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Eating too much sugar can cause weight gain and health problems including diabetes.
You need to understand how maintaining the right insulin levels are important to be able to get in control of your weight and health.
In this post, I am going to explain to you what insulin is, how it works and how it is related to weight management and your health, in a simple, easy and concise way. I will use the Piñata Party simile.
What Is Insulin?
Insulin is the hormone responsible to take glucose, the simplest form of carbohydrate (simply stated: sugars), from your blood stream, and bring it to the cells in your body, depending on their needs.
Insulin has to remove glucose from the bloodstream because you need the energy glucose provides to feed your cells and organs. Also, high quantities of glucose in your bloodstream would be toxic for your body.
How Does Insulin Work?
The pancreas (its beta cells), one of your internal organs, is responsible for generating insulin.
Insulin production will depend on the quantity of glucose in the blood stream at a specific moment.
Several indicators (all related to the amount and composition of food taken, how much fat and musculature you have in your body, and whether you have just exercised, among others) will show the pancreas how much insulin it needs to produce.
Once insulin is released into the blood stream, it will stick to glucose, and it will help it to go from the blood vessels into the cells of your different organs, depending on the specific energy needs.
Once your immediate energetic needs are covered and you don’t need more glucose right then, the excess will be stored as glycogen in the liver and, if there is still an excess, as body fat.
Put simply, the consequence of eating too much sugar than needed, will be that the body will store it as fat.
Weight gain and obesity are the most common consequences of bad management of insulin levels.
Insulin Levels & a Piñata Party
Here is an association I find useful to remember the effect of highly glycemic food in your empty stomach.
If your stomach was holding a piñata party, glucose would be candy, kids' attacking the piñata, insulin, and pancreas, the parents who are trying to get the kids under control.
Imagine, you went to a kids’ party, and the kids have been playing and running the whole afternoon. They are starving. No food has been served yet.
Their bodies are ready to absorb whatever enters into their tummies.
Now, it is piñata time! The piñata is full of candy (glucose). The kids (insulin) break the piñata and start to get as much candy as possible.
The parents (pancreas) keep trying to control the kids’ behavior (insulin levels), but there is so much candy and so many kids going crazy for the candy, they lose control.
The parents are exhausted and can’t manage their kids anymore and finally decide to just give up and let them do whatever they want. The kids start to eat candy like crazy and are out of control.
If there are too many piñata parties, not only weight gain will occur but other health issues as a consequence of eating too much sugar.
How eating too much sugar can damage your health
Too much sugar intake (and remember that sugar is not only the one you add to your coffee) over and over again can cause diabetes type II. When we continue pushing beta cells from the pancreas to produce insulin and remove high levels of glucose, a situation called insulin resistance can occur, which could result in pre-diabetes and diabetes type II.
It could be caused by sickness or an external factor, but in most cases, it is due to a systematic excess of glucose consumption and out-of-control insulin production, and also as a consequence of fat accumulation in your abdomen due to bad eating habits or a genetic predisposition.
Cells that are sensitive to insulin tire of working all the time and end up not giving an adequate response when insulin is present; they become insulin resistant.
As a result, they don’t do their work removing glucose from the blood stream. We therefore suffer an increase in blood glucose.
The pancreas detects it and responds by producing a still higher amount of insulin until a response is generated and glucose is removed. As you see, in an insulin resistance situation or pre-diabetes, glucose levels remain high until they drop in a rapid fall after the pancreas produce a sudden and high enough amount of insulin to be able to create a response to high glucose levels (instead of the desired steady glucose levels).
As a consequence of the sudden glucose drop (hypoglycemia), there is also a sudden feeling of hunger, and an absolute physical need to eat to provide some glucose to our brain.
This bad cycle of inadequate eating habits starts again, exacerbated now by the insulin resistance situation of a pre-diabetic person.
The pre-diabetic situation can still be turned around by a diet and a change of lifestyle and habits. These changes will stop hurting our metabolism with constant glucose peaks.
The right weight management program and, consequently, the lifestyle change associated will lead to weight loss and, more specifically, to loss of belly fat.
Remember, that belly fat is your main enemy since it favors the production of the hormones that help us gain weight and are also directly related to pre-diabetes.
If we don’t turn the pre-diabetic situation around, over time, your pancreas will tire from overproducing insulin to compensate the insulin resistance of your cells. In the end, it will burn out and will lose the ability to generate enough insulin to remove glucose from the blood stream in a timely manner.
When this situation finally occurs, blood sugar remains high for several hours after a meal, and type II diabetes is diagnosed.
Note that unlike type II diabetes, type I and juvenile diabetes are characterized by the inability of pancreas to make enough insulin from birth, and it is not a consequence of bad eating, lifestyle habits and belly fat accumulation.
Read the post "How Do We Get Energy from Food" first if you can to understand better where all the glucose is coming from.
Up to You!
Do you think you are having too much sugar?
I'd love to hear from you!