Why a Low Insulin Lifestyle Is Essential for Health


As you age, you have an increasing susceptibility to chronic disease, and much of that is due to insulin resistance and increased insulin levels.

Insulin and heart disease

What’s the real cause of coronary heart disease?

I’ve noted many times here that it couldn’t be cholesterol, but if not that, what is?

Insulin resistance, with subsequent high insulin levels, is a good candidate.

Insulin is the hormone that your body uses to control blood glucose, and it rises when you eat, particularly food high in refined carbohydrates and sugar.

Consider the Helsinki Policemen Study, 970 of whom were examined and given glucose tolerance tests.

After 22 years, those who were in the lowest quintile of glucose and insulin, indicating good insulin sensitivity, had the lowest rate of coronary heart disease. See chart below.

As Ivor Cummins suggests, the results might have been even starker had the study measured insulin sensitivity more than once, at the beginning. The reason is that many of the policemen would likely have gone from insulin sensitive to insulin resistant over the years. Those who stayed insulin sensitive would have even better health and freedom from CHD.

This isn’t the only study to have found these results. Hyperinsulinemia as an Independent Risk Factor for Ischemic Heart Disease. In this study there was no glucose tolerance test; instead, they measured fasting insulin. Results below.

Men with low fasting insulin, in the bottom tertile, were remarkably protected from heart disease, even when they had other risk factors. High fasting insulin was bad news, especially when other risk factors were added, such as high triglycerides and low HDL, both of these also measures of insulin sensitivity.

Why would insulin cause heart disease?

A key factor may be that it causes hyperplasia, the growth of tissue.

Consider that both fasting insulin and obesity are related to increased risk of benign prostatic hyperplasia. Men in the highest quartile (fourth) of fasting insulin had 2.5 times the risk of prostatic hyperplasia than those in the lowest quartile.

Insulin is an anabolic hormone, and causes tissue growth.

Excessive intimal hyperplasia in coronary arteries may be the initiating factor in coronary heart disease.

As we say previously, the ratio of triglycerides to HDL is the most important lipid marker, and blows away any other in predicting risk. This ratio is a measure of insulin resistance.

Insulin and cancer

Insulin resistance and visceral fat (or abdominal obesity) are highly related to risk of colorectal cancer. The highest tertile (third) of visceral fat had a 6-fold increase in cancer risk.

Insulin and aging

Aging is a risk factor for heart disease. And insulin resistance increases with age.

Why does it increase with age? Is it something inherent in aging?

Insulin resistance may be much more related to abdominal adiposity – increased waist size, basically – than to aging itself.

In essence, people get older and they also get fatter, and their fatness is driving their insulin resistance and therefore their susceptibility to chronic disease and death.

Increased insulin resistance, with increased insulin levels, are likely driving much of the susceptibility to chronic disease seen in aging.

Other evidence

Reducing insulin levels in mice by genetic means increases their lifespan by 25%.

Centenarians have similar insulin sensitivity to healthy adults, but much better than non-centenarian older people. It appears that one reason they lived to be 100 or more was by preserving their insulin sensitivity.

The drug metformin increases lifespan in lab animals, and will likely do so in humans. Perhaps the main reason for its life extension capability is that it decreases insulin levels.

For the mTOR fans (and I’m one), insulin activates mTOR, thus promoting aging.

The low-insulin lifestyle

Given the evidence above, a low-insulin lifestyle is imperative for remaining free from chronic disease and living a long, healthy life.

I have little doubt it’s the most important thing you can do in that regard.

How do you live a low-insulin lifestyle? Follow these steps:

  1. Don’t eat ultra-processed food, loaded with sugar, refined carbohydrates, and seed oils. Consider eating a ketogenic diet. Avoid starches and sugars.
  2. Get or stay lean. Being overweight/obese means more insulin resistance and higher insulin.
  3. Exercise, preferably strength training and/or high-intensity interval training. Periodic depletion of muscle and liver glycogen stores improves insulin sensitivity. Steady-state aerobic exercise is less effective in this regard.
  4. Intermittent fasting. Also depletes glycogen and lowers insulin.

That’s it. That’s the recipe.

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  1. Flaviu says:

    What do you think of resistant starch ? -> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N812i6gaPKM

  2. kinch says:

    Could you please tell us your thoughts on Dairy Products? I’ve read claims that dairy proteins are highly insulinogenic.

  3. Rob H says:

    I’m considering switching from 3 x per week 18 hour fasts to 1x per week 24 hours fast – purely out of convenience. Any thoughts on whether that should have the same or better effect?

  4. RIchard says:

    I don’t think a ketogenic diet is necessary. Plenty of populations in the world do not follow this diet and do not suffer from western diseases.
    Carrots, banana’s and sweet potatoes are not the problem. I see demonising these foods like how keto does kind of the same as demonizing fats, or meat or any other food group. Whole foods aren’t problematic.
    Deep fried chicken fingers and washing it down with a can of soda is.

    I would rather someone not do keto and increase their protein consumption to avoid fragility with aging. Keto people get obsessed with ketone numbers even at the expense of backing off protein and drinking oil. It just doesn’t make sense.

      • Rob H says:

        That’s quite a remarkable paper Dennis. Although only correlative, it does seem to indicate that for my ‘carb-backload’ I would be better off focusing on rice and fruit – particularly oranges and mandarins. I would bet that berries would be even better though.. And maybe to go easy on the root vegetables. I was a bit confused about dairy though – but overall it seemed to come out as beneficial?

        • P. D. Mangan says:

          Yes, it states: “In contrast, total fat and animal fat consumption were the most frequent negative correlates of CVD indicators, and additional statistics further highlighted high-fat dairy products (cheese), fruits (mainly oranges and mandarins) and tree nuts.”

          • Morgana says:

            Thanks for the Post; (I had read before that high insulin was suspect for heart disease, as well as the other “Diseases of Civilization”), but it was interesting to see the scientific studies, which I didn’t know about. Most particularly, thanks for the above link about carbohydrate consumption and CVD; that was fascinating! Interestingly, it looks like wheat is very highly correlated with heart disease, which is exactly what Denise Minger found, as I recall, when she looked at the data for the China Study- (and debunked the conclusions that Colin Campbell came up with). I don’t eat any wheat, since I’m a celiac; maybe that’s a blessing in disguise!

        • Rob says:

          Paul Jaminet refers to rice as a “safe starch” that can be consumed in moderation, without serious adverse effects. Wheat, on the other hand, is problematic. Dr. William Davis (author of “Wheat Belly) has a whole lot of information on the dangers of wheat consumption on his website and blog.

          • Rob H says:

            That’s exactly right Rob – but Paul Jaminet also advocates potatoes and root veggies – and what I found most interesting about the correlative article was that these were actually linked with negative health outcomes. That was news to me…

      • Bill says:

        PD, that link has this sentence in the abstract “the study’s results always show very similar trends and identify high carbohydrate consumption (mainly in the form of cereals and wheat, in particular) as the dietary factor most consistently associated with the risk of CVDs. ” Ok..

        But I have a question.How did they separate out the effects of sugar in all it’s forms from the effects of cereals & especially wheat ?

        There has been a huge increase in global sugar consumption over the past 150 years…Along with the increased cereals consumption…In fact they have been part of the same process as societies moved from being rural peasant based societies to urban city based societies….

        • P. D. Mangan says:

          Bill, take a look at table 2, which shows different food items, one of which is refined sugar. So I assume they accounted for it.

  5. Rob H says:

    I kind of agree Richard – although I seem to have found a very happy ‘’middle-ground’: staying 0% carb (but with high protein and natural fats from whole foods) for both breakfast and lunch and then adding in the whole food carbs you mention for dinner. Some call this approach ‘carb backloading’ – it seems to have been beneficial for me in terms of energy levels in the day and trimming weight ( maybe too much so!). Only downside is that I find it very difficult getting to sleep since just not tired in the evenings! Currently on holiday eating a high carb junk food diet and I feel very sleepy in the evenings which is a pleasant change!

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