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Simple explaination of insulin and why carbs make us fat?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created March 18, 2013 at 12:16 PM

Hi, can someone provide a complete noob desription in laymans terms as to why carbs make us fat and how paleo can help? In particular how do we become insulin resistant?

I've read a few descriptions but it's made me confused (maybe i'm a bit dumb!).

A step by step synopsis would be perfect!

Many thanks.

A968017ef27f0a24abf64cc4460463a0

(142)

on March 21, 2013
at 02:23 PM

Yes I did mean that.

Ebb10603524dd22621c1155dd7ddf106

(19150)

on March 18, 2013
at 03:00 PM

"low fat high carb and high carb low fat" - did you mean "low fat, high carb and high fat, low carb"? 'Cause that's the same thing. :-)

8b7a8df04fc6fbf32709133538287125

(125)

on March 18, 2013
at 02:18 PM

Wow! Perfect! Massive thanks!

Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on March 18, 2013
at 01:59 PM

Cheers Stephen. :)

Cb9a270955e2c277a02c4a4b5dad10b5

(10979)

on March 18, 2013
at 01:50 PM

Boom, killed it. +1

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4 Answers

10
Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on March 18, 2013
at 01:47 PM

I had the morning off so thought I would answer this.

Carbohydrates don't directly make you fat any more then consuming any macronutrient (carbohydrate, protein, fat) can directly make you fat.

What you need to understand though is that the different macronutrients contribute to various different metabolic (chemical) changes in the body in different ways.

Your question could really be broken in two.

Q1. Why we get fat.
Q2. How insulin and carbohydrate helps us get fat.

A1. Simply we get fat by our bodies storing more energy then we expend, which is generally the result of us consuming more energy then we expend, and our bodies not expending more energy then we consume.

In terms of how a 'paleo' diet can help this is simply that a 'paleo' diet guideline generally provides adequate energy rather than excess, and also aids the body in energy balance by improving its ability to utilise energy consumed (and previously stored) by increasing and balancing overall metabolic (chemical) health. Basically any diet that prescribes replacing low nutritious highly energy dense foods (general processed 'junk' foods), with a balance of highly nutritious lower energy dense foods (wholefoods: animal/vegetable/fruit) will increase overall health and result in better body-composition.

A2. Carbohydrate when consumed effect fat-loss from the standpoint of reducing the body's utilisation of fuel (in this case body-fat) for energy. Carbohydrate is also energy dense (especially refined carbohydrate: pasta/bread/sugar/etc) and so can contribute easily to excess energy consumption.

Insulin is a hormone whose purpose in general is to cause body tissues to take up glucose from the blood. When you consume carbohydrate you are consuming glucose which raises the glucose levels in your blood which triggers the release of insulin to shuttle this fuel to be stored for future use (muscle & liver glycogen / although rarely body-fat). But the other more important thing to remember is that insulin reduces other hormone concentrations (e.g. glucagon) which do the very opposite; that being the breakdown and release of stored fuel (glucose and stored fatty-acids).

So without going too long on this, have a look at this graph.

simple-explaination-of-insulin-and-why-carbs-make-us-fat?

  1. Consume carbohydrate (in this case at three meals [blue spikes]) blood glucose increases.
  2. You hormone insulin increases (fuel storage) [red].
  3. Your other hormones decrease (fuel usage) [orange].

Lower insulin, higher other hormones (lower fuel storage, higher fuel usage).

Hence you can simply think that during periods of carbohydrate consumption your hormone insulin is increased which turns on fuel storage and turns off fuel usage. BUT you want to store fuel at times (e.g. muscle growth) and you don't want to continually block fuel usage (e.g. for activity). So balance is helpful here.

The point is that eating a 'paleo' diet (in comparison to the standard processed food diet) provides in general not only a more balanced amount of carbohydrate during the day which prevents continuous levels of high insulin ('continuous high' potentially causing insulin resistance), but also encourages the consumption of a balance of foods (e.g. more healthy fats) which actually contribute to an increase of your body's ability to use fuel more efficiently.

You can say roughly that the more fuel you are storing indicates which fuel you are generally using the least. If you have high body-fat, you are probably burning more carbohydrate than fat which is most likely related to your consumption of the majority of your energy as carbohydrate rather than fat.

So carbohydrates don't make you fat directly, but can easily contribute to the overconsumption of energy over and above your needs, and if eaten without break prevent the body from using its fuel stores. Therefore we can say that the consumption of carbohydrates should be limited to use from the point of energy needs and overall health.

The best balance I have come across as a general guideline works out to be about 2 - 3 cups (150g - 200g carbohydrate) of cooked starchy carbohydrate a day. You can eat this amount all in one go, or spread out across your meals.

By weight, the diet works out to about 3/4 plant foods, 1/4 animal foods. By calories, it works out to about 600 carb calories, primarily from starches; around 300 protein calories; and fats supply a majority (50-60%) of daily calories. - http://perfecthealthdiet.com/the-diet/

I hope this helps.

Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on March 18, 2013
at 01:59 PM

Cheers Stephen. :)

8b7a8df04fc6fbf32709133538287125

(125)

on March 18, 2013
at 02:18 PM

Wow! Perfect! Massive thanks!

Cb9a270955e2c277a02c4a4b5dad10b5

(10979)

on March 18, 2013
at 01:50 PM

Boom, killed it. +1

5
3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on March 18, 2013
at 12:28 PM

Very straight forward answer at Mark's Daily Apple: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/diabetes/#axzz2NtShvFcd

But this is not a simple process, so over-simplifying can be dangerous.

2
048dd52752c45129c1212bfffb37ca72

on March 18, 2013
at 12:44 PM

This video by Dr. Lustig is damn good, very straightforward and summarizes it pretty well. But as CD said, it's a complex thing involving lots of things: hormones, food intake, quality of food, daily activity, timing, sleep, current health status, inflammation and the list goes on..

The Skinny on Obesity (Ep. 3): Hunger and Hormones- A Vicious Cycle http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yo3TRbkIrow

1
A968017ef27f0a24abf64cc4460463a0

on March 18, 2013
at 01:03 PM

Well all carbs don't make us all fat first of all. The guy who went on an all potato diet for 30-60 days actually lowered his blood glucose and insulin levels while losing weight. This isn't to say some carbs don't make some people fat but I'd like to point out that low fat high carb and high carb low fat both lead to similar weight losses in most people. Durriander eats a lot of carbs and is thin so I'd be very hesitant to say carbs cause insulin resistance in and of themselves.

Other than that, insulin resistance, as those above me have pointed out is caused by a plethora of lifestyle choices. One of the main causes I've seen has been sedentary activity. Being bed-ridden (or iPad bed ridden ) for 8 hour days will probably make you very insulin resistant very fast. HFCS will also develop obesity (specifically abdominal fat) and IR much quicker even than sugar (in rats for sure at least).

Ebb10603524dd22621c1155dd7ddf106

(19150)

on March 18, 2013
at 03:00 PM

"low fat high carb and high carb low fat" - did you mean "low fat, high carb and high fat, low carb"? 'Cause that's the same thing. :-)

A968017ef27f0a24abf64cc4460463a0

(142)

on March 21, 2013
at 02:23 PM

Yes I did mean that.

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