Due to rising obesity and insulin resistance rates, low-carb and Paleo diets have become a popular approach to the growing population of overweight Americans. As stated by Dr. John McDougall, "Advocates of high-protein diets explain the reason people are fat is not because of the fat they eat, but because of hyperinsulinism and insulin resistance. Insulin encourages fat cells to store fat and prevents the release of fat from these cells. Therefore, high levels of insulin, known as hyperinsulinism, would be expected to promote obesity."
One high-protein, low-carb website, emphasizes that carbohydrates are the "root of all evil" when it comes to weight loss and health. Consequently, the majority of calories from a low-carb diet come from meat, which contains protein and fat, but no carbs.
Although carbs do make our insulin levels go up, Dr. Micheal Greger points out in the video above that scientists have known for over a half century that protein makes it go up as well. An "Insulin Index of Foods" was published in 1997 which listed 38 foods that produced higher insulin levels. This study and subsequent studies showed that any type of meat (beef, chicken, and pork) produced substantial insulin secretion. "In fact meat protein causes as much insulin release as pure sugar." Meat raised insulin levels higher than a large apple, a cup of oatmeal, a cup and a half of white flour pasta.
Below we've highlighted a few points from the Insulin Index:
- "Some of the protein-rich foods (beef, cheese, eggs) had larger insulin responses per gram than did many of the foods consisting predominately of carbohydrate."
- "Carbohydrate is not the only stimulus for insulin secretion." Protein-rich foods can also stimulate insulin secretion without increasing blood glucose concentrations. "A low-fat diet based on less-refined, carbohydrate-rich foods with relatively low insulin scores may help enhance satiety and aid weight loss as well as improve blood glucose and lipid control
- "Pasta, oatmeal porridge and All-Bran cereal produced relatively low insulin responses despite their high carbohydrate contents.
- Some protein and fat-rich foods (eggs, beef, fish, cheese, cake and doughnuts) induced as much insulin secretion as did some carbohydrate-rich foods. Beef was equal to brown rice and fish was equal to whole grain bread.)"
In regards to the above findings, Dr. Greger continues by saying, "So based on their own framework, if low-carb and Paleo people stuck to their own theory, and it's all about insulin - they would be out telling everyone to go vegetarian, as vegetarians have significantly lower insulin levels even at the same weight. Meat eaters have up to 50% higher insulin levels."
For example, if you put someone on a whole plant-food diet, "you can significantly bring their insulin levels down within just 3 weeks. And then just by adding egg whites back to the diet, you can boost insulin production 60% within 4 days. Even doubling someone's carbohydrate intake using lots of whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables will bring their insulin levels down."
Insulin Levels can Drop in as Little as One Week
We had the pleasure to work with a lovely lady named Jacquie at one of the Engine 2 Diet Immersions. Jacquie had suffered from type-2 diabetes for many years. After only one week of eating Plant-Strong her glucose level fell within the normal range for the very first time. Her emotional testimony brought tears to many eyes:
The Atkins and New Atkins Made Easy
Dr. Robert Atkins, creator of the popular low-carb, high-protein and fat diet, "died overweight with a history of heart attack, congestive heart failure and hypertension" according to the medical examiner. In an attempt to make the diet more healthful, proponents of the New Atkins Made Easy diet assumed that the revised diet would lower insulin levels. However, "No significant drop in insulin levels on very low carb diets" was found. What did rise, however was LDL cholesterol levels, which is the #1 risk factor for heart disease.
What About the Paleo Diet?
"The Paleo movement gets a lot of things right" Dr. Greger states. "They tell people to ditch dairy and doughnuts, eat lots of fruits, nuts and vegetables, and cut out a lot of processed junk." Dr. Greger's above video profiles a study regarding the Paleo diet and continues by saying, "They took a bunch young healthy folks put them on a Paleolithic diet along with a Crossfit-based, high-intensity circuit training exercise program. Now if you lose enough weight exercising you can temporarily drop your cholesterol levels no matter what you eat. You can see that with stomach stapling surgery, tuberculosis, chemo, a cocaine habit—just losing weight by any means can lower cholesterol, which makes these results all the more troubling. Ten weeks of hard core workouts and weight loss, and LDL cholesterol still went up. And it was even worse for those who started out the healthiest. Those starting out with excellent LDLs, under 70 had a 20% elevation in LDL, and their HDL dropped. The Paleo diet's deleterious impact on blood fats was not only significant, but substantial enough to counteract the improvements commonly seen with improved fitness and body composition. Exercise is supposed to make things better. Put people instead on a plant-based diet and a modest exercise program—mostly just walking-based, and within 3 weeks can drop their bad cholesterol 20%, and their insulin levels 30%, despite a 75-80% carbohydrate diet whereas the Paleo diets appeared to negate the positive effects of exercise."
For more information, click on the following links:
(10) Fish and Diabetes
(13) An Insulin Index of Foods: The Insulin Demand Generated by 1000-kJ Portions of Common Foods in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1997, Vol. 66: pages 1264-1276 by Susanne HA Holt, Janette C. Brand Miller, and Peter Petocz.