My last client was a 37-year-old woman with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) who came to see me because she was having trouble losing weight, and getting pregnant.
She was overweight but reported she exercised at least three times per week and ate “healthy.” She was frustrated because she really felt like she was really trying but couldn’t move the needle on the scale and really wanted to have children.
Her recent bloodwork came back normal, so she came to me seeking a personal nutrition plan. However, on close inspection of her bloodwork, I noticed that her fasting insulin was not measured.
Insulin is the hormone released by our pancreas to lower glucose. However despite the rapid increase of obesity and diabetes insulin is rarely tested.
Why is fasting insulin important?
Standard lab tests measure glucose and A1c, however, the third thing that needs to be measured is fasting insulin, which is a key indicator for insulin resistance syndrome, which is the first thing we see on the road to diabetes.
Despite our best efforts most of us are eating way too much sugar which we store as glycogen in our liver and muscles for future energy needs. The remainder gets stored around our belly as triglycerides, i.e. fat around the middle!
When cells become “full” of glucose, they don’t respond well to insulin and become “insulin-resistant.” This requires the pancreas to produce increasing amounts of insulin to overcome the “resistance.”
This shows up in the bloodstream, as a high fasting insulin measurement. People who have high fasting insulin have a difficult time losing weight because:
On checking her fasting insulin we discovered that it was interfering with her hormones which signaled her ovaries to make testosterone instead of estrogen. She also ate a lot of dairy which is why I recommend raw dairy (hormone free) for clients who say they can't live without cheese!
Once we addressed the fasting insulin she began to lose weight and her periods returned to normal, which resulted in her being able to get pregnant.
The diet and lifestyle choices that made all the difference:
For further information on how insulin affects weight loss check out this short clip from the movie Fed Up, which gives a great visual image of how the liver processes excess sugar, and turns it into fat cells.