Scientists have known for a while that a calorically restrictive diet supplemented by optimum nutrition, also known as C.R.O.N, consistently increases the lifespan of animals to varying degrees depending on the species. And although it will probably be another decade before there is conclusive evidence regarding humans, researchers are already hypothesizing that the results will be somewhat the same. One thing scientists do know about humans is that centenarians, or people who live to be 100 years or more, all have three things in common: low-sugar diets, low triglyceride levels, and low levels of insulin resistance. Of these three, insulin resistance is the most useful marker regarding longevity in human beings.
Under normal circumstances, the food we eat is metabolized into glucose, or usable energy, during the digestion process. A hormone produced by the pancreas called insulin is released to help to transport the glucose to parts of the body where it is needed. Insulin is responsible for removing excess sugar from the bloodstream and converting it to glycogen. Glycogen is stored in small amounts – about a day’s worth – in the liver. Beyond this, sugar is stored as fat on the body.
The health problems come when insulin is not used properly by the body. This condition, known as insulin resistance, occurs when the muscle, fat and liver cells do not respond appropriately to the normal amounts of insulin being produced and more insulin is required to metabolize excess sugar.
As cells become conditioned to resist insulin, less insulin is taken into the cells to be used as energy and more insulin is circulated outside of the cells. This environment can have some devastating health effects:
• Osteoporosis. Insulin plays a lead role in controlling many anabolic hormones such as progesterone, testosterone, and growth hormone. When the cells become resistant to insulin, many important anabolic processes slow down or stop. The growth and maintenance of bone tissue depend on these processes. As a result, bone-building is severely reduced. Worse yet, the calcium reserves in existing bone tissue are excreted more readily causing bones to become brittle.
• Inflammatory disease. High blood sugar leads to chronic inflammation. Excess sugar does extensive damage to internal organs that attract white blood cells in an attempt to heal the injured area. However, in the face of chronically high blood sugar, the white blood cells cannot make any headway so inflammation is the result. Many diseases from bipolar disorder to rheumatoid arthritis are now thought to be linked to chronic inflammation.
• Hardening of the arteries. A high-sugar environment contributes greatly to the damage done to the endothelial cells on the inside surface of the blood vessels. As the damage progresses, the endothelium cells become more permeable. This increased permeability allows certain lipoproteins to enter causing an accumulation of cholesterol. Eventually, this situation leads to the build-up of plaque inside the blood vessels.
The fact is that the longer the cells of your body are exposed to insulin, the more the potential for insulin resistance. A certain amount of insulin resistance is inevitable which is, in part, why older people have lower energy levels, less muscle mass, higher body fat composition, etc. This unavoidable insulin resistance is what makes it a prominent sign of aging. In a nutshell, if you can manage to balance your insulin levels through diet and exercise and reduce your overall rate of insulin resistance, you are much more likely to live a longer and healthier life.