THE `FAT FIRSTˊ APPROACH: A NEW WAY TO MANAGE INSULIN PROBLEMS?
The "Fat First" approach is a dietary strategy that is gaining popularity among individuals who have insulin problems such as insulin resistance or diabetes. This approach gives priority to healthy fats in meals to potentially improve blood sugar control and overall metabolic health. This blog post will explore the concept of the "Fat First" approach, its potential benefits, and considerations for individuals with insulin problems.
Understanding Insulin Problems and their Impact on Metabolic Health
Insulin problems encompass a wide range of conditions, including insulin resistance, diabetes, and pre-diabetes. Insulin resistance is a condition in which there is an impaired biological response to insulin stimulation in target tissues, mainly the liver, muscle, and adipose tissue.
Pre-diabetes is a pre-symptomatic condition diagnosed by lab values and shows either impaired fasting glucose or impaired glucose tolerance. Diabetes is a fulminant symptomatic condition associated with dysregulated glucose metabolism and consequent clinical signs.
Dysregulation of insulin can have grave consequences on your metabolic health. It may cause short-term effects such as increased hunger, thirst, and urination urges. You may feel tired, and it can also affect your memory.
Long-term complications may affect your blood vessels, kidneys, heart, and brain. This can result in peripheral vascular diseases, non-healing ulcers, extremity swellings, diabetic kidney disease, ischemic heart disease, and even strokes.
The "Fat First" Approach and its Rationale
“Fat First” is an approach to stabilizing your blood sugar levels by consuming sources of healthy fats first. Giving priority to meals with high amounts of healthy fats and negligible carbohydrates will help decrease carbohydrate consumption. This approach is based on avoiding sudden spikes in blood sugar levels, which are caused by eating massive amounts of unhealthy carbohydrates in a meal.
Foods with high levels of fat act as good sources of energy and help to prevent cravings for excessive amounts of carbohydrates. Fats are one of the major macronutrients that ensure blood sugar control, and the bad effects of sudden blood sugar level spikes are mitigated. This approach reduces the short and long-term consequences of a raised blood sugar level.
Benefits of the "Fat First" Approach for Individuals with Insulin Problems
The “Fat First” approach has several key benefits for individuals with insulin problems. This approach not only helps with improving blood sugar levels but also has a holistic effect on the body. The main benefits of this approach are listed below:
- Increased Satiety: Many people with insulin problems complain of sugar cravings and hunger. The benefits of consuming sources of fats first include keeping you full for longer and decreasing your urges to eat foods with high levels of processed carbohydrates. It ensures satiety throughout the day and prevents sudden hunger pangs.
- Hormonal balance: Without stable insulin levels, there is a disruption in our hormone levels. Putting a priority on fats can help balance hormones such as progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone. Fats are essential building blocks for the formation of these hormones. Insulin problems can also result in acne, hirsutism, and menstrual problems in women. So, it may be essential to prioritize healthy fats and reap the hormonal benefits of this.
- Decreased Insulin Resistance: Saturated fats and trans fats have an undesirable effect on insulin resistance. However, swapping these unhealthy fats for healthy fats can help to increase your insulin sensitivity. Unsaturated fats are healthy fats, and they can be found in food sources such as avocados, olives, nuts, and pumpkin seeds.
- Slow aging: When you eat excess sugar-containing food, they form advanced glucose layer end products (AGEs). These, in turn, result in the formation of free radicals and increase the oxidative stress in your body. These free radicals are known to speed up the aging process. If you want to age slowly and gracefully, ensure that you decrease your sugar levels.
- Blood Sugar Management: Fat is a key macronutrient for controlling post-meal spikes in blood sugar levels. Unhealthy carbohydrates will cause your blood sugar levels to spike. They also keep your blood sugar levels above the normal range for a longer duration of time. These spikes in sugar levels and extended periods of above-normal blood sugar levels affect the health of your kidneys, blood vessels, and various organs. So, the benefits of fats for blood sugar management are paramount to individuals with insulin problems.
- Decreased anxiety: If you consume a high-carb diet, your blood sugar levels can drop very quickly after some time. This can result in jitteriness and anxiety. This is due to an increase in adrenaline, which makes us anxious and on edge. The adrenaline hormone promotes the conversion of glycogen to glucose through the liver and increases blood sugar levels again. Consuming fats instead of high-carb diets can help to avoid this unpleasant sensation.
- Weight loss: People with insulin problems often experience issues with weight management. This is due to irregular satiety and inconsistent blood sugar levels in the body. An important enzyme in the body known as GLP-1 is secreted by the gut. This chemical signals to our brain that we are full and do not require any more food. Healthy fats are a good way of stimulating GLP-1 secretion and help maintain your ideal weight.
Considerations and Individualization
There are several factors that you should consider before you adopt a “Fat First” approach to eating. You also must take into account your own personal goals, lifestyle, schedule, and finances. The main factors to consider before adopting this approach are:
The types of fat you consume will also depend on your dietary preferences. The type of food you enjoy consuming dictates what type of diet you will be faithful to. If you like consuming nuts, you can try macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts, peanuts, cashews, almonds, or pre-packaged nut mixes.
Avocados and a variety of oils, such as olive oil, are perfect additions to this diet if you enjoy Latin guacamole or Mediterranean cuisine. People who prefer Indian cuisine can also try ghee (clarified butter). You need to ensure that you find the food you consume delicious so that it can be a long-term lifestyle.
When you adopt a “Fat First” approach, you need to ensure that you maintain a balance of all macronutrients and micronutrients. In addition to fats, ensure that you eat appropriate quantities of proteins such as chicken, fish, beans, and lentils. In addition, carbohydrates, which include rice, pasta, bread, and other cereals, should be consumed in moderation. Also, make sure that you include all micronutrient sources, which include nutrients such as vitamins and minerals.
Your “Fat First” approach should align with your overall health goals and should also be individualized to specific targets you may have. This approach should help you in your goals. This personalized approach will help to keep your blood sugar levels in check and help with your overall fitness.
For those that want to lose weight, they need to focus on decreasing calorie intake and increasing exercise. Some individuals may wish to gain a bit of weight, and for them, it is essential to maintain some calorie surplus in their daily diet.
Work, children, your partner, hobbies, and other priorities in life can consume a significant amount of time. This can leave less time for the preparation of a “Fat First” diet. However, you can pre-prep your meals and buy easy-to-prepare meal kits to make it easier to stick to your diet. You can also pack small snacks which help you to adhere to the diet and prevent you from binging on sugary snacks.
The Role of Other Macronutrients and a Balanced Approach
The three major macronutrient groups are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. It is essential to have a balanced diet that takes into account the need for carbohydrates and proteins while prioritizing the intake of fats first. A well-rounded diet should maintain an adequate amount of protein and carbohydrate intake to maintain bodily functions.
A balanced diet should follow the principles of balancing macronutrients and micronutrients. All nutrients have different roles in your body. So, make sure that you consume a wide variety of food types to fulfill all roles.
For the majority, carbohydrates are the primary source of energy. The body depends heavily on carbohydrates for its energy. But it's crucial to consume nutritious, unprocessed carbohydrates.
Refined carbohydrates such as highly processed wheat flour, granulated sugar, white bread, extra polished rice, and processed pasta can have a bad effect on your health and cause sudden spikes in sugar levels. Instead, opt for unprocessed carbohydrates such as whole grain bread, unprocessed fresh pasta, par-boiled or brown rice.
Carbohydrates are part of important biochemical processes in your body, so you cannot completely avoid carbohydrates without negative effects on your body.
The building blocks of the body are proteins. Proteins make up muscles and several other components of the body. This is why bodybuilders and athletes put an emphasis on getting enough proteins in their diet.
People with insulin problems who wish to develop lean muscles need to take protein in their diets. Vegetarians can consume protein from legumes, beans, and lentils. Non-vegetarians can consume eggs, meat, and fish.
While the "Fat First" approach can offer significant benefits to individuals with insulin problems, it may not be suitable for everyone. Here are some situations and considerations where this dietary strategy might not be appropriate:
- Gallbladder Issues: People with a history of gallbladder problems or those who have had their gallbladder removed may find it challenging to digest high amounts of dietary fat. The gallbladder stores and releases bile, which is essential for breaking down fats. Without a functioning gallbladder, excessive fat intake can lead to digestive discomfort, including diarrhea and abdominal pain.
- Fat Tolerance: Not all individuals can tolerate a high-fat diet. Some people may experience digestive distress, including bloating and diarrhea when consuming large amounts of fat. It's important to assess your personal tolerance for fat and adjust your fat intake accordingly.
- Medical Conditions: If you have underlying medical conditions other than insulin problems, it's crucial to consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian before adopting the "Fat First" approach. Certain medical conditions, such as coronary artery disease, may require fatty diet restrictions or modifications that don't align with this strategy.
- Medication Interactions: If you are taking medications to manage your insulin problems or other health conditions, the "Fat First" approach could potentially interact with your medication. Dietary changes can influence how medications are absorbed and metabolized, so it's important to discuss your dietary plan with a healthcare provider to ensure there are no adverse interactions.
Healthcare professionals are trained to guide you when you adopt new practices related to your health. It is ideal to consult a board-registered dietician before starting any new dietary approaches. Diabetics and people who have insulin problems should be especially careful before committing to a new diet. A new diet fad can have a harmful effect on your health and also your metabolism.
Seek professional guidance before you start a “Fat First” dietary approach. The dietician will ask you about your past medical history, co-existing medical conditions, your family history, genetic predispositions, and your dietary goals. This type of approach with individualized advice can help you to achieve the best out of your diet. Dieticians are trained to make a diet that caters to your individual needs and optimizes your health.
In addition, you can also consult your family physician or an endocrinologist who specializes in diabetes or insulin problems. A physician will be able to give you sound medical advice. Diet forms a significant part of your overall health.
Fitness trainers are also great professionals who can render services related to your diet. Make sure that you get advice from certified trainers who have studied physical fitness and diets. They can help you with your fitness goals and adjust your diet accordingly.
A “Fat First” approach has several benefits for people with insulin problems. In order to customize this strategy to fit into an inexpensive and sustainable lifestyle, it is crucial to adopt a tailored approach and take your unique demands into account. When you use this strategy, make sure to get advice from a healthcare provider to keep your nutritional balance and control your blood sugar levels.
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- Muoio, Deborah M, and Christopher B Newgard. “Diabetes: The good in fat.” Nature vol. 516,7529 (2014): 49-50.
- Hung, Tony et al. “Fat versus carbohydrate in insulin resistance, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.” Current opinion in clinical nutrition and metabolic care vol. 6,2 (2003): 165-76.
- Smith, Tenele A et al. “Insulin strategies for dietary fat and protein in type 1 diabetes: A systematic review.” Diabetic medicine : a journal of the British Diabetic Association vol. 38,11 (2021): e14641.
- Yueh, Tuan-Pin, et al. "Diarrhea after laparoscopic cholecystectomy: associated factors and predictors." Asian Journal of Surgery 37.4 (2014): 171-177.
- Cozma-Petruţ, Anamaria, et al. "Diet in irritable bowel syndrome: What to recommend, not what to forbid to patients!." World journal of gastroenterology 23.21 (2017): 3771.
- Hu, Frank B., JoAnn E. Manson, and Walter C. Willett. "Types of dietary fat and risk of coronary heart disease: a critical review." Journal of the American college of Nutrition 20.1 (2001): 5-19.
- Vessby, Bengt. "Dietary fat and insulin action in humans." British journal of nutrition 83.S1 (2000): S91-S96.
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