Protein, Glucagon and Insulin
The two basic hormones we need to keep in check are insulin and glucagon. Both are released by the pancreas in response to different foods. Eating carbohydrates raises blood sugar and stimulates the release of insulin. Insulin lowers the blood sugar by telling the body to store glucose for future use. The body creates glycogen, strings of glucose molecules, and stores it in the muscles and liver.
Only the glycogen stored in the liver is available to return to circulation and keep adequate supplies of glucose going to the brain. The liver’s total capacity for storage is rather limited and is depleted within 10-12 hours. So the liver’s glycogen reserves must be continually replenished by eating carbohydrates. [Bee’s note: However 58% of protein and 10% of good fats also are made into glycogen by the body, so you do not need to replenish it by eating carbs.]
The problem comes when excess carbohydrates are consumed. Once the liver and muscles have stored as much glycogen as possible (about the amount of three candy bars), the body creates another storage form, fat. Insulin tells your body not only to store new fat, but also not to release any previously stored fat. Insulin is the storage hormone.
Glucagon [Note: this is different than Glycogen above], on the other hand, has the opposite effect to insulin. It tells the body to increase the blood sugar. It is the mobilization hormone.
Protein stimulates the release of glucagon, which stimulates the liver to release stored carbohydrates from its glycogen stores and from fat. Glucagon also inhibits the release of insulin. By controlling your intake of protein and spreading it throughout the day, you can constantly produce adequate amounts of glucagon.
Unlike high carbohydrate diets, protein triggers a response in the stomach that affects motility and stimulates the release of glucagon, a hormone that helps us to burn previously stored fat. In normal people, within thirty minutes of eating a small amount of protein, glucagon starts to rise, peaking at two hours. In fact, glucagon can stay elevated in blood for several hours after a protein rich meal. This gives your body plenty of time to use the fat stored around your waist and hips for fuel.
Protein Power – Summary
From: Protein Power – Summary
This book by Dr. Michael R. Eades, M.D. and Dr. Mary Dan Eades, M.D. provides a great deal of information for $6.99. The title is a bit misleading. The book is not about eating large amounts of protein. The program is moderate in protein. It is more about keeping carbohydrate intake down to healthier levels. It is highly recommended for anyone who wants to clearly understand why it is carbohydrates – starches and sugars – rather than natural fats that are at the root of the modern decline in health. Those who have conditions which normally require the services of a physician are urged to consult one.
According to food surveys, the most commonly eaten food in the USA is white flour in the form of bread, pasta and similar foods. The runner up is white flour and sugar combinations such as pie, cake, cookies, donuts, etc.
All carbohydrates, both starch and sugars, are converted to sugar in the digestive process. White flour is in the form of sugar by the time it reaches the blood. Carbohydrate intake causes a rise in blood sugar. A rise in blood sugar causes a rise in insulin. The pancreas has to put out insulin to enable blood sugar to enter cells for energy production, and to keep the blood sugar level normal.
In children, the insulin receptors on the cells usually respond to insulin normally, and a fairly small amount of insulin is able to keep blood sugar in the normal range in spite of large sugar and starch consumption. Some people can eat lots of starch and sugar all their lives and stay thin. Their health is not as good as it could have been, but they do not develop obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, or diabetes.
Many people do not have a good nutrient constitution inherently — caused by their mother’s poor diet during pregnancy. The high intake of carbohydrates and resulting insulin production results in the cells becoming less and less responsive to insulin.
It takes larger and larger amounts of insulin to enable cells to take in blood sugar and to keep the blood sugar level normal. This is insulin resistance. The first sign of this problem in most people is weight gain. Why is this? It is because insulin is a storage hormone.
In excess amounts insulin causes the body to store both fat and blood sugar as fat. This weight gain may come at age 10 or 30 or later. But it is a sign of insulin resistance and high levels of insulin in the blood. Some people do not gain weight as their insulin rises, but do develop high blood pressure or heart disease.
Insulin is not a "bad" hormone (any more than LDL is "bad" cholesterol). You would be very ill and die without it. But in excess, it causes big problems.
The role of insulin:
- Insulin lowers high blood sugar.
- Insulin puts the metabolism in storage mode.
- Insulin converts protein and blood sugar to fat.
- Insulin causes fat in the diet to be stored in fat cells.
- Insulin increases the production of cholesterol by the body.
- Insulin causes the kidneys to retain water in the body.
- Insulin stimulates the growth of artery wall cells.
- Insulin stimulates the use of blood sugar for energy.
There is a second hormone involved in these processes. It is called glucagon. Glucagon works in opposition to insulin and has the opposite effects:
- Glucagon raises low blood sugar.
- Glucagon puts the metabolism in burning mode.
- Glucagon converts protein and fat to glucose.
- Glucagon causes dietary fat to be used for energy.
- Glucagon releases fat from fat cells to be used for energy.
- Glucagon reduces cholesterol production.
- Glucagon causes the kidneys to release water from the body.
- Glucagon causes artery wall cells to return to normal.
- Glucagon stimulates the use of fat for energy.
It does not take a towering IQ to see that reducing insulin and raising glucagon is in our best interests! The goal is the correct balance of both hormones. There is a cheap, safe, and effective way to do this.
It is not a shot or pill. It is a matter of keeping protein intake at the correct level, and reducing carbohydrate intake to the level that is needed. The book gives instructions on how to calculate the lean body weight and protein needed.
Until the calculation is made, women can start with three ounces of protein foods per meal and men can start with four ounces.
The carbohydrate intake must be reduced to 10 grams three times a day if there is obesity, high blood pressure, abnormal blood fats, or type II diabetes. For a person just wanting to lose a few pounds, a reduction to 55 grams a day is a good place to start.
- Carbohydrate greatly raises insulin and has no effect on glucagon.
- A high carbohydrate and low protein diet has the greatest adverse effect on the insulin-glucagon ratio.
- Protein slightly raises both.
- Fat has no effect on either.
A diet that is moderate in protein and low in carbohydrate is the best way to have ideal levels of both insulin and glucagon. This is good news, but when you try reducing carbohydrate intake, you will find out just how addicted you are!
"Syndrome X": What does all this have to do with major illnesses that kill people? The medical community generally views obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, and hypertension as conditions that need to be diagnosed and treated.
But these conditions all have one thing in common – elevated insulin levels. Some researchers are calling insulin resistance and the resulting problems "syndrome X". These conditions caused by high insulin are generally treated with drugs that can cause even more problems.
And if dietary changes are suggested, it will almost certainly be in the direction of decreasing fat (and thus protein because protein foods usually contains fat) and increasing carbohydrates.
And what did I just say about a high carbohydrate and low protein diet? It is the worst combination in that it raises insulin and reduces glucagon. (This is why some of us have long believed that the diet suggested by the American Heart Association, television reporters, and most of the medical community is the diet most likely to CAUSE heart disease.)
Obesity: Weight gain is often the first sign that insulin levels are rising. The cells no longer respond well to insulin, so more and more must be produced to force blood sugar into cells for energy production. Insulin forces glucose, fat and protein into storage as fat.
Diabetes: (This mainly applies to type II diabetes, but the low carbohydrate diet also makes type I easier to treat.) Even after insulin levels have started to rise, the blood sugar usually stays in the normal range. But as the person continues to live on a high starch and sugar diet, the insulin receptors on the cells are further damaged and eventually the pancreas can no longer make enough insulin to meet the increasing need.
The blood sugar level goes up, glucose appears in the urine, and a diagnosis of "diabetes" will be made if a physician is consulted. Treatment may be oral medications to force the pancreas to make even more insulin, or injected insulin itself may be used. There may be high blood pressure, heart disease, and there will be declining health.
High blood pressure: Excess insulin causes blood pressure to go up in at least three ways: First, it causes the kidneys to retain both sodium and water in the body.
Second, it causes a thickening of artery walls and makes them less elastic. And finally, excess insulin stimulates the nervous system to release other hormones which raise blood pressure.
High blood fats: Triglycerides are a blood fat that is actually made from carbohydrates. Excess carbohydrate raises triglycerides. Cholesterol is made in excess amounts by the liver if insulin levels are too high.
You can either poison the liver into submission (my wording, not theirs) with medication, or reduce the carbohydrate intake. If you listen to the TV dietitians and try to reduce your fat and cholesterol intake, you will probably eat more carbohydrates to replace the lost calories.
Ancient cultures and their skeletal or mummified remains have been studied many times. Ancient Egyptians were bread eaters. Soldiers were issued five pounds of bread a day. Egyptians ate very large amounts of whole grain breads, plus fruits and vegetables. Almost no red meat.
Some fish and poultry. The diet was fairly low in fat and protein, very high in complex carbohydrates. A nutritionist’s dream, one might think. It was what modern wisdom would consider the ideal.
They should have been very healthy according to current thinking. But they were not. They suffered from clogged arteries, obesity, poor teeth, and other degenerative conditions.
I have wondered for years why ancient Egyptians had heart disease without the benefit of factories and processed foods. Now we know. The very high starch intake produced high levels of insulin.
In fact, researchers can tell if skeletal remains are from hunter-gatherers or grain growers just by looking at them. The hunters have stronger skeletons and better teeth.