Avoid processed carbohydrates
Main examples: added sugars and flour.
They contribute empty calories that drive insulin resistance and overeating, which over time leads to chronic diseases.
When carbs are digested, they are broken down into simple sugars, mostly glucose. This raises blood sugar levels.
Modern flour is highly processed. During the processing it is finely ground and unless it’s wholegrain flour it has the more nutritious and fibrous parts (the bran and germ) removed so only the starchy white centre (the endosperm) remains.
This lack of fibre and fine grinding causes the starch to be very quickly digested (broken down into simple sugars) when consumed.
This causes blood sugar levels to rise too quickly, and as a result is likely to raise blood sugar too much, especially in people who are sensitive to carbohydrates (due to genetics/gut bacteria) and/or who haven’t used their muscles enough to free up space (glycogen stores) for the blood sugar to be shuttled into.
High blood sugar is an unhealthy state, and the body raises the blood insulin level in response, as insulin is required to allow the sugar in the blood to be taken in by the cells throughout the body.
Over time, having persistently high blood sugar leads to damage to (glycation of) the LDL particles that transport fats and cholesterol through the blood, which causes them to get stuck in the walls of blood vessels – in this way eating processed carbs promotes atherosclerosis, the major precursor to heart disease and stroke.
Furthermore, while blood sugar is high the body will try to raise insulin to bring the blood sugar down.
This means chronically high blood sugar will cause chronically high blood insulin, in people who are still able to produce insulin at a sufficient rate (those who haven’t developed type 2 diabetes).
Chronically high insulin causes the cells in the body (particularly of concern muscle and fat cells) to become insulin resistant.
Insulin resistance means it takes even more insulin to get sugar to leave the bloodstream and enter the cells (particularly those of muscle and fat tissues).
This feedback loop of chronically high blood sugar, high blood insulin and insulin resistance has profound effects on the body over the course of years, including: excessive weight gain, type 2 diabetes, visceral fat accumulation, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, decreased efficiency of muscles.
Sugar & Alcohol > Fatty Liver > Type 2 Diabetes
Table sugar (sucrose) and High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) have much worse health effects than even highly processed white carbs like flour (i.e. starches that get broken down quickly).
This is because of the fructose in them.
Fructose is a simple sugar like glucose.
Table sugar is made from 50:50, glucose:fructose.
HFCS is about 45:55, glucose:fructose.
Unlike glucose, fructose cannot be used directly by the cells that make up the various organs of the body.
Only the liver can handle fructose.
So, when you consume sugar, the glucose burden can be shared by all the cells in your body – they can all use glucose as fuel – but the fructose must be processed by the liver alone.
The liver only makes up about 1/35th your body mass.
So it has to work very hard to keep up with a large fructose intake.
The liver also has to deal with most of any alcohol that is consumed.
When the body, particularly the liver itself, has become insulin resistant (see above), the burden of processing the alcohol, and the fructose and other sugars can become too much.
When the liver is overburdened like this, fatty deposits begin to accumulate in and around the liver.
This is visceral fat.
The intra-organ fat that builds up within the liver itself is very dangerous in the long term.
Note that no fat need be eaten for fatty liver to occur.
It is refined carbohydrates that cause Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD), and eventually Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH) – the more severe form that involves inflammation and dysfunction of the liver.
Fatty liver is easily reversed, by burning off the visceral fat.
But the cells of the body cannot burn fat and glucose at the same time. [See Randle Cycle]
So as long as blood sugar and insulin remain high (these are the conditions that both cause and identify Type 2 Diabetes) fat cannot be burnt.
The solution is simple.
Spend more time with your insulin levels low, than with them high.
Do this by fasting or by ensuring there are no processed carbs in the meals you eat.
Your insulin sensitivity will increase.
Your appetite will adjust.
Your body composition will change.