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Insulin

Insulin is a hormone that rises when blood glucose rises. It lowers blood glucose by telling cells to absorb and use it. If your cells’ insulin sensitivity is low, they won’t absorb enough glucose — you have insulin resistance, which can lead to type 2 diabetes.

Our evidence-based analysis on insulin features 106 unique references to scientific papers.

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Summary of Insulin

Insulin is a hormone in the body secreted from the Pancreas, and is known as the Master regulator of carbohydrate metabolism. It works in concert with its sister hormone, Glucagon, and a host of other hormones to regulate blood sugar levels in the body and protect from an excess of blood sugar (hyperglycemia) or too low a level of blood sugar (hypoglycemia).

It is mostly an anabolic hormone, meaning it acts to build molecules and tissues. It has some catabolic properties though (catabolis as in acting to destroy molecules and tissues to provide energy).

When active, insulin and the actions of the proteins under its control can be summed up with having two main actions:

  • Causing a flux of nutrients into the liver, fat, and muscle; to get said nutrients out of the blood

  • Causing a metabolic shift towards carbohydrates, favoring them as fuel, and thus minimizing usage of both fats and proteins for energy

It is increased in response to the diet. Most notably carbohydrates and the a lesser extent proteins. In contrast to many hormones, Insulin is one that is highly responsive to diet and lifestyle; manipulating insulin levels through one's diet and lifestyle is common in diet strategies.

It is essential to survival, and those who do not produce any or insufficient levels of insulin must inject it otherwise (Type I Diabetics).

Insulin has a phenomena known as 'Insulin Sensitivity' which can be summed up as 'The amount of action a single molecule of insulin can exert inside a cell'. The more insulin sensitivity you have, the less overall insulin you need to exert the same effect. A large scale and prolonged state of insulin insensitivity is what is known as Type II diabetes (among other co-morbidities).

Insulin is neither bad nor good from a health and body composition perspective. It has certain roles in the body and activating it may or may not be beneficial for particular individuals, but may also be wondrous for others. Typically sedentary obese persons would be wise to limit insulin secretion while power athletes or relatively lean athletic individuals would be wise to use carbohydrate timing strategies to maximize the effects of insulin.

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Human Effect Matrix

Unlocked for Examine members

The Human Effect Matrix looks at human studies to tell you what supplements affect Insulin.

Full details on all Insulin supplements are available to Examine members.
Grade Level of Evidence
Robust research conducted with repeated double-blind clinical trials
Multiple studies where at least two are double-blind and placebo controlled
Single double-blind study or multiple cohort studies
Uncontrolled or observational studies only
Level of Evidence
? The amount of high quality evidence. The more evidence, the more we can trust the results.
Supplement Magnitude of effect
? The direction and size of the supplement's impact on each outcome. Some supplements can have an increasing effect, others have a decreasing effect, and others have no effect.
Consistency of research results
? Scientific research does not always agree. HIGH or VERY HIGH means that most of the scientific research agrees.
Notes
grade-a - Moderate See all 19 studies
Somewhat similar to the influence on insulin sensitivity, the reductions in fasting insulin concentrations in diabetics appear to exist in some studies but are highly unreliable.
grade-b Notable High See all 21 studies
While not necessarily more potent than all control diets, studies have generally found a notably larger reduction in fasting insulin, independently of weight loss. The average insulin levels throughout the day tend to be lower on a ketogenic diet as well.
grade-b Notable Very High See all 3 studies
A decrease in postprandial insulin has been noted with acute supplementation, which is thought to be secondary to the reduction in glucose absorption (as the two correlate highly). There are currently no studies assessing long term changes in fasting insulin

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Frequently Asked Questions and Articles on Insulin

Stepping up weight loss: Can walking help dieters shed fat?
Walking doesn't do much for fat loss on its own. But there's reason to suspect it could boost the benefits of a caloric deficit.
Low-fat vs. low-carb? Major study concludes: it doesn’t matter for weight loss
A year-long randomized clinical trial (DIETFITS) has found that a low-fat diet and a low-carb diet produced similar weight loss and improvements in metabolic health markers. Furthermore, insulin production and tested genes had no impact on predicting weight loss success or failure. Thus, evidence to date indicates you should choose your diet based on personal preferences, health goals, and sustainability.
How do I increase insulin sensitivity?
Exercise frequently (resistance training and aerobic training are both beneficial), eat better (in this regard, less processed carbohydrates and more vegetables), and lose weight. Supplements can help, but are better when the diet and exercise are in order
Does dairy cause acne?
Growth factors can cause acne, either androgens or anything acting on the insulin receptor (including IGF-1) that enhance androgen signaling. Dairy is currently weakly suspected to contribute via the above, but not enough evidence exists to support a strong relationship.
How are carbohydrates converted into fat deposits?
Do artificial sweeteners spike insulin?
Click here to see all 106 references.