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Healthy Hormones, Part II: Battling Insulin Resistance

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In our latest 3-part blog series “Healthy Hormones”, we’ll unpack some of the most common health issues associated with hormone imbalances, and explain the B12 LOVE approach to helping you avoid and correct them. 


What if I told you that some of the most prevalent and debilitating diseases around the globe – cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes – while distinct in many aspects of their pathologies, all share a common hormonal imbalance? 

The condition known as insulin resistance not only leads to and/or exacerbates these and other disease states, but it affects somewhere between one third to one half of all adults in the United States.

The good news is that, for most people, insulin resistance can be prevented (and in many cases, even reversed) with the right diet and lifestyle modifications.  

What Is Insulin Resistance?

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that helps with the regulation of blood sugar. Specifically, insulin moves glucose from the blood into the body’s cells, where it can be used (or stored, if available in excess). In a healthy person, insulin helps the body maintain a good balance of energy by not allowing blood glucose to spike for too long. 

When a person takes in too much glucose, or they suffer from chronic stress or inflammation, the pancreas has to work harder to release enough insulin to keep blood sugar levels down. Over time, the pancreas becomes “overworked” and cannot maintain proper functioning. When this happens, the body does not have the capability to use insulin correctly or efficiently. This means that glucose remains in the bloodstream, causing further inflammation and damage, and ultimately contributing to various disease states. 

Insulin resistance is intrinsically an inflammatory condition

Dr. Ronesh Sinha, MD, Palo Alto Medical Foundation

Aside from various genetic and cultural considerations, the biggest contributors to insulin resistance are lifestyle-related factors. These include:

  • Obesity (note: people who are not obese can also develop insulin resistance)
  • Lack of exercise
  • Lack of sleep / sleep disorders
  • Diets high in refined carbohydrates and sugars
  • High cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia)
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Smoking
  • Chronic stress
  • Inflammation
  • Poor gut health (dysbiosis)

In addition to modifying one’s lifestyle and correcting imbalances, research shows that certain micronutrients provide enormous benefits when it comes to battling insulin resistance. 

NAD+ 

There is strong evidence showing that insulin-resistant people have structural damage to and decreased total content of skeletal muscle mitochondria. Mitochondrial dysfunction underlies a wide-range of diseases, and has been designated as the one of the primary reasons (if not the reason) humans age. 

Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide (NAD+) is a remarkable molecule, and one that is crucial for maintaining healthy mitochondria, amongst other things. 

Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency has been shown to accelerate insulin resistance development. In fact, research shows that vitamin D “reduces the extent of pathologies associated with insulin resistance such as oxidative stress and inflammation”. It was also shown that vitamin D prevents epigenetic alterations associated with insulin resistance and diabetes. 

Minerals and Trace Elements

Minerals and trace elements, such as magnesium, calcium, zinc, selenium, and iron, are essential for many biochemical reactions in the body. Furthermore, a recent review of various randomized control trials validated that mineral and trace element deficiencies may directly or indirectly be associated with oxidative stress that ultimately precedes insulin resistance and diabetes. 

For example, magnesium is a cofactor required for movement of glucose into the cell, and for carbohydrate metabolism. Additionally, magnesium deficiency results in a decreased resilience to oxidative stress and expedites the progression to insulin-resistance and related complications.

Vitamin B6

All B vitamins play a role in metabolism, but vitamin B6 is known to be especially important in reactions that regulate the metabolism of glucose, lipids, and other molecules in the body (150 reactions, to be exact!). Considering the numerous reactions involving vitamin B6, it’s not surprising that B6 deficiency has been implicated in the development of insulin resistance, diabetes, and even cancer.

Vitamin B12

Studies show that vitamin B12 has a beneficial effect on insulin resistance. Specifically, it was reported that vitamin B12 therapy (along with folate) resulted in a reduction of homocysteine level, as well as improvement of endothelial dysfunction and insulin resistance in patients with metabolic syndrome.

Additionally, many people with insulin resistance and diabetes are prescribed Metformin, which is known to deplete the body of vitamin B12. For these individuals, it is especially important to ensure adequate vitamin B12 intake.  

Vitamin C

Both short-term and long-term studies suggest that vitamin C supplementation may improve glycemic control and other health outcomes in people with type 2 diabetes. One long-term study concluded that taking ascorbic acid along with metformin is more effective than metformin alone in reducing complications from diabetes, including reducing ACR – an indication of kidney disease. For more details on all the amazing benefits of this nutrient, read our blog post “12 Reasons to Love Vitamin C”.

The best news? All of these nutrients (and more) are available at B12 LOVE!

Want to learn more? Chat with a licensed medical professional at one of our Bay Area locations.

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Check out our complete “Healthy Hormones” series!

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