I was recently invited to give a talk to a group of savvy corporate youngsters which was titled as "The Healthy Weigh of Life". The latter half of the title was chosen because the group consisted mostly of women, eager to shed a few kilos and inches. The spear-head of the talk was high carbohydrate consumption and its proportionate Insulin response within the body and subsequent problems. I called Insulin the “nectar of life”. Insulin, and its action are the titles of many a voluminous biological textbook. But here we are looking at the hormone in a snapshot review. For those who were not present, here’s what I meant.

Insulin is secreted by the (beta) b-cells within the “islets of Langerhans” - a region of the Pancreas. They are so named because of their discoverer Dr. Paul Langerhans. Apart from the b-cells, the islets also contain (alpha) a-cells & (gamma) g-cells which have other secretions which we will not go into at this time. The secretion of Insulin begins as soon as any food is ingested, probably even before that with the smell, sight or thought of food.

Insulin’s preliminary role in carb, lipid and protein metabolism is that of distribution and storage. That is why it is so essential to life. Primarily it distributes glucose to target cells for energy metabolism. Beyond that it encourages the storage of glucose as glycogen and also its further conversion to triglyceride and storage as fat in adipose tissue. In fact it is the primary regulator of fat deposit in the body. On a lesser scale it also plays a role in the storage of several key minerals in the body. These events are essential for normal growth and development and for normal homeostasis.

Once at the target site insulin signaling & reception results in a large array of biological outcomes. Understanding these mechanisms and pathways is the subject matter of a large number of studies under way. These studies could lead to a better understanding of the pathophysiology of insulin resistance which is associated with obesity and type 2 diabetes. Insulin Resistance is dealt with in more detail on the next post, but it should be said that Insulin is also a pro-inflammatory hormone. Excessive amounts of Insulin could therefore result in abundance of free radicals which cause extensive damage wherever and whenever they get a free run.

In my humble opinion Insulin is certainly the hormone of life. It is a sort of time keeper of our metabolic age. Because we have become so accustomed to a carb loaded diet, we use more and more of Insulin on a daily basis & that is why we are ageing much faster. After all AGE (advanced glycation end-products) is the cause of age. For confirmation all you need to do is compare the advent of puberty in children these days with that of 30-40 years ago. And that is why I say that the “Fast Food” label is a half-truth. Not food but certainly fast. So to live a longer, fuller & healthier life watch your Insulin. Keep the clock ticking slower & longer. After all THE IDEA IS TO DIE YOUNG AS LATE AS POSSIBLE.     

Healthy Regards.

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