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Fact File - Are you a hormone-driven carbohydrate monster?


Say the word hormone and most people immediately think of sex.

And certainly the so - called 'sex hormones', testosterone and estrogen, have vital jobs to do, not just in regulating the sex drive but in maintaining good health in general.

Important as they are, these hormones are just two in the vast army of hormones that come as standard equipment.

Yet few of us realise how crucial hormones really are. The truth is that hormones regulate virtually everything your body does - from controlling blood sugar levels to the basic survival mechanisms involved in stress, fear and even love.

Blood - sugar, body weight and hormones

Here is the science, this is how is happens.

The pancreas secretes insulin into the bloodstream. The insulin travels to the liver and to the muscle cells, telling them to take glucose from the bloodstream and store it. The liver and muscle cells do just that.

As insulin levels increase, blood glucose levels begin to fall. Once blood glucose falls below a critical level, the brain, which needs glucose to function, begins to call out for more glucose. If the brain doesn't get the glucose it wants, it starts tuning out, lacking focus and concentration.

Medically this glucose shortage is known as hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. When it happens to adults it produces mental fatigue. That's why when you eat a big pasta meal at noon by 3pm you can barely keep your eyes open.

When hypoglycemia strikes, what prevents the liver from simply replenishing the blood glucose from its storage depot? The answer is high levels of insulin. The same exaggerated insulin response generated by that pasta lunch, or a high carb sports drink, now prevents the replenishment of blood glucose that supplies the brain with the fuel it needs. Now you begin tuning out. As you can see the effects of your hormones in action can be very potent.

Hormones usually come in pairs, the most important in terms of reaching a balanced blood sugar is the insulin - glucagon pairing. 

Balancing this pair of hormones means a balanced blood sugar which allows you to function at your best.

Insulin drives down blood sugar levels, while glucagon has the opposite effect, it increases blood sugar levels. The balancing of this pair of hormones allows the body to maintain a relatively tight control of blood sugar, allowing the brain to function at its best. If this control is disturbed the result is an imbalance of blood glucose levels.

If insulin levels are too high or if glucagon levels are too low the result is hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. When this happens, brain function is compromised.

Insulin resistance

Prolonged insulin resistance can lead to diabetes and heart disease.

There is also a condition known as insulin resistance, in which insulin levels are elevated but blood sugar levels remain high because the target cells no longer respond to insulin. Insulin resistance and the resulting elevated insulin levels (hyperinsulinemia) lead to the accumulation of excess body fat, and prolonged hyperinsulinemia can not only promote diabetes but also speed up the development of heart disease.

The food you eat has an exceptionally powerful effect on your hormonal responses

Once you understand the power of the hormonal responses generated by food you can no longer think of food simply as a source of calories to the body.

Most conventional weight loss diets (faddy diets) are hormonally incorrect. Not only are they unrealistic and too difficult to sustain but they do not promote optimum health.

Learn how to control your hormonal responses to food and you will learn how to lose weight, keep it off forever and promote your own good health.

Read on to learn how food affects your blood sugar level …

The release of insulin is stimulated by carbohydrates, especially by high glycemic carbs like bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, sugary foods and many processed foods. Glucagon is stimulated by dietary protein.

So the critical balance depends on two things, one is the size of the meal you eat (excess calories stimulate insulin) and the other is balancing your protein and your carbs at every meal.

What happens if you eat a high carb meal, for example a large pasta dinner or a baguette at lunch time? By 3pm you can barely stay awake. Why is this response so universal?

The excess carbohydrate and lack of sufficient protein has generated an overproduction of insulin. The insulin not only reduces blood sugar levels, thereby depriving the brain of its only source of energy, but it also prevents the replenishment of blood sugar from the liver.

As blood sugar drops the brain begins to tune out. Within three to four hours of a high carb meal the brain is desperate for energy (even though you probably have the equivalent of two or three chocolate bars stored in your liver, desperate to get out). But this massive amount of stored carbs can't be released into the bloodstream because the high carb meal you ate drove insulin levels up and glucagon levels down.

Since glucagon levels remain low, you can't replenish your blood sugar from your own internal stored carbohydrate in the liver. In desperation your brain tells you that bag of crisps / chocolate bar / slice of cake / biscuit looks very inviting. Whilst these foods supply an immediate source of carbs for the brain, it simply re-starts the vicious circle of raised insulin and diminished glucagon. In other words you're stuck on a blood sugar roller coaster.

This blood sugar roller coaster is the source of all your carbohydrate cravings …

… including the infamous sweet-tooth and the constant cycle of recurring hunger (every two to three hours) that goes with them. These cravings are hormonally driven by the high carbohydrate meal or more accurately a meal that was too high in carbs and too low in protein.

Now remember your glucagon depots in the liver and muscles are stuffed full but you're still eating carbs. Where and how are you going to store the excess?

The excess carbs end up being stored as fat. For fat the body can always find a storage place so even if you have eaten only fat free carbs you may as well have been eating pure lard.

There are some lucky people who do not have such a hormonal response to carbs, but not many of them. It all depends on your genes. Roughly 25% of the population has a positive response to carbs but 25% has a negative response and becomes overweight or obese. These people simply have to look at a carbohydrate and they begin gaining fat. You hear people say “I only have to look at a cream cake and I gain 2lbs!”

This leaves 50% of the population who respond normally to carbohydrates. This means that their response to carbohydrates is not as extreme as the unlucky 25% but it does mean that if they eat too many carbohydrates they will have an elevated insulin response, enough to do all of the damage described above. These people will always fail on a high carb diet.

It's fair to say that 25% can eat virtually anything and everything they want to and not gain body fat. The other 75% will have an increasingly difficult time maintaining a good body weight whilst eating dense carbs. It's all in your genes.

To find out how the programme works click here. 

Do you want to curb cravings and feel full and satisfied?  Click here to read more.

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