I’ve been thinking a lot lately about insulin. Perhaps that’s because my 19-year-old cat, Boomerang, who has been my companion for 14 years, was recently diagnosed with diabetes. Diabetes, which is the most common metabolic disease in the world, is an ironic disease—you have all this fuel (glucose) sitting in your blood, but your muscles can’t use it because of the lack of insulin.
As I write in my new book, Run Your Fat Off, despite what the media may want you to believe, sugar is not inherently bad. Indeed, glucose is your muscles’ preferred fuel, and the only fuel that your aristocratic brain will use. Your brain dines only on the very best. Under non-diabetic conditions, within 30 to 60 minutes of consuming carbohydrate (sugar), insulin increases up to eight-fold in response to the increased glucose in your blood. This dramatic increase in insulin triggers the transportation of glucose from your blood into your cells. It is then that glucose’s fate is determined. If you eat more carbohydrate than your body needs for energy, the excess glucose is either stored as glycogen in your muscles and liver (what you want) or as body fat (what you don’t want).
Although adipose fat (the fat directly underneath your skin) gets all the attention, visceral fat—the fat you can’t see that surrounds your abdominal organs—is even more important. Too much visceral fat has huge implications for your health, including impaired glucose and fat metabolism; insulin resistance; increased predisposition to colon, breast, and prostate cancer; prolonged hospital stays and increased mortality in the hospital; increased incidence of infections and noninfectious complications; incidence of metabolic syndrome; and increased susceptibility to heart disease and high blood pressure. Visceral fat is a bad, bad thing. Research has shown that aerobic exercise is central to reduce visceral fat. Which is one reason why exercise is important for diabetics.
Which brings me back to Boomerang. After watching my mother give insulin shots to my diabetic grandmother for many years, I now find myself giving insulin shots twice per day to my cat to regulate his blood glucose. And given the importance of exercise for diabetics, I’m training him for a marathon. Doesn’t he look excited?
Only 9 more days until Run Your Fat Off is released by my publisher Reader’s Digest. I hope you pick up a copy. If you are in southern California, come celebrate with me at the red carpet book launch party in beautiful La Jolla, California on my birthday, March 14.