What’s the number-one lab test that almost every physician I’ve had on my podcast recommends?
Today, we’re talking about how a fasting insulin test can help identify the early stages of insulin resistance and why measuring it could be the key to preventing type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, dementia, cancer, heart disease, creeping weight gain, early aging, and so much more.
I’m also giving you my top three tips for optimizing your fasting insulin levels.
Let’s dive right in!
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What Is Insulin, and What Does It Do?
Insulin is a hormone that’s released by our pancreas after we eat or drink something sweet. It plays a key role in keeping our blood sugar stable, soaking up glucose from our bloodstream and delivering it to our cells so they can convert it into energy. The whole process takes a couple of hours, and insulin is central for keeping it running smoothly.
The problem is, with 60 percent of the average American’s calories coming from ultra-processed foods made primarily from refined carbs and sugar, our blood glucose is spiking constantly throughout the day and our insulin levels are perpetually high.
After a while, our cells get worn out from dealing with constantly being bombarded by sugar. As a way to protect themselves from glucose overload and oxidative stress, our cells become insulin resistant and refuse to let insulin drop off any more sugar.
Insulin resistance leads to high fasting insulin levels—the levels of insulin in your blood unaffected by a recent meal. It’s also a measure of how hard your pancreas has to work to keep your blood sugar levels stable and in the desirable range (72–85 mg/dL).
High fasting insulin is a sign of insulin resistance and can lead to creeping weight gain, inflammation, hormone imbalances, dysbiosis, and damage to your blood vessels and tissues.
This is why research shows a link between high fasting insulin and blood sugar levels and conditions like polycystic ovarian syndrome and erectile dysfunction. These are early warning signs of insulin resistance. Knowing the signs of insulin resistance and intervening with diet and lifestyle strategies like the ones I have listed below can help protect against, and in some cases reverse, chronic disease before it becomes full blown.
Next time you see your doctor for your annual checkup, ask them to check your fasting insulin levels. As a relatively inexpensive test at less than $30, they’ll generally include it, but if they shoot you down, it would probably be in your best interest to find a more open-minded doctor who is willing to collaborate with you to get you the tests you need.
Standard reference ranges on your lab report consider less than 25 mIU/ml “normal,” but we don’t want normal—we want optimal! Dr. Casey Means and her team at Levels (the continuous glucose monitor company) compiled the evidence to generate an optimal fasting insulin range of 2–5 mIU/ml or less.
If your fasting insulin comes back greater than 10 mIU/ml, it could mean that you have some insulin resistance is going on—but don’t freak out! The good news is that diet and lifestyle changes are the best and most effective ways to lower your fasting insulin levels.
There are many different approaches to optimizing your diet and lifestyle. For practical tips on how to get started, I recommend checking out some of my past newsletters.
Here are three big ideas from previous newsletters that are a great jumping off point:
- Limit or avoid liquid sugar. Sugary drinks quickly flood our bloodstream with glucose and fructose, which tells our liver to turn on its fat-storage switch. Fruit juice, sugary smoothies, and sweet morning lattes are some examples of drinks to limit or avoid entirely.
- Greatly reduce your consumption of refined carbs and focus on a whole-foods diet. This one always seems to make its way into my protocols, and that’s because it’s the jumping-off point for optimizing metabolic health. Cut back on processed foods and focus on eating a nutrient-dense, whole-foods diet to stabilize your blood glucose and insulin levels.
- Do some light movement after meals. It may seem simple, but getting up and moving after you eat can help stabilize your blood glucose and insulin levels. By increasing circulation and the delivery of glucose to your muscle cells, insulin sensitivity also increases, so less insulin is needed to absorb glucose.
Knowledge Is Power
Do you remember that old GI Joe catch phrase? “Knowing Is Half the Battle!”
When it comes to your fasting insulin there is no truer statement!
Whether you’re struggling to lose weight or just want to reduce your risk of chronic disease, fasting insulin is one of your key biomarkers to unlocking your true health potential.
I hope you enjoyed today’s newsletter!