15

votes

Is insulin sensitivity seasonal?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created March 15, 2010 at 4:08 PM

I was listening to the Robb Wolf podcast yesterday and he talked about how we'll likely sleep more in the winter and less in the summer (Ep 5 or 17?). It reminded me of a question I'd had a few days ago:

Is insulin sensitivity seasonal; and if so, should we eat seasonally?

For example, if paleolithic man naturally ate more naturally occuring sugars during the summer months causing him to pack a bit of weight on for the slow winter months, was his body naturally adapted to shift his insulin sensitivity based on the season? And if it was, are our bodies still naturally shifting our insulin sensitivity, just like our bodies shift our sleep needs?

The real question again is:

Is insulin sensitivity seasonal; and if so, should we eat seasonally?

1c4ada15ca0635582c77dbd9b1317dbf

(2614)

on April 30, 2010
at 06:39 AM

Couldn't agree more with your analysis. My only doubt comes when I think about countries that have little or no seasonal variation, and how that works. I also read a line in an old book how the British upper class historically used to eat lots of fruit in the summer to 'fatten up' for the winter. Fascinating.

5cd18bfcafadc56292971e59f2f1faf6

(2475)

on March 19, 2010
at 02:11 AM

Thanks to both of you for sharing. It's refreshing to see some information from personal experience! Definitely makes me think this is worth looking into.

245c53790116339bcc79fb789f6f9c9d

(744)

on March 17, 2010
at 02:37 PM

That's interesting- I didn't know that it is such a powerful effect that it is something that type 2s deal with too. That builds more of a case for it being something that would effect everyone else (all of those people with functioning pancreases). I'm type 1 and my blood sugar will repeatedly hit the 30s if I'm in 100 degree weather- air conditioning is one my non-paleo concessions.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on March 17, 2010
at 01:59 PM

To back that up, my type 2 diabetic hubby has lower blood sugar once we arrive in Mexico even though he drinks some beer.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on March 16, 2010
at 01:15 PM

And what effect would it have on me- I travel from the north where I would have one type of diet in winter to the south where totally different foods are available?

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7 Answers

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5
245c53790116339bcc79fb789f6f9c9d

(744)

on March 16, 2010
at 04:03 PM

Temperature affects your body's sugar uptake. I believe that it is not insulin sensitivity so much as non insulin basal glucose uptake. Type 1 diabetics have a tendency toward low blood sugar in very hot weather, and high blood sugar in cold weather. (which always seemed counter intuitive to me, as my assumption would be that shivering would qualify as exercise which would drop blood sugar, but there must be some accompanying liver dump)

5cd18bfcafadc56292971e59f2f1faf6

(2475)

on March 19, 2010
at 02:11 AM

Thanks to both of you for sharing. It's refreshing to see some information from personal experience! Definitely makes me think this is worth looking into.

245c53790116339bcc79fb789f6f9c9d

(744)

on March 17, 2010
at 02:37 PM

That's interesting- I didn't know that it is such a powerful effect that it is something that type 2s deal with too. That builds more of a case for it being something that would effect everyone else (all of those people with functioning pancreases). I'm type 1 and my blood sugar will repeatedly hit the 30s if I'm in 100 degree weather- air conditioning is one my non-paleo concessions.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on March 17, 2010
at 01:59 PM

To back that up, my type 2 diabetic hubby has lower blood sugar once we arrive in Mexico even though he drinks some beer.

4
Medium avatar

(7073)

on March 15, 2010
at 04:41 PM

This is a great question, I am convinced insulin sensitivity is related to the seasons, so many other things are, including sleep patterns and fat distribution in the body, for instance. Seasonal change and food availability would have been the overriding influence on every facet of Paleolithic Life, so I assume every function in the body is tuned into it.

I therefore think it is really important to eat what is found in season in your own country, like fruits only in late summer and autumn, spring veggies and sprouted seeds in spring, mushrooms and nuts in autumn etc. and this means, growing them ourselves, foraging for them in nature or going to the farmers' market and seeing what is on offer from stalls that don't sell bananas and avocados (unless you live in the tropics).

I think insulin production is far more complex than we realize and plays many, many more (seasonally sensitive) roles than we have yet to discover, so, it just makes sense to go with the seasons.....

1c4ada15ca0635582c77dbd9b1317dbf

(2614)

on April 30, 2010
at 06:39 AM

Couldn't agree more with your analysis. My only doubt comes when I think about countries that have little or no seasonal variation, and how that works. I also read a line in an old book how the British upper class historically used to eat lots of fruit in the summer to 'fatten up' for the winter. Fascinating.

3
93f44e8673d3ea2294cce085ebc96e13

(10502)

on March 16, 2010
at 05:42 AM

Fantastic question.

Have you read Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival? The book is a bit wild and I think off-base at times, but does make some strong points about seasonality and diet.

Back to your question: Is insulin sensitivity seasonal; and if so, should we eat seasonally?

My answer is that:

A) it appears reasonable to assume so....dependent on your heritage, and how close to the equator your ancestors might have been 10,000 years ago.

B) even if A) is true -- can we eat seasonally? I live in Southern California, and for all intents and purposes, it is summer all year-round - which I love BTW. But perhaps I am missing out on an important metabolic cycle? I dunno.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on March 16, 2010
at 01:15 PM

And what effect would it have on me- I travel from the north where I would have one type of diet in winter to the south where totally different foods are available?

3
A727956fa3f943057c4edb08ad9e864e

on March 15, 2010
at 04:50 PM

Vitamin D is known to have some function of maintaining insulin sensitivity, so higher carb consumption in summer would most likely be offset by higher vitamin D blood levels.

1
4c8a9bec5a27b66b28d3c5cddeb70e93

on March 19, 2010
at 12:05 AM

I think this is a very interesting topic and definitely look forward to more thorough investigation of this idea by people such as Robb Wolf, and the other fantastic bloggers out there...

However I think in the grand scheme of things, that many of plants beneficial compounds aren't necessarily part of an evolved adaptation, its such a side effect of chemical interactions, and studies of epidemiology, amongst other things...

From Wikipedia on Blueberries:

Blueberries contain anthocyanins, other antioxidant pigments and various phytochemicals possibly having a role in reducing risks of some diseases,[19] including inflammation and certain cancers. Blueberry anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins, resveratrol, flavonols, and tannins inhibit mechanisms of cancer cell development and inflammation in vitro."

Now there might well end up being a great argument for the fructose in blueberries to only be ingested seasonally, however I am suspicious that we would not benefit from a year round consumption of blueberries due to the potential inflammatory effects, and all the other good stuff in them.

I am a scientist however and I would love to have my assumptions proved wrong :)

1
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on March 18, 2010
at 10:23 PM

i'm starting to lose weight again after plateauing in the winter. don't know if it's related to more sun or not. i live in the northeast.

0
03aeff8d87a3b53a449b5b8e9158da98

(3268)

on March 15, 2010
at 04:23 PM

Interesting question.

Personally, I am tyring not over-analyze or over-regiment my diet, so the only seasonal adjusment I think I would make comes down what veggies are in season at the farmer's market.

It's a good point, though.

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