v8well Book Club: Why We Get Sick
The hidden epidemic of insulin resistance
Welcome to the v8well Book Club! Topics will largely center around food and health, but I reserve the right to meander in search of an interesting book. I hope the bookworms amongst you enjoy this series of posts, and that some of my recommendations find a place on your bookshelf.
Dr. Ben Bikman, in this vitally important book, connects the dots between a startling number of chronic diseases and paints a vivid picture of an epidemic we rarely hear about but is all-pervasive: it is estimated that at least half of all adults in the US, India, Mexico and China as well as many other countries may be insulin resistant. Most have no idea until they are in the pre-diabetic or diabetic range.
What is insulin resistance?
Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas. One of its most important roles is to “unlock” your cells to use glucose (blood sugar) for energy. When your body becomes less responsive to insulin over time, you need more and more insulin to do the same job.
How do we become insulin resistant and why is it harmful?
It may surprise you and seem perfectly logical at the same time, to know that too much insulin causes insulin resistance (in the same way that your kids may become resistant to you shouting at them too often).
How do our insulin levels get elevated? Several factors can play a role - including age and genetics, stress, and lifestyle factors like sedentary living, environment and diet. As Dr. Bikman says, within a couple of generations, we have transformed our diet into a high-carb, high-fat version - tragically, with the worst kind of carbs (refined) and the worst kind of fats (seed oils).
Insulin resistance plays a significant role in almost all modern-day chronic metabolic disease - diabetes, cancer, heart disease, PCOS, obesity and hell, brain disease. Did you know Alzheimer’s is being called “type 3 diabetes” now? Dr. Bikman devotes several chapters to examining the link between insulin resistance and these disorders.
How do we fight back?
While there is no magic pill, the good news is that insulin resistance is preventable and even reversible to a large extent through simple lifestyle changes.
Any kind of physical activity helps remove glucose from the blood without involving insulin and is helpful. Resistance training is likely to have a higher return on time than aerobic activity, although they are both important.
But the most powerful tool we have is eating smart - restricting refined carbs and sugar (which cause the greatest spike in insulin), emphasizing fiber, prioritizing protein, eating healthy fats and intermittent fasting are all effective ways that have been scientifically proven to make you more insulin-sensitive (opposite of resistant) over time.
You may wonder, if this topic is so important, why haven’t you heard it previously? Why is this knowledge not more widespread? “For someone to grasp the enormity of the problem, they would have to comb through thousands of scientific journals and manuscripts, understand the jargon and be able to connect the dots. Even more difficult, they would have to translate that research into practice.”
This book originally came out in 2020 when the pandemic had consumed us. But its significance only grows as this hidden epidemic continues. Personally, I think it should be mandatory reading for anyone with an interest in living a healthy lifestyle.
If you would like to know more about my journey and why this topic is personal to me, read this.
Have you read this book? Leave a comment to spark a discussion!
What part(s) struck a chord with you?
Do you agree with the book’s message?
Do you enjoy the author’s writing style? Would you want to read another book by them?