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Does insulin cause weight gain? Let me explain in this article how this hormone functions in the body and how it can affect your weight.
RELATED: What Is Insulin
In this article:
- What Is the Role of Insulin?
- What Is Excess Sugar in the Blood?
- What Is Insulin Resistance?
- The Four Major Symptoms of Insulin Resistance
- What Are the Other Functions of Insulin?
Does Insulin Cause Weight Gain? What to Know
What Is the Role of Insulin?
To better understand if the hormone insulin can cause weight gain, let’s first learn how this hormone works in the body.
Insulin as a Hormone Responsible for Feeding the Cell
I want to discuss what happens inside your body in relation to insulin, fat burning, and the effects of insulin. Let's first start with the pancreas, which makes certain hormones. The location of the pancreas is underneath the left rib cage but extends over to the right a little bit. One of the hormones it produces is insulin.
When sugar enters the body, it triggers the pancreas. So, when you eat a carb-rich meal as your daily food intake, the pancreas turns it into sugar quickly. This also prompts the pancreas to release insulin. Insulin then connects into the cell. It removes sugar out of the blood to bring sugar levels down. Insulin production also feeds the cell, so it's like a chef feeding the cell food and fuel.
You can look at insulin as a key that opens the door, allowing the cell to absorb glucose from what you were eating. As glucose goes inside the cell, it fills up the cell. This activity sends a signal back to the pancreas to turn off because the cell has enough insulin. This creates an on-and-off mechanism, a feedback loop.
All the hormones have the feedback loop. For example, a part of your body (sender) sends a hormone across a distance, the hormone performs its function, and another part of the body (receiver) sends the signal back to the sender as proof that the job is complete. Then, the sender can turn itself off. If this signal is turned off in any way, the pancreas continues to send insulin when you don't need it anymore.
Insulin as a Hormone Responsible for Storing Sugar
Insulin also helps you store sugar mainly in the liver and kidneys and some in the muscles and other organs and body parts. The body stores sugar as glycogen, a series of glucose molecules strung together in a chain. There are two main types of fuel storage in the body: the glycogen reserve and the fat reserve.
The glycogen reserve has only 1,700 calories, which is very few, while the fat reserve has 70,000 calories for a non-obese average person. Insulin helps convert excess sugar and carbs into fat. So, fat comes from excess carbs. As soon as your blood sugar goes too high, insulin converts it into fat in the liver. It's dumping fat into the liver and the belly area where it starts to spill out into visceral fat, which can lead to obesity and hinder you from losing weight.
What Is Excess Sugar in the Blood?
Normal blood sugar is between 80 and 100 mg/dL. This means you can only have one teaspoon of sugar. For an average person, the blood is roughly one and one-third gallons. An average American consumes 31 teaspoons of sugar per day in their diet. So, you can imagine how much sugar there is in your body.
Your insulin needs to deal with it, so it has to get this toxic sugar out, protect the cells, and dump it into the reserve, which is your belly. It's converting the excess sugar into belly fat, which may not be reduced by performing physical activity or exercise alone. When you have too much sugar, especially if you have an eating disorder, and sustained insulin over a long period of time, you'll develop insulin resistance.
RELATED: Understanding Insulin Resistance
What Is Insulin Resistance?
With this condition, the receptor that is supposed to receive insulin gets blocked. The glucose then can't get into the cell because the “key” is not working to allow the cell to be fed the fuel it needs. Because there is no signal inside the cell that glucose is getting in there, there is no feedback loop. There is an incomplete communication. It's like someone is talking too much, but nobody is listening.
This incomplete communication allows the body to compensate and drive more or increase insulin to try to connect to the "key" in the cell. A person with insulin resistance, which can lead to becoming diabetic, has five to seven times more insulin than a normal person. This is prediabetes, which is the total opposite of insulin sensitivity and makes you think of ways for diabetes control. All this excess insulin goes throughout the body, but it's not becoming effective anymore.
In other words, it's not bringing the sugar down and not feeding the cell. It’s making the belly as fat storage, so we are dumping more insulin converting sugar into fat in the belly and developing a fatty liver, which can later lead to complications.
The Four Major Symptoms of Insulin Resistance
The four major symptoms of insulin resistance are as follows:
- Fatigue, especially after you eat
- Cravings for sugar and carbs
- Excessive urination at night, because whenever the excess insulin is going, fluid follows it (Sometimes, glucose comes into the urine, and you are going to be peeing more)
- Brain fog (memory issues)
What Are the Other Functions of Insulin?
There are several other purposes of insulin that go beyond just glucose going into the cell. Protein goes into the cell with the help of insulin. Without it, you can't absorb protein (amino acids) in the cell. That's why people with diabetes mellitus have muscle weakness and suffer from the inability to build muscles, loss of collagen, and joint or disc issues.
Insulin also aids with potassium, the primary mineral of electrolyte, absorption into the cell as well. Low potassium can give you the following symptoms:
- High sodium
- Arrhythmias - which can affect your blood pressure or lead to heart disease
- Poor sleep - as potassium helps relax your body
- Muscle cramps
- Kidney stones
Arrhythmias Definition: An issue involving the rhythm or rate of a person's heartbeat, which can be too slow or too quick with an irregular pattern.
So, does insulin cause weight gain? Yes, it does when there is more than what the body needs. The process of insulin becoming the cause of excess weight gain is a little complex. It’s important to understand how it works first if you want to get to the root cause of belly fat and weight gain and to aid your weight loss program. So, start fasting and following a low-carbohydrate diet now to help control insulin.
How much sugar do you usually consume every day? Tell us in the comments section below!
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Disclaimer: Our educational content is not meant or intended for medical advice or treatment.