This question is important to me and I plan on giving it a bounty after the necessary waiting time passes (48 hrs), please tell me what you think.
Have I found the ultimate Health Hack? When this question is through I hope to convince you that becoming insulin sensitive might be the most important thing that most people can do for themselves. I also hope to make the case for the most efficient way to increase insulin sensitivity.
First I'll make the case for how being Insulin Resistant can be BAD for your health:
- Hair loss and Insulin Resistance in Women.
- Insulin Resistance and Alzheimer: Reuters, Penn Med and Washington.
- Insulin Resistance and All Cause Mortality NCBI1 and NCBI2.
- Insulin Resistance and Acne.
- Insulin Resistance and Hard-gainers (Bodybuilding).
- Insulin Resistance has an inverse correlation with Serum Testosterone and Mitochondrial Function: Diabetes Journal, Doc Guide and NCBI. Tied to this is low testosterone predicts all cause mortality in women and men.
- Hair loss and Insulin Resistance in Men.
- Insulin Resistance and cancer: 1, 2, 3 and 4.
- Insulin Resistance and PCOS.
- Insulin Resistance and the Metabolic Syndrome Natural Choices inc, Pubmed.
- Insulin Resistance and Diabetes.
- Insulin Resistance and Obesity.
- Insulin Resistance and Depression / Mood Disorders: British Medical Journal, Diabetes Journal (ADA) and Women's Health.
- Insulin Resistance and living proximity to wealthy areas (This one is a bit of a reach for sure, but the fact that poorer people are more insulin resistant on a linear regression is quite interesting imo).
So if you want to keep your hair as a man or a woman, have sound cognitive function, lower your all cause mortality risk, get rid of acne, build muscle, increase mitochondrial function, increase sex hormones like testosterone, decrease risk of glandular cancers especially, not be obese, not be diabetic (type 2), not have metabolic syndrome, not have pcos, not be depressed or generally have ideal physical and mental health then becoming more insulin sensitive is probably a good idea.
Some things that might Cause Insulin Resistance:
Some things that might Improve Insulin Sensitivity:
- Vitamin A - NCBI
- Calcium, magnesium, chromium, vanadium and zinc - Well Cited Thorne pdf Article.
- HIIT - British Journal of Sports Medicine , The Journal of Psyiology , BioMed Journal.
- Resistance Training - Diabetes Journals (ADA) , NCBI 1, NCBI 2.
- Vitamin K2 - Diabetes Journal.
- Cold Showers / Ice baths - Tim Ferris, Jack Kruse and others.
I've shown that Insulin Resistance is correlated with Testosterone, Mitochondrial Function, Leptin and a host of other processes in the body. If the master hack is to become more insulin sensitive, then obviously these other processes which correlate with insulin sensitivity would be included also. So, my question to you then is:
Is Increasing Insulin Sensitivity THE Ultimate Hack?
I have 42 citations from over 10 recognized clinical journals. If you answer this question with a NO, I fully expect at least a descent rebuttal with appropriate citations. TY. I'd also like to note that this is assuming you're already getting adequate micro/macro nutrients in your diet.
The discussion on this hack has been going on for some time now and we have had a lot of valuable input. I recommend strongly for anyone interested in this idea to read through the whole thing. I'm copying one particular entry by Mike T because I'd HATE for anyone to walk away without reading this. After much discussion I've come to the conclusion that this is probably an essential puzzle piece of this hack.
You allude to this in your comment to August above, but perhaps the hack is actually to make your muscle cells insulin sensitive relative to your fat cells. I think increasing the insulin sensitivity of muscle and fat cells together, has much less benefit (if any) relative to increasing muscle cell insulin sensitivity while maintaining fat cell insulin sensitivity or even maintaining muscle cell insulin sensitivity while decreasing fat cell insulin sensitivity. -Mike T
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Yes it is, and I have been saying this since the first day I signed up here. It is why I am adamantly opposed to high fat, ketogenic diets as they do not increase insulin sensitivity. Aside from probably exacerbating insulin resistance, they don't treat type 2 diabetes. Being healed means being symptom free (normal blood sugar) upon agitation (carbs), not being symptom free (normal blood sugar) in the absence of agitation (no carbs). Diet and exercise is still the best way to get lean and hot and look good naked. High fat ketogenic diets are for fat people who binge and eat crap food and then blame carbs generally. Carbs generally are their scape goat. High fat, VLC diets do not attack the root of the problem (insulin resistance) they just avoid carbs and don't actually heal (restore pancreatic beta cell function). The latest research shows that 2 months is all you need to restore that beta cell function and all it takes is severely reduced calorie diet (800 cals/day) that is low in fat and moderate in carbs. Problem is, fat diabetic people don't like restricting calories (which is why they also love paleo, where you can eat all the fat you want and never get fat.LMFAO). (It is no consequence that this site usually feels like it should be renamed binge-eaters anonymous).
That was a bit of a rant, but it's nothing new as I've been saying this in so many words on this site. Glad you at least get it.
...this is also why many fitness models say the combination of HIIT, weight training and a clean diet (not a high fat zero carb diet) is the fountain of youth. it is because this is a potent combination for increasing insulin sensitivity as evidenced by looking down right f***able with or without clothes on.
Since these seem to be mostly epidemiological studies I do think there's likely to be some confused causation. IR is probably linked casually to some of those conditions (like diabetes), but in others like obesity there is likely a number of underlying factors which cause them both, two examples of this in the case of obesity being chronically over consuming calories and leptin resistance.
I think Stephan Guyenet makes a pretty good case in this post for the idea that over consuming calories and gaining fat increases insulin resistance, suggesting IR could very well be secondary to calorie over consumption.
Furthermore, it could be pointed out that in studies in which subjects are fed large doses of fructose leptin resistance precedes insulin resistance. In fact, leptin resistance is increasingly being recognized as a potential factor in insulin resistance (7, 8).
Leptin resistance also appears linked to increased body weight and obesity (3, 4, 5, 6) and animal studies have also noted that leptin sensitivity plays a key role in regulation of body weight (look up the "Zucker Rat").
Thus, one could reasonably postulate that at least part of explanation for the correlation between insulin resistance and obesity is either due to a reversed causation (obesity –> IR) and/or leptin resistance playing a casual role in both.
So I guess what I'm saying is I don't think improving insulin resistance is inherently the ultimate hack. I think if you improve insulin sensitivity you're almost always doing something right, but I think you have to make sure the treatment is hitting at the true underlying cause of disease so you don't end up focusing on a mostly downstream biomarker, sort of like what a lot of people have done with high cholesterol (which is not to say that both don't potentially pose problems themselves though, I think both can be, just not in every situation).
Edit: This was one of the better constructed hacks I've seen here on PH, so I really tried to offer well supported explanation of why I don't entirely agree. I think there's a lot of good information here and I don't want to seem like I'm trying to throw the baby out with the bath water.
Oh hell no. Listen to Robb Wolf and Kiefer talk about carb backloading and the implications. Seriously- I listened to this one three times.
Insulin resistance in response to the Standard American High Carb diet is very different from insulin resistance because of eating low carb. Insulin is suppose to shuttle the blood sugar into the cells, but in the case of low carb, the brain wants it sequestered for itself- this is a natural process. It is an unnatural- i.e. weird neolithic crisis mode- situation when your cells just can't take it anymore. The insulin sensitizing agents are not going to fix the situation; they will just break the cells.
This is at least as bad as the people who assume ketosis and keto-acidosis are pretty much the same thing.
You propose to evaluate a "hack" described as cause and solution, but you provide no method or diagnostic, which is what all biohacks rely on. A symptomatology of "insulin resistance" is vague until it reaches pathological levels (ie diabetes) as well, so, while good insulin sensitivity is, as you prove, certainly desirable, i don't see a hack being proposed here. If it was, i'd say the ultimate hack is being healthy.
An actual hack would be a way to get excellent insulin sensitivity with a very high degree of success and in a predetermined amount of time by following a clear method, with a diagnostic tool to tell us when we have or haven't achieved that.
Even then, there are multiple factors affecting the health of Paleohacks users: gut flora balance, inflammation, fatty acid metabolism, bad epigenetic profile, pollutant toxicity... and i doubt fixing insulin sensitivity alone would solve all of them.
The Ultimate Hack is out there...The Potato Diet. www.freetheanimal.com is showing you how and has all the links, musings, science to back it up.
The "Potato Diet" is this: Eat potatoes for 7-14 days, or eat potatoes periodically. When 'eating potatoes', that's all you eat...potatoes. Some have been adding a miniscule amount of fat to cook with, but no other veggies, fruits, or meats allowed.
Eating a predominately (90%+) diet of white potato causes almost unlimited insulin sensititivity by necessity.
Potatoes are a highly resistance starch with a supply of all essential amiono acids. They are lacking in certain vitamins and minerals, which is why this is not done long-term. The sodium and potassium content of potatoes, and the effect on gut flora make the potato diet the perfect storm for insulin sensitivity.
Here is a thought experiment: How can a 'high carb, low fat, low protein' diet make one both insulin sensitive and insulin resistant while allowing rapid fat-loss and ketosis?
The "Potato Diet" does all this...
I thought add some information you might find worthwhile:
This is a question I asked today about 2 controlled trials where 200 ug/d selenium supplements increased diabetes rates in men. When breaking down subjects by in one of those studies by blood selenium, only men with higher blood selenium levels saw their diabetes risk increase:
In the comments of MarkES's answer I posted what was actually the same study, but looking at cancer rates. The graph below is hard to see, but it found that broken down by the same selenium levels, selenium supplementation lowered cancer risk in the lower level and raised risk in the higher level:
So with that data, here's a simple chart I made comparing the risk of diabetes with the risk of cancer in each of the three tertiles:
Certainly a decent correlation between trends there. I do wish there were more data points to look at, but oh well. Anyway, sorry for such a spacious answer but I just wanted to post this since I've been looking at it and it fits in with your ultimate hack theory. What the casual connection is between cancer and insulin resistance in all this is who knows (selenium toxicity?), but this seems to lend a small amount of support to looking at preventing or alleviating insulin resistance for cancer prevention.
You cited an article that concludes that acne may be related to insulin resistance.
You also provided some information saying that Vitamin A improves insulin sensitivity.
The popular acne medication Accutane (Isotretinoin) is supposedly related to Vitamin A. One of its side effects is weight gain. Perhaps Accutane actually cures acne by improving insulin sensitivity?
Just some food for thought.
Great post! So to summarize, you are saying Insulin Sensitivity is superb for your health.
Cinnamon Extracts Boost Insulin Sensitivity, so I should take cinnamon and I will be more healthier and everything on that list?
Yea, this sounds like it could be the ultimate hack.
You allude to this in your comment to August above, but perhaps the hack is actually to make your muscle cells insulin sensitive relative to your fat cells. I think increasing the insulin sensitivity of muscle and fat cells together, has much less benefit (if any) relative to increasing muscle cell insulin sensitivity while maintaining fat cell insulin sensitivity or even maintaining muscle cell insulin sensitivity while decreasing fat cell insulin sensitivity.
If this is the case, then much of the hack you list above, may actually not be helpful in this regard? I'm not sure. Perhaps resistance training? Or maybe the relative insulin sensitivity between muscle and fat is largely genetic? E.g., a mesomorph has high muscle cell sensitivity relative to fat cell sensitivity, while an endomorph has the opposite.
Maybe I'm reading your question too literally, but to me paleo is the ultimate hack. Guiding our food, exercise, sleep, etc. decisions by the environment in which our bodies evolved. Everything is else is details and application. To me, this likely encompasses your hack above.