Resist the Resistance: How You Can Reverse Insulin Resistance
By Don Colbert, MD
The vast majority of patients with Alzheimer’s or dementia are insulin resistant. Clearly then, you must not let your brain or body become insulin resistant!
The opposite of insulin resistance is insulin sensitivity. That is the goal, but like a
pendulum, it can only be achieved by swinging away from insulin resistance and toward insulin sensitivity.
Wait, There’s a Type-3 Diabetes?
Everyone has heard of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, but there is a less-known type 3 diabetes, which is diabetes of the brain. That is because this form of diabetes is associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Type 3 diabetes is not an officially recognized health condition yet, but many have started referring to Alzheimer’s with this moniker. When a brain is severely insulin resistant, that person has type 3 diabetes and their brain cells simply cannot take in sugar adequately.
As you eat, your body produces insulin to manage and lower your sugar levels (from the carbs, starches, and sugars in the food you eat) while simultaneously converting that sugar to energy that you then burn or store (as fat). But over time, the repetitive pumping of excessive amounts of insulin (as a direct result of the typical high-carb, high-sugar diet) makes the cells resistant to insulin so that cells in your body and brain cannot take in sugar (glucose) easily from your blood. Eventually, the insulin resistance worsens, and the brain will be starving for fuel.
The microscopic insulin receptors on the cell membrane of all cells (including brain cells) work less efficiently, so the body produces even more insulin to do its job, but with ever-decreasing effectiveness.1 That is insulin resistance, and it typically gets worse with age.
Signs and Symptoms of Insulin Resistance
Here are some of the most common signs and symptoms of insulin resistance:
•A1c greater than 5.7
• belly fat—a waist measurement of 40 inches or more in men and 35 inches or more in women
• a body mass index greater than 25
• fasting glucose levels greater than 114
• fasting insulin levels greater than 5.5
• an inability to fast
• Low blood sugar episodes 2
How You Can Protect Your Brain From Insulin Resistance
You can protect your brain by avoiding foods that spike blood sugar levels, as those foods spike your insulin levels, and insulin spikes are bad for the brain. The worst are foods such as bread, potatoes, and white rice, as they are absorbed more quickly. The next worst are foods with lots of sugar, such as candy, ice cream, and cakes.3 The answer is to eat foods that don’t spike your insulin levels. This decreases your body’s need to produce insulin, automatically lowering your
blood sugar levels. And that, by the way, is also the best way to prevent and treat type 2 diabetes and prediabetes!
The best diets to reverse insulin resistance are a healthy keto diet or a healthy Mediterranean- style diet (as outlined in my Beyond Keto book). These diets are low-carbohydrate, low-sugar and high in healthy fat, which is necessary to restore insulin sensitivity.
Increasing the size of your muscles will help reverse insulin resistance and improve insulin sensitivity. I have even seen muscle-building stop and even reverse type-2 diabetes, especially when combined with a healthy keto diet. That is because muscles burn sugar, thereby decreasing the amount of insulin required to manage the food you’ve eaten.
Reversing Resistance: How Long Will It Take?
Reversing insulin resistance is not instant. Some medications do help with insulin resistance somewhat, but it usually requires you to take the necessary action steps (changing diet, exercising, balancing hormones, and more). It will have an immediate and positive impact that you will probably notice and feel, but it will take a little time to improve your insulin sensitivity.
The weight loss, muscle toning, clearing of symptoms, and improved mental focus along the way will no doubt be enjoyed! For most people, I tell them to expect noticeable insulin sensitivity improvement in one to two months, but it may take three to six months. Many patients see a complete reversal within six to twelve months from insulin resistance to insulin sensitivity.
The only way to prevent or break the cycle and rescue your brain from this downward spiral is to become insulin sensitive again. The only way to do that is by eating foods that do not cause insulin spikes. Yes, that will mean you will need to eat differently than those on the typical high-carb diet, but you certainly don’t want to be part of the national health trends anyway.