Do Insulin Levels Often Cause Hunger?

So easy to over-eat!

So easy to over-eat! Is it the insulin release?

No, insulin probably isn’t the cause of constant hunger, according to Dr. Stephan Guyenet. Dr. G gives 11 points of evidence in support of his conclusion. Read them for yourself. Here are a few:

  • multiple brain-based mechanisms (including non-insulin hormones and neurotransmitters) probably have more influence on hunger than do the pure effect of insulin
  • weight loss reduces insulin levels, yet it gets harder to lose excess weight the more you lose
  • at least one clinical study (in 1996) in young healthy people found that foods with higher insulin responses were linked to greater satiety, not greater hunger
  • billions of people around the world eat high-carb diets yet remain thin

An oft-cited explanation for the success of low-carbohydrate diets involves insulin, specifically the lower insulin levels and reduced insulin resistance seen in low-carb dieters. They often report less trouble with hunger than other dieters.

Here’s the theory. When we eat carbohydrates, the pancreas releases insulin into the bloodstream to keep blood sugar levels from rising too high as we digest the carbohydrates. Insulin drives the bloodstream sugar (glucose) into cells to be used as energy or stored as fat or glycogen. High doses of refined sugars and starches over-stimulate the production of insulin, so blood sugar falls too much, over-shootinging the mark, leading to hypoglycemia, an undeniably strong appetite stimulant. So you go back for more carbohydrate to relieve the hunger induced by low blood sugar. That leads to overeating and weight gain.

Read Dr. Guyenet’s post for reasons why he thinks this explanation of constant or recurring bothersome hunger is wrong or too simplistic. I tend to agree with him on this.

The insulin-hypoglycemia-hunger theory may indeed be at play in a few folks. Twenty ears ago, it was popular to call this “reactive hypoglycemia.” For unclear reasons, I don’t see it that often now. It was always hard to document that hypoglycemia unless it appeared on a glucose tolerance test.

Regardless of the underlying explanation, low-carb diets undoubtedly are very effective in many folks. That’s why I offer one as an option in my Advanced Mediterranean Diet. And low-carbing is what I always recommend to my patients with carbohydrate intolerance: diabetics and prediabetics.

Steve Parker, M.D.

front cover

front cover

Steve Parker MD, Advanced Mediterranean Diet

Two diet books in one

front cover

front cover

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Stroke Drops to #5 Cause of Death in U.S.

For most of my medical career, stroke was the third leading cause of death in the U.S., behind heart disease and cancer. Just a few years ago, chronic lower respiratory tract disease surpassed stroke.

Stroke continues to fall in rank and fell recently to fifth place, overtaken by accidents (unintentional injuries).

Even non-fatal strokes can be devastating.

Reduce your risk of stroke by maintaining normal blood pressure, not smoking, exercise regularly, living at a healthy weight, limiting your alcohol consumption, don’t get diabetes, and limit your age to 55. It’s also important to seek medical attention if you have a TIA (transient ischemic attack).

I also think the Mediterranean diet helps.

Steve Parker, M.D.

low-carb mediterranean diet

Front cover of book

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Do Diet Beverages Inhibit Weight Loss?

Overweight and obese women who habitually drank diet beverages lost more weight if they substituted water for the diet beverage. Over the course of 24 weeks on a reduced calorie diet, the water drinkers lost an extra 1.2 kg (2.6 lb) compared to those who continued their diet beverage habit.

Furthermore, the researchers found that the water drinkers had healthier values on insulin levels, HOMA-IR (a measure of insulin resistance), and after-meal blood sugar levels.

It was a small study with only about 30 in each experimental group. Whether similar results would be seen in men is unknown to me.

In the past, I’ve advised dieters it’s OK to drink diet drinks in moderation while trying to weight. I may have to revise my recommendations. On the other hand, if diet drinks help keep you happy and on a successful weight-loss journey, they may be helpful. The diet beverage consumers still lost 7.6 kg (16.7 lb) compared with 8.8 kg (19.4 lb) in the abstainers. But diets don’t work, right?

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: I haven’t read the full text of the article; just the abstract.

PPS: Steven Novella at Science-Based Medicine blog concludes that low energy sweeteners probably help with weight control.

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QOTD: H.L. Mencken on the U.S. Presidency

As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

–H. L. Mencken

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Adam Brown: Diabetes on a 65% Fat Diet

Adam Brown over at DiaTribe has been experimenting with diet to see effects on his blood sugar:

“Over the past 80 days, I’ve seen excellent results from eating higher fat (65% of my calories) and a bit lower carb (about 90 grams per day) than I have in the past. I’ve spent 76% of the past 11.5 weeks in the tight range of 70-140 mg/dl [3.9-7.8], with a low average (118 mg/dl) [6.6 mmol/l], low hypoglycemia, and low diabetes burden. Combined, these are the strongest numbers I’ve ever seen in myself over such a long time period. I’ve also lost 5 lbs [2.3 kg].”

Source: Adam’s Corner: Diabetes on a 65% Fat Diet, Chia for Breakfast, and Intermittent Fasting | diaTribe

Also see his comments on chia pudding and intermittent fasting.


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Have You Heard of Chutney?

I rarely hear about it or see in my social circles. I have a vague childhood recollection of an uncle introducing it to me. I’ve always liked the word.


Outback Steakhouse a couple decades ago sold pork steak with a side of orange chutney. Good combo.

From Diabetic Foodie:

“Are you familiar with chutney? Born in India, it’s basically fruit or vegetables + spices + vinegar + sweetness + heat (optional). You can make it as chunky or smooth as you like.

How to use chutney:

Use as a topping for turkey or pork. (Think Thanksgiving side dish.) Serve with curry dishes like Chickpea Curry with Sweet Potato. Mix into plain yogurt as a snack or dip. Combine with sweet potatoes or winter squash before roasting. Serve with sweet potato dishes such as Sweet Potato Hash or Baked Sweet Potato & Parsnip Latkes. Purée and use as a condiment for turkey, chicken, or veggie burgers. Purée and mix into meatloaf. Serve with cheese as a snack. Use as a topping for whole grain waffles or pancakes. Purée and use instead of ketchup.”

Source: Apple Chutney

PS: The waiter at Outback in Pensacola, FL, always asked how I wanted my pork cooked. As if someone would order it medium rare? Can you say trichinosis?

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Is City Life Making Us Bonkers?

Evolutionistx thinks so. She started pondering this in view of the fact that one of every four women in the U.S. is on medication for depression or anxiety. Why so many drug users? A quote:

People seem to do best, emotionally, when they have the support of their kin, some degree of ethnic or national pride, economic and physical security, attend religious services, and avoid crowded cities. (Here I am, an atheist, recommending church for people.) The knowledge you are at peace with your tribe and your tribe has your back seems almost entirely absent from most people’s modern lives; instead, people are increasingly pushed into environments where they have no tribe and most people they encounter in daily life have no connection to them. Indeed, tribalism and city living don’t seem to get along very well.


Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: Here’s a starter article on how to find a church.


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