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June Russell's Health Facts

Alcohol - Insulin

[Overview]   [Weight Gain/Diet]   [Hypoglycemia]   [Insulin Resistance]  
[Sleep Loss]   [Heart Disease]   [Cancer]   [Healthy Approaches]  

General Information about Insulin:
The Importance of Keeping Insulin Levels Low

Each time we eat, insulin is released into the blood stream. This vital hormone, secreted by special cells in the pancreas, encourages our tissues, particularly our muscles, to gobble up the glucose surging through the bloodstream after a meal. This is good because a high level of glucose in the blood is dangerous stuff. It can stick to proteins and destroy their ability to do their job. Blindness, kidney damage and circulatory disturbances resulting in amputations may occur. Insulin has another vital role. After a meal, it stops the liver from releasing any fat, a potential metabolic fuel, into the blood. Why after a meal? It turns out that just like glucose, these fats are dangerous if they hang about in the blood too long. They are released as triglycerides. When in the blood they become altered and are more likely to stick to artery walls. These fats are undesirable in the blood stream just after a meal because the enzymes that can safely remove them from circulation are busy dealing with fat from the food you have just eaten. Once such fatty plaques narrow the arteries, the risk of a heart is greatly increased. Exposing the liver to insulin for long periods of time without a decent break with frequent high-energy snacks are believed by Victor Zammit, head of the cell biochemistry at the Hannah Research Institute in Ayr, Scotland, to begin the road to syndrome X. The excess triglycerides make muscles cells insulin-resistant, interfering with the signaling pathway that normally allows them to be secreted, leading to a full-blown syndrome X.
{“How Fructose, Insulin and Syndrome X Can Change Your Life,” Dr. Joseph Mercola - mercola.com - June 2002}


The major studies show that there is hardly anything common among those that reach 100 years of age. They have high cholesterol and low cholesterol; some exercise and some don’t; some smoke and some don’t; some are nasty as can be, and some nice and calm. However, they all have low sugar, low triglycerides, and low insulin, relative for their age. If there is a single marker for life span it is insulin, and the way to treat all the so-called chronic diseases of aging is to treat insulin levels.

In almost all cases, if you treat a symptom, you are going to make the disease worse because the symptom is there as your body’s attempt to heal itself. Antibiotics will kill the bacterial flora in the gut and impair the immune system, making the immune system worse. Magnesium is necessary for the manufacture of insulin. Insulin also causes the retention of sodium which causes high blood pressure and fluid retention, then congestive heart failure. There is almost a direct correlation between triglyceride levels and insulin levels, in some people more than others, and decreasing the insulin level decreases triglyceride levels. Cells become insulin resistant because they are trying to protect themselves from the toxic effects of high insulin.

When your cells are exposed to insulin they get a little more resistant to it, so the pancreas puts out more insulin. The action of insulin on fat cells is that it takes sugar and stores it as fat. There are strong studies that show insulin increases cancer. Insulin also controls growth hormone. High insulin resistance is not good for you: anytime your cell is exposed to insulin it is going to become more insulin resistant. You eat sugar and your body will burn it and stop burning fat. Also another major effect of insulin on fat is that it prevents the body from burning it. The biggest stress on your body is eating, especially eating a big glucose load. Improving insulin sensitivity is as important to all of us as it is to those who are diabetic. It will determine how long we are going to live and how healthy we are going to be. The fasting insulin level should be as low as possible.

I put people on glutamine powder and it acts as a brain food and helps eliminate carbohydrate cravings. I give it to them at night and use it whenever they are craving carbohydrates between meals (several grams in a little water). A high protein diet will increase the acid load in the body, but not necessarily a high fat diet. Vegetables and greens are alkalinizing, so of you are eating a lot of vegetables along with your protein, the acidic effect of the protein is equalized. I don’t recommend a high protein diet. I recommend an adequate protein diet.

Fat/oil is neutral when it comes to acidifying or alkalinizing, and in general we should have over 50% of our calories coming from fat, but not saturated fat. Animal proteins are fine, but not the ones that are fed grains. Grain-fed animals are going to make saturated fat out of the grains. We should be getting 20% of our calories from carbohydrates, 25 to 30% of our calories from protein and 60 to 65% from fat. Non-grain fed cows have only 10% or less saturated fat. Grain-fed cows can may have over 50%. Insulin is by far your biggest poison.
{“Insulin and Its Metabolic Effects,” parts 1-4, Ron Rosedale, MD, presented at Designs for Health Institute’s Boulderfest, August 1999. On mercola.com - 2002}

Weight Gain/Diet/Insulin Level

In the book, The Metabolic Typing Diet, by William Wolcott and Trish Fahey (2000), all metabolic types are warned that any form (beer, wine, hard liquor), of “alcohol, plain and simple, is a poison to your body. Your body must detoxify it and neutralize its adverse effects. Being a simple sugar, it can wreak havoc with your metabolism. It triggers excessive insulin secretion, which leads to blood sugar imbalances, increased fat storage, and the development of chronic degenerative processes.” Alcohol is a stressor that can either cause or contribute to the development of virtually any illness. Insulin and glucagon play central roles in determining weight. Glucagon is known as the fat-burning hormone and insulin is known as the fat-storage hormone. They are both in the blood all the time, and the trick is to keep them in balance and prevent one from assuming dominance over the other.

Your fasting serum insulin level should be below 10. The optimum level should be 5 or below.
{mercola.com Aug. 2001}

High levels of insulin cause you to gain weight: research shows that insulin causes the hypothalamus to make you hungry, causes your liver to make more fat, and causes the fat cells in your belly to take up the fat. Some foods raise insulin more than others. When you eat, your blood sugar level rises, and the higher the blood sugar rises, the more insulin your pancreas releases. Foods that raise blood sugar levels are the ones most likely to raise blood insulin levels.
{DrMirkin’s E-Zine, Dec. 2001}  Author’s comment: Alcohol raises insulin levels.

Insulin and Hypoglycemia

In the presence of alcohol, the pancreas secretes excessive doses of insulin. This can result in temporary hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and fatigue during exercise.
{U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, 1990}

Alcohol promotes extra insulin release from the pancreas in response to glucose, causing hypoglycemia. At the same time, alcohol depletes the liver’s glycogen stores and impairs its capacity for formation of new glucose.
{“The Nutritional Effects of Alcohol,” The Mount Sinai School of Medicine Complete Book of Nutrition, Victor Herbert, MD, et al., 1990}

Insulin Resistance/Sensitivity

Insulin resistance syndrome refers to a combination of risk factors for type II diabetes, including chronically elevated insulin levels, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol, abdominal obesity and high blood pressure.
{Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, Aug. 2001}

Insulin resistance, or insulin sensitivity, is a serious condition that affects millions of people around the world. It occurs when the normal amount of insulin released by the pancreas cannot effectively process the glucose in the bloodstream. When the body senses that there is still glucose in the blood, it secretes more insulin, leading to higher blood insulin levels. This inefficiency can lead to high blood glucose levels, another way of describing Type II diabetes.
(“Can HRT increase your risk of Type II diabetes?” Health Sciences Institute e-mail, Feb. 4, 2002}

Insulin Level and Sleep Loss

Chronic sleep loss (for even one week) may speed the onset or increase the severity of age-related conditions such as type II diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and memory loss. During sleep deprivation, researchers have found that men’s ability to secrete and respond to the hormone insulin, which helps regulate blood sugar, was reduced by 30%. Also these men had higher nighttime concentrations of the hormone cortisol which may be related to age-related insulin resistance and memory loss.
{‘Too Little Sleep May Accelerate Aging,” mercola.com - May 2001}

Blood levels of insulin are higher when people are sleep deprived, but after a restful deep sleep, energy levels are restored and hormones are reset. Get to bed by 10 p.m. each night (the time when cortisol levels in our bodies are at their lowest levels) and sleep for eight hours. Sleeping when cortisol levels are naturally low helps to keep them balanced.
{Dr. Gittleman, Let’s Live magazine, Jan. 2002}


Both insulin and glucose (derived from carbohydrates) facilitate the absorption of tryptophan into the brain. Some researchers theorize that, in order to replenish tryptophan and the resulting serotonin reserves, the brain orders up more carbohydrates.
{“Lift Your Mood and Sleep Naturally,” Health and Healing newsletter, Julian Whitaker, MD, Jan. 1998}

Insulin and Heart Disease

Insulin is a powerful hormone that is produced by the pancreas and facilitates the transport of sugar from the blood into cells for energy. Without enough insulin, blood sugar levels rise dangerously high and gradually damage arteries and blood vessels. Those men with the highest insulin levels were consistently at a greater risk of heart disease (more than three times at five years - twice as likely after fifteen years) than those at lower levels. “The predictive power of insulin levels was of the same magnitude as that of cholesterol levels,” said Kalevi Pyorala of the University of Kuopio, the leader of the Finnish research team.
{“High Insulin Levels Linked to Heart Disease,” Sally Squires, Washington Post Health, August 11, 1998, source: Circulation, published by the American Heart Association}

The best way to beat heart disease is to prevent it. Higher insulin levels will contribute to heart disease.
{“Heart Health,” Stephen Sinarta, MD, on The People’s Pharmacy, Public Radio, Show #322, July 22, 2000}

Insulin is the key hormone responsible for getting glucose (sugar) from food into cells throughout the body to use as fuel. Insulin appears to inhibit enzymes that play a role in homocysteine metabolism, homocysteine being a compound that is formed when a protein is digested. According to studies, high levels of homocysteine are linked with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke in adults.
{HealthCentral, Reuters Health, September 2000}

A person usually has higher insulin levels if they have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and are overweight.
{“How to Naturally Restore Your Vision,” Dr. Joseph Mercola - mercola.com - May 2002} Insulin is an incredible promoter of human cancers.
{mercola.com - July 2002}

High levels of insulin have been linked to heart disease risk.
{“Early Heart Disease Linked to Genes, Insulin Resistance,” ScienceDaily magazine, original source: American Heart Association, Oct. 2002}

According to a study from Italy (American Journal of Hypertension, 2002), high levels of insulin are independently associated with constricting arteries and causing high blood pressure.
{Dr. Mirkin’s E-Zine, Feb. 16, 2003}

Insulin and Cancer

Research provides evidence that elevated insulin levels are a major factor that contributes to the growth of all cancers.
{“Insulin and Estrogen Linked With Breast Cancer,” mercola.com - 1998}

Excessive production of insulin is implicated in the growth of cancer cells in the colon.
{Self Healing newsletter, Dr. Andrew Weil, Jan. 2000}

Breast cancer patients with high levels of insulin in their blood seem to be eight times more likely to die of their disease than other women, and almost four times as likely to have their cancer recur at a distant site, Canadian researchers have found. Evidence shows that in the breast, insulin spurs the growth of both normal and cancerous cells.
{“Insulin level may help predict cancer survival,” HealthCentral.com - June 2000}

Insulin levels are associated with an increased risk of cancer, and one of the major ways exercise benefits the body is by reducing insulin levels.
{mercola.com - Oct. 2002}

Healthy Approaches for Maintaining the Proper Range of Insulin Levels

When stress levels increase, there is an increase in stress hormones, particularly the hormone cortisol which then increases insulin levels. As insulin levels increase, blood sugar drops, leading to depression. The fastest way to raise blood sugar is to eat carbohydrates or drink alcohol. But this is like spitting in the wind. Although it will temporarily increase blood sugar levels, but this in turn increases insulin levels and the cycle begins again. Using food (he promotes the Zone diet) is a far better way to de-stress than using drugs.
{“Stress and the Holidays,” drsears.com - 12/12/97}   Editor's comment: For more information see Alcohol - Stress in this Web site.

The best way to fight stress is to reduce excess cortisol levels.
{Dr. Sears on searslabs.com - Aug. 2002}

Gradual increase of insulin resistance (which is typical aging) can elevate blood sugar levels and result in the gradual deterioration of memory. Regular exercise is a good way to help control insulin sensitivity, especially when combined with a diet that balances protein and carbohydrates with fiber.
{“Time Goes By,” Health Sciences e-Alert, March 18, 2003}

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This page last updated July 26, 2003