Saturday, June 16, 2012

Insulin Resistance and Popular Diet Plans

I've been perusing various popular approaches to health and weight loss and have been struck by how little attention is paid to insulin resistance.

Dr. Fuhrman, for example, is all over PBS and has a vegan approach that involves veggie/fruit smoothies. He sweetens them with Medjool dates. I actually bought some dates because everyone seemed to be excited about them. Then I read the label and my jaw dropped to the floor. 29 grams of carbohydrate per serving. They might as well tell me to drop a Snickers bar in the blender and just add in some flax seed to make it healthier and I would do better!

So I said to my husband, "Don't eat more than two of these, they are pure sugar." (In fact, I had a hard time finishing one, they are sweeter than candy.)

My husband said, "I just had seven. Is that bad?"

Short answer, yes!

Now, we can go back and forth about how the fiber in the fruit blunts the insulin spike of consumption, but the reality is, anyone with severe insulin resistance who eats that much sugar, even if it's from 'healthy' fruit, is going to gain weight and travel further down the pre-diabetes highway to diabetes. Which is why I find these popular doctor diets that ignore the nuances of insulin resistance to be irresponsible.

But I don't know how many people are like me. Maybe I'm the only one with severe insulin resistance? I couldn't follow Dr. Fuhrman's plan without significant modification. And let's face it, smoothies that combine vegetables and fruit, need a lot of sweetener to make them palatable.

I can handle a wild blueberry/spinach smoothie, but only if I add in things like Stevia, cocoa powder and cinnamon. The concoction has an unoffensive taste, which is about the most complimentary thing I can say about it. And it's still too carby for me. I make them every so often because Dr. Alternative recommends them and I agree that smoothies enhance the absorption of nutrients. But they don't help me lose weight. In fact, the opposite. They trigger my malfunctioning insulin response. I tend to eat more on smoothie days.

Dr. Fuhrman also likes to use cashews. A lot. Like in every recipe. If you are allergic to nuts, you are SOL on his eating plan. Also, I'm not such a huge fan of pureed cashews in everything I eat.

For me, this is a plan that has significant barriers to entry for the average person. I have the books and a DVD, so I have really looked at it in detail. The changes are so dynamic and the equipment you need to do it is so expensive, well, I'm amazed he's built an audience at all.

If I wasn't insulin resistant, I would probably have a strong tendency toward 'Furhmanization', but that's just me. No one else I know would do it--considering I can't even get the people in my life to go to a whole foods demo, I fail to see where these legions of fans are coming from. Where I live, everyone still thinks McDonald's is a food group.

Then we have Dr. Mercola's diet which is very similar to Dr. Furhman's, but entry is phased. I like phases. I think gradual transitions are really effective, but his are too long and confusing. Plus, anyone with insulin resistance needs to start at the most restrictive phase three, the earlier phases just waste time. Mercola is also into juicing and making smoothies, which, again, is quite expensive.

So Drs. Furhman and Mercola have diets that only people with money can follow. And only if you have natural ascetic leanings (most of us don't) and aren't insulin resistant (which most of us are).

I'm surprised these guys don't hold juicer giveaways as a marketing ploy. Especially Dr. Mercola, who has the distinction of being one of the spamiest physicians I've ever seen online. He wants me to sign up every thirty seconds and pay for access to this and that. His website makes me feel like I'm in a Medical Las Vegas.

Okay, so I've ripped apart the diets, but how do you know if you are insulin resistant? Here's my rule-of-thumb: If you have done Weight Watchers (most of us have at one time or another) and did it perfectly (i.e. you killed yourself trying to lose weight) with little to no results, you are insulin resistant. You can pay to have the blood work done, but inability to lose weight despite serious effort is pretty much text book. If you don't cut the flour and sugar and severely limit fruit, you will never lose weight.

A lot of money and a blender won't change that.


  1. That's a pretty simplistic assessment of insulin resistance in that end para but then its probs true! How long would you consider removing high GI carbs from your diet for before you would expect to see changes? I've been doing lo carb (clean eating) for about five months now and I've lost about 1.5kg - whoo hoo! Thoughts?

  2. You should see weight loss with low carb within 10 days. If you aren' need to dig deeper.

    -Could there be something else going on? Thyroid?

    -Are you absolutely sure you're eating clean?

    -Do you need to cut carbs even further?I know I really can't eat any if I want to lose weight.

    -Some people are sensitive to things in their diets such as dairy or artificial sweeteners. You may have to eliminate those.

    -Are you drinking enough water? 3 liters a day at a minimum to facilitate weight loss.

    -Look at Dr. Atkin's research on supplements...he had some recommendations to ensure fat metabolism. I've used L-carnitine in the past and felt it helped.

    -If you can exercise, use interval training and look at Tabata protocols to improve fat burning.

    Hope that gives you some ideas. The Active Low Carb forums are a good place to explores some of the points I've raised.


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