There is a little-known fact that has huge consequences. Most chronic illnesses suffered in Britain today, such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, strokes, and certain cancers, can in the main be prevented by looking after your inner health. This is referred to as metabolic health. In many ways, all these modern-day chronic illnesses can be viewed as branches of the same tree, with the tree trunk being insulin resistance.
In America, researchers have estimated that 88% of adults are not physically well, and the rest of the modern world is not far behind. More than 60% of adults have one chronic illness, and over 40% have two or more! Yet 100 years ago, most of these illnesses were very rare indeed.
Just 100 years ago, most people in Britain died of infectious diseases and not chronic illnesses. At the turn of the last century, the biggest five causes of death were pneumonia, tuberculosis, diarrhoea, polio, and typhoid. Today they are cancer, heart disease, strokes, diabetes and Alzheimer’s! In fact, none of the modern diseases we fear today even register in the top 10 causes of death in the early 1900s. And all of the main causes of death 100 years ago have pretty much been eradicated through medicine.
Now many commentators will tell you that what kills us today, like cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart disease etc, is because we are living longer. But let me tell you right now, that is not the case. In fact, a male adult alive in Britain in the 1870s had a longer life expectancy than a British male adult living today. Yes, when you extract childhood births in the 1870s from the data, there was a period where there was a decade of over-farming, meaning all classes had access to real food, and life expectancy was greater than today. And not only is lifespan reducing, even with the removal of most infectious diseases and the modern-day health
care system, but our health span (the number of years we are healthy) is also decreasing. But the good news is it does not have to be this way.
The prevalence of cancers, heart diseases, strokes, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s is not because we live longer; it is because something has changed in the way we live in the modern world
The current solution to the pandemic of modern illness is to try and use medicine and drugs. But it isn’t working well, and healthcare and social care systems are collapsing globally. The core, fundamental reason being while medicine and drugs work well for most infectious diseases, in the main, they do not work for chronic illness other than to mask symptoms and reduce pain.
Now I dropped out of school, so I didn’t learn about something called homeostasis, but if you knew about it in biology lessons, you might remember it is the body’s system for staying in balance, in harmony. It’s a bit like the heating and air conditioning unit in an office. If the temperature gets too cold, it turns up the heat; if it gets a bit warm, it turns on the air con, constantly aiming to regulate the temperature, avoiding big changes, keeping the balance. The body does the same but in multiple different areas. To remain physically well, we must remain in homeostasis as often and for as long as possible.
Now here is the crunch and the reason why entire commercialised nations are getting sick. If homeostasis is challenged too much for too long, then we get chronic diseases.
Now a question. How do you break a human? Say you were a pharmaceutical boss and you needed to break a million humans, make them sick, so you can then sell your drugs to mask or reduce the symptoms, how would you break lots of humans? Well, let’s get back to homeostasis and look at one of the most important tasks that homeostasis is trying to balance: our blood sugar levels.
Question: Do you know what our normal blood glucose/sugar level should be? In other words, how much sugar can the bloodstream hold?
Answer: 4 – 6 mmol per litre of blood.
Question: How many litres of blood does an adult have?
Answer: An average weight adult has around 5 litres of blood (8 pints).
Looking at the maths, 5 litres of blood, with 5 mmol per litre (the midpoint between 4 – 6 mmol), means the average weight adult should have about 25mmol of glucose/sugar in their bloodstream.
Question: Take a guess what this 25 mmol is in grams, or if it is easier to visualise, how many teaspoons of sugar?
Answer: In our entire 5 litres of blood (8 pints), we should only have 5 grams of sugar. That is just one teaspoon of sugar! Not a lot, hey?
Now one job for homeostasis is to maintain our blood sugar level at this tiny amount. Why? Because if the sugar in our blood goes higher, like even a tiny increase to just one and a half teaspoons of sugar across our entire blood network, and it happens for a sustained period, we run a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. We have an elevated risk of heart disease and more; we risk amputation, blindness, and kidney failure. It increases the risk of obesity and lots more horrible diseases too.
So how does homeostasis attempt to control our blood sugar level? It instructs the pancreas to realise a hormone called insulin, which, when we eat sugary foods, processed foods, starchy foods (all of which turn to sugar), releases insulin to remove that sugar from our bloodstream. And if it’s not used as energy, it then instructs the body to store it as body fat. Insulin is our fat-storage hormone. It knocks on the door of other cells, asking them to take excess sugar out of the bloodstream and store it as fat.
Now for healthy individuals, the 12% of Americans and the one in five British adults, it’s a normal cycle. On the occasion you eat a meal rich in foods that turn to sugar, your body releases insulin, and the sugar gets swept out of the bloodstream promptly. It’s a cycle that has worked perfectly well for us humans for two million years. We eat fruit in the autumn, it turns to sugar, and insulin is summoned to store it as body fat to get us through the winter. Perfect.
But for four out of five adults in the modern world, mainly because their diets are very one-sided, insulin has been knocking on their cell doors for such a prolonged period that their cells have gotten fed up. They don’t listen. They shut up shop; they are too full already, so they lock the doors. When this happens, the cells become what we call insulin resistant. And as a result, we end up with too much sugar in the bloodstream.
The body is now facing an internal war as it desperately battles to stay in homeostasis. As we eat foods that turn into sugar, we now have insulin resistance occurring; homeostasis releases even more insulin in a desperate attempt to keep everything in balance. So now we have both elevated levels of insulin in the blood and elevated sugar.
And because we now have lots of insulin (the fat-storage hormone), no matter what we eat, the body is so stuffed full of insulin that it can’t burn fat because its responsibility is to try and store it. You see, you can’t burn fat, lose weight, beat obesity, get lean when you have lots of insulin in the body.
Increased insulin, caused by insulin resistance over a sustained period, normally leads to a large belly and fat around the organs (that’s the dangerous fat and the fat that is linked to inflammation). And both insulin resistance and inflammation are not just linked to type 2 diabetes, big bellies and obesity, but also associated with an increased risk of heart disease, strokes, Alzheimer’s, certain cancers, fatty liver disease, kidney failure and many more modern chronic illnesses.
All these illnesses are simply just branches of the same tree, the tree being insulin resistance. They are the same root disease, but they manifest in different ways. In my own
family, for my dad, it developed into type 2 diabetes. For my mom, it developed into Alzheimer’s. For my lovely auntie Avis, it developed into cancer.
GPs and doctors across the country now spend most of their working day dealing with the consequences of insulin resistance. In many hospitals, four out of five people in hospital beds are there because of insulin resistance.
Now the good news is insulin resistance can be reversed and, for many people, put in total remission.
How do you know if you have it? Well, there are five health markers you can look at that can be relatively easily measured. You first measure the height to waistline ratio. This is a far more meaningful measure than BMI or weight. Why not try this at home? Take a piece of string, cut it to the same length as your height. Then wrap it around your body at belly button height. If the string doesn’t go around twice, then you may benefit by losing some weight. Next, you measure how much triglycerides (fat) and glucose are currently in the bloodstream. Then you should also measure to see if there is a sufficient level of healthy HDL cholesterol, and finally, but equally important, is to measure blood pressure.
The good news is that all five of these markers can be improved quickly, with some individuals seeing huge improvements within just a few weeks of making changes to their lifestyle and/or their diets.
To a certain degree, insulin resistance can be related to stress, lack of exercise, lack of sleep, poor muscle mass, and a few other things. But in the main, it is caused by poor diets.
For the body to survive today and thrive and strive tomorrow, we must maintain homeostasis. We must keep the body in peacetime as often as possible. We must be aware and control the foods that most raise both our insulin and blood sugar levels.
Question – What foods do you think might raise insulin the most?
Answer – In the main, sugary foods, starchy foods, and any foods which the body easily and quickly converts to sugar.
So quite obviously, for those struggling to manage their blood sugars (potentially 4 out of 5 adults), sugar-laden fizzy drinks and sweets should be minimised or avoided. But so too should cereals, potatoes, wheat, rice and of course, ultra-processed foods.
Take a look at how some popular food choices convert into surprising large amounts of sugar.
Did the fact that a bowl of rice or a baked potato turns into around ten teaspoons of sugar surprise you? If it does, don’t beat yourself up because almost without exception, everyone I have ever shared this with is gobsmacked too!
Let’s look at some breakfast choices and see what happens once we consume them:
This one upset me the most because I always insisted my kids had cereals for breakfast as I believed it was a healthier choice. What’s even worse is that I made them drink a glass of fruit juice too.
Yes, I was consuming, and my kids were too, over 15 teaspoons of sugar before we left home in the morning. That is more than if I had made them drink two cans of Coke!
Now, most of these foods are probably okay in small portions and when consumed infrequently if we don’t have insulin resistance.
But we have now identified both the major cause and the effect that is crippling health and social care systems worldwide: insulin resistance. Remember, around 80% of adults in the modern world, and 88% of American adults are unwell, and 60% have already developed a modern-day illness relating to insulin resistance.
Yes, leading doctors, scientists and researchers have now identified insulin resistance as the primary culprit that's collapsing our NHS. If we don’t address insulin resistance, not just at home but globally, we are in serious trouble. And this now includes India and China, who have westernised their diets. In both countries, incidents of diabetes and other insulin resistance-related illnesses are now growing faster than in Britain and America.
While our healthcare system is multi-faceted and multi-dimensional, there's an elephant in the room. And it's an elephant that we can actually fix without drugs or medicine, an elephant that is a modern-day phenomenon, an elephant that, at its root, is caused by a shift in modern-day diets and the ever-increasing consumption of processed foods: insulin resistance. We have effectively conducted a 50-year dietary study on the human race, which has gone horribly wrong.
Only a decade ago, doctors believed type 2 diabetes was chronic, progressive and irreversible because they hadn’t fully identified the cause. Today, however, we believe almost everyone can reverse it because we have clearly identified the culprit, the root cause, the source - insulin resistance.
The good news about insulin resistance, which is often referred to as metabolic health, is that no matter where you are today, it can always be improved. Sometimes drastically. For example, in less than 21 days, you can begin to reverse type 2 diabetes and obesity and hopefully prevent all of these horrible modern diseases such as Alzheimer’s, which we have come to see as normal in just a few decades.
There are several ways to reduce insulin resistance (increase cell sensitivity to it), and while we have lots of blogs that will help, you may also find the book I wrote, Fat & Furious, useful. If you click here Fat and Furious Book , right now can get it for just £9.99 (saving 33%).
Looking back, we were healthier 150 years ago, and we lived longer too. In the future, we will see the last 100 years through a lens where our society underwent two historical transformations in healthcare. The first was the defeat of acute illness which we will rightly attribute to the success of biomedical medicine. The second was how we incorrectly believed that the same biomedical concept of disease would work for modern chronic illness, which in the main were caused by a change in diet from eating seasonal, real foods to commercialised food-like substances, which cause, amongst other things, insulin resistance.
Insulin Resistance is such an important thing to understand that I will bring this week’s blog to an end here.
Have a great week