Understanding Insulin Resistance

Ben Bikman Ph.D. is the author of Why We Get Sick: The Hidden Epidemic at the Root of Most Chronic Disease—and How to Fight It.

That hidden epidemic he describes is insulin resistance, sometimes called metabolic syndrome, which raises the risk of a host of diseases, from cardiovascular diseases, to various cancers and even Alzheimer’s.

If any three of the following five are true of you, you have metabolic syndrome:

  • Large Waist (> 40 inches for men, >35 inches for women) measured at the belly button
  • Blood pressure >130/85 mmHg
  • Fasting glucose >100 mg/dL
  • High blood Triglycerides (>150 mg/dL)
  • Low HDL, the so-called “good” cholesterol (<40 mg/dL for men, <50 mg/dL for women)

More than a third of U.S. adults, and nearly half of those age 60 or older, have metabolic syndrome. And 88% have at least one of the metabolic syndrome factors, putting them on the path toward it.

But as Dr. Bikman relates in the video below, starting at about the 16:00 mark, the news is actually worse than that.

For many years, even as you’re becoming increasingly insulin resistant, blood glucose can stay in a normal range because your pancreas is still producing enough insulin to keep up.

Until it can’t.

High insulin levels are themselves bad for you. It isn’t just high blood sugar that does damage. Too much insulin does, too.

Dr. Bikman suggests that’s why we should pay more attention to insulin levels than blood glucose.

Measuring blood ketones is a good proxy for insulin levels. If you’re producing ketones, you don’t have abnormally high insulin levels and therefore aren’t developing insulin resistance.

Watching this two-year old video in December is why I took the plunge and got the Keto-Mojo glucose/ ketone meter.

Rewatching this video again yesterday made me want to listen again to the Audible version of Why We Get Sick, which I first heard last July when it was published.

I hope you’ll watch this video and also get some version of his book, because both will increase your understanding of the science of chronic disease.

He’s one of my Health Sherpas and I hope he’ll be one of yours.

When you understand the mechanisms behind so many of the diseases that plague our society, it provides great motivation for the changes needed to reverse them.

See the whole series about my health journey. Follow along on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn or subscribe by email

And if you’re ready to get started yourself, use my #BodyBabySteps.

Author: Lee Aase

Husband of one, father of six, grandfather of 14. Chancellor Emeritus, SMUG. By day I'm the Director of the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network. Whatever I say here is my personal opinion, and doesn't reflect the positions of my employer.

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