverages, pastries and other sweet foods.
  2. Reduce net carbs and replace those calories with healthy fat vs protein
  3. Heart-healthy sources of fat include avocado, avocado oil, olive oil, nuts, nut butters, seeds
  4. Increase Omega-3 through fish oil supplementation or Wild Alaskan Salmon, sardines, anchovies.
  5. Reduce Omega-6 consumption from fried foods and vegetable oils.
  6. Optimize Vitamin D levels through 15 minutes a day of sun exposure or supplementation (speak to your healthcare practitioner to get levels checked)
  7. programs designed to boost your metabolism and help you burn more fat.)
  8. Eat low GI vegetables at every meal and get most of your carbohydrates from here as opposed to breads and pastas.
  9. Include a variety of dark leafy greens into your meals.
  10. Include a moderate amount of gluten-free whole grain such as brown rice, wild rice, quinoa and amaranth into your diet.
  11. Get 8 hours of sleep a night
  12. Get regular daily exercise that is suitable for your body (schedule complimentary consultation with a PHASE IV Exercise Physiologist to learn about our personalized training

Want to know more? Speak to a PHASE IV Functional Nutritionist to discover what diet is best for you to reach optimal health and performance. Schedule your complimentary consultation today: 310-582-8212

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