The Role of Insulin when on Low Carb Diet

In most general terms, insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas which lowers the level of glucose in the bloodstream. In addition, insulin is responsible for the normal functioning of the body's "fuel system" - when there's too much fat or sugar in the blood stream, insulin reports it to the brain, the body's ultimate command center. Insulin tells the brain to store the extra sugar in the body's fat cells, so that the fat could be used for fuel when there isn't enough food supply. It logically follows that since insulin works to preserve fat and carbs in the body's cells, it effectively prevents weight loss. The higher the level of insulin in your blood stream, the harder it is for you to lose weight.

All low carb diets are based on the premise of lower daily intake of simple carbohydrates which are major insulin level boosters. In other words, the less carbs you eat, the less fat your body will store. These diets are also beneficial in eliminating 'empty calories' from foods rich in sugar and help in decreasing the glucose levels.

The regular consumption of foods that don't cause fluctuations in the level of blood sugar (and hence in insulin) results in weight loss. Such foods are meat and fish, green vegetables, eggs, and certain fruits (for example, berries and apples), as well as seeds, nuts, lentils, and beans. The diet is devoid of foods that contain starchy carbohydrates and refined sugars such as rice, bread, pasta potatoes, and bread cereals. These foods require higher level of insulin to be secreted by the pancreas. However, the more insulin the body secrets in the long run, the higher the likelihood that one suffers from insufficient insulin or general inability to respond to insulin appropriately. For this reason, reduction of insulin that is produced by the body is beneficial not only when dieting: it turns out an important part of maintaining your overall health. If you are diabetic, however, abnormally low level of insulin may result in the buildup of toxic amounts of blood glucose. It is best to consult with a medical practitioner if you consider starting a low carb diet.


Almost every low carb diet begins with a so-called induction period, during which you are recommended to eat foods that contain only insignificant amount of carbs, thereby forcing your body to enter a state of ketosis. During this stage, your liver converts fat into fatty acids which in turn could be used as a source of energy.

Although the human body can easily turn glucose into fat, it is absolutely incapable of breaking fat into glucose. So, when the supply of glucose is scarce, as it is for example when you are on a low carb diet, your body starts using protein for energy. It other words, it starts eating muscle tissue to keep you going, and this is what makes low-carbing a bit dangerous. It should be remembered once and for all that when you are losing weight, as a result of low-carbing, this weight loss comes not so much as a result of fat burning, but due to proteins being used for energy.

The results of a recent study carried out among a group of overweight young people on a low carb diet confirmed that those with higher level of insulin in their blood had lost more weight than those with normal level of insulin. This means that low-carbing may prove especially beneficial for people whose weight problems are related to a higher level of insulin in their blood stream, whereas people with normal level of insulin in the blood will lose more muscle tissue than fat when on a low carb diet.