Lose Weight and Become Less "Sweet” by Improving How Your Body Responds to Insulin!

Lose Weight and Become Less "Sweet” by Improving How Your Body Responds to Insulin!

By: Holly L. Thacker, MD • Posted on July 28, 2014 • Updated June 05, 2023

Have you heard the fruit body weight comparison? Are you pear shaped or apple shaped? Many women put on weight in the thighs and buttocks while others maintain thinner legs and buttocks but develop an apple shaped abdomen. It is the apple shaped body that is associated with higher rates of elevated insulin levels which can lead to further weight gain which in turn promotes the following:

  • Inflammation
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease

Risk Factors for Diabetes and Other Metabolic Issues

Risk factors for this predisposition to the metabolic syndrome that are gender specific to women include:

  • Gestational diabetes (having diabetes during pregnancy)
  • Having had a large baby over 9 pounds
  • Pre-eclampsia or toxemia of pregnancy
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)

Other risk factors for both women and men include:

  • Genetic factors such as family history of type-2 diabetes.
  • Race including:
    • Blacks
    • Hispanics
    • American Indians
    • Asian descent
  • Advancing age, especially over age 45, is a non-modifiable factor.
  • Fat distribution in the abdomen and physical inactivity.

All adults should have a fasting blood sugar every 3 years after age 45.

Decrease Risk for Diabetes

There are several ways to decrease your risk for diabetes by lowering elevated blood sugar levels and promoting that abdominal weight loss are by sensitizing the body to insulin. If you are insensitive to the effects of insulin, more insulin is made which in turn causes other problems like disruption of ovulation. In addition, excess insulin secretions are hard on your pancreas and this occurs due to ‘insulin resistance’ of the excess fat cells in one’s body. For folks with type-2 Diabetes, lowering the sugar levels to normal is so important.

The Top 10 Insulin Sensitizers

  1. Healthy diet – A healthy diet should eliminate all simple sugars (like white bread, white rice and sweets and sugars) and focus on ingesting heart-healthy fats (olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocado and foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA like fish, flax, walnuts, chia seeds and almonds), complete proteins and complex carbohydrates such as legumes, beans, lentils. Many folks will count carbs instead of counting calories and find it easier to lose weight on a higher protein, lower carb diet than a traditional low fat diet.
  2. Exercise and more exercise! Exercise is a powerful insulin sensitizer by directly helping your muscles take up blood sugar thus reducing the secretion of insulin needed. Exercise that strengthens and builds muscle improves the basal metabolic rate and reduces diabetes risk and/or helps control blood sugar in folks with type-2 diabetes.
  3. Bariatric surgery - Bariatric surgery can be a cure for type-2 diabetes in folks with a very high BMI and multiple medical problems. The diabetes can go into remission even before weight loss due in part to effects on gut hormones. This is major surgery and still requires the person to focus on diet and exercise for the rest of their life.
  4. Medications:
    1. Medications such as Metformin (Glucophage) is an insulin sensitizer and can help lower blood sugar, lower body weight and is even used in women with PCOS to improve menstrual disorders and infertility associated with insulin resistance. Metformin is the only oral “diabetic medicine” that does not cause weight gain.
    2. Mounjaro® is an injectable weight loss drug medication used once-weekly GIP (glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide) and GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide-1) receptor agonist indicated as an adjunct to diet and exercise to improve glycemic control in adults with type 2 diabetes.
    3. Wegovy™ is an injection under the skin once weekly for chronic weight management in adults with obesity or overweight with at least one health condition (e.g., high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes mellitus, or obstructive sleep apnea).
  5. Berberine - Berberine is an ancient remedy from traditional Chinese medicine that is derived from plants. It exhibits a broad range of pharmacologic effects ranging from anti-cancer to anti-infective. However, berberine’s ability to lower blood glucose and blood fat levels are those most relevant people who have elevated blood sugars. Berberine’s blood sugar lowering effect in combination with lifestyle modification showed greater improvements in glucose levels, HbA1c, and plasma lipids than lifestyle modifications alone. Berberine is an exciting natural compound that can be found cheaply over-the-counter; however, individuals with diabetes should not rely on this alone and should consult a physician before use.
  6. Anti-oxidants - Anti-oxidants such as alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) is an anti-oxidant found in many foods and is made in our bodies. Studies have shown that there is improved insulin sensitivity with ALA. ALA is present in many foods such as spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, brussel sprouts, beets and red meat.
  7. Supplements - Supplements such as D-chiro-inositol (DCI) is a secondary messenger in insulin signal transduction. It is found in buckwheat farinetta and has been used in women with PCOS which has shown improved glucose control and thus promoted regular ovulation.
  8. Trace minerals - Chromium is an essential trace mineral that is a cofactor in various enzymatic reactions in the body and it is involved in the regulation of blood sugar. Good food sources include: black pepper, thyme, brewer’s yeast and lean meats.
  9. Spices - Cinnamon reduces serum insulin levels after mealtime and 3-6 grams have been used in studies. However, 3-6 grams are not typically the doses found in food dishes, and adding sugar to your cinnamon will not be helping your blood sugar!
  10. Acetic acid – Specifically, apple cider vinegar which is high in acetic acid has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity as it suppressed disaccharidase activity (similar to prescription medicines like Acarbose). So, instead of “a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down” try a capful of apple cider vinegar instead!

So whether you eat an apple sprinkled with cinnamon after your workout or put some sliced pears on your buckwheat farinetta waffles, remember food can be healthy medicine and you’ll likely need less medicine if you eat right and exercise regularly.

Be Strong. Be Healthy. Be in Charge!
-Holly L. Thacker, MD

Holly L. Thacker, MD, FACP is nationally known for her leadership in women’s health. She is the founder of the Cleveland Clinic Women’s Health Fellowship and is currently the Professor and Director of the Center for Specialized Women’s Health at Cleveland Clinic and Lerner College of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University. Dr. Thacker is also the Executive Director of Speaking of Women’s Health and the author of The Cleveland Clinic Guide to Menopause. Her special interests and areas of research include menopause and related medical problems including osteoporosis, hormone therapy, breast cancer risk assessment, menstrual disorders, female sexual dysfunction and interdisciplinary women’s health.

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