Insulin is a major hormone. We have major and minor hormonal systems in the body. The majors are essential to life whereas, minor hormones are responsible for fine-tuning and feeling of well-being. Each hormonal system communicates with the other and needs to be in balance for us to feel well and for our bodies to work at optimum.
Insulin plays various roles in the body, the most well known being to regulate blood sugar. It is secreted by the islet cells of the pancreas and has a profound affect on ageing. Insulin also plays a major role in the production of serotonin. Insulin is secreted in the presence of sugar in the bloodstream, which moves the glucose from the blood into the cells throughout the body; glucose cannot penetrate the cells without insulin. Insulin determines if the nutrients will be used for energy or stored as fat.
Insulin is part of the hormonal network, so when there is too much insulin, as is seen in insulin resistance, it knocks the body’s whole hormonal workshop off balance – things are spinning! You don’t want high insulin! High insulin disrupts the release of other hormones that are involved in the mechanism of burning stored fat. The result of this equation? Weight gain! When the hormonal workshop is off balance, we don’t only see weight gain but increased cholesterol levels and disease.
Excess blood glucose (sugar) levels may lead to increased risk of developing cancer, heart disease and dementia. Cancers such as breast, prostate and colon cancer have been seen to cultivate more rapidly under the influence of high insulin. Also, the overproduction of insulin is a major process that leads to hardening of the arteries and is involved in the breaking down of the brain. Insulin resistance is also a precursor to Diabetes type 2.
What impact does insulin have on ageing?
As women age they produce less oestrogens and accumulate more body fat, their insulin receptors begin to dysfunction. What happens? Their body can’t manage glucose as well as it did. They put on weight! Oestrogens are important for ameliorating insulin response in cells.
Eating a low glycemic diet, exercising three or four times a week can help reduce or lower high insulin, but the truth of the matter is, it is hormonal balance that protects us against a high tide of insulin in the body.