how much insulin is required to cover protein?


Given that protein appears to contribute to insulin demand I ran a number of scenarios with the food insulin index data to see if insulin requirement is better predicted by carbohydrate in a food plus some proportion of the protein.

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The analysis indicates that insulin demand is related to carbohydrate about 60% of the protein.

There’s not a lot of information on the split between glucogenic amino acids and ketogenic amino acids out there, however it seems that only leucine and lysine are exclusively ketogenic and cannot be converted into sugar, while isolucine, threonine, phenylaline, tyrosine and tryptophan are both ketogenic and glucgoenic.  The remaining thirteen of the twenty one amino acids are exclusively glucogenic, meaning that they can be converted to sugar.

The proportion of protein that can turn to glucose relates to the amount of excess protein to the body’s needs, so it will be affected by a number of factors including a person’s activity levels, how much protein and carbohydrates they eat.

The correlation of food insulin index with carbohydrate about half the protein is better than carbohydrate alone (R2 = 0.435 compared to R2 = 0.461) and we no longer have the issue of high protein foods sitting on the vertical axis as shown below.

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Accounting for protein in addition to carbohydrate seems to better predict insulin demand.

So in summary, while protein doesn’t spike blood sugar as much as carbohydrates, protein does still require a significant amount of insulin.  People not achieving the desired results from carbohydrate restriction alone may benefit from moderating their protein intake.

[next article…  fibre… net carbs or total carbs?]

[this post is part of the insulin index series]

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10 thoughts on “how much insulin is required to cover protein?”

  1. Good work BUT having researched this thoroughly, I have come to the conclusion that low carbohydrate diets don’t work so much because of their acute effects on insulin. They work because of the effects carbohydrates have on Leptin resistance, which leads to a far greater secretion of insulin for all types of food and also dramatically raises fasting insulin and sugar levels. So, even though fish and pasta may have similar insulin index scores, pasta is more ‘fattening’ due to it contributing more to leptin resistance in those who are trying to lose weight ( and already leptin resistant). Carbohydrates do this ( as I argue on my blog) by contributing to bacterial over-proliferation in a leptin resistant (and therefore lowered state of immunity). SO, even though fish and pasta may have similar insulin index, pasta will be a lot more fattening.
    The insulin index has relevance, in that the very insulinemic foods would need to be avoided for slightly leptin resistant people and even intermediate insulin foods may need to be avoided by the very leptin resistant (i.e.the very weight-reduced). which is why I believe that the ketogenic diet is required for some, as it reduces protein.
    However, we also have to consider each food individually – although yogurt has a high insulin index – it may have a positive effect on leptin resistance, thereby reducing insulin secretion overall.
    If you are interested in any of these ideas, I have done a blog post about it;
    http://www.freetree.co.com/carbohydrates-and-leptin-resistance-via-intestinal-bacteria/
    It’s not a phd or anything – but you get the gist of the ideas!

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    1. Thanks for the response Jo. I’ll take a good look at your blog post shortly.

      One thing I would be interested in your thoughts on… there are clear relationships between HbA1c / insulin and a whole bunch of health outcomes.

      I’ve been puzzled that there is no data showing a relationship between HbA1c and BMI?!?! I would have thought this would be useful and easy to collect data.

      I wonder if the leptin issue you have mention might play some confounding role?

      My focus has been on insulin for the purpose of diabetes control, and from what I understand what works to reduce blood sugar and insulin works to improve leptin sensitivity. I’m sure it’s more subtle than that though.

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      1. Hi Marty,
        thanks for the reply. That is strange – that there is no data showing relationship between HbA1c and BMI.
        Leptin basically regulates insulin and blood sugar, so if you are leptin resistant, you have high insulin levels and high blood sugar.
        High insulin leads to obesity and should occur parallel to high blood sugar. That’s the theory anyway. curious…I’ll have to go and read a bit more…

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      2. Yeah. All the theory lines up but I can’t find any data showing what should be a simple relationship.

        I think you can potentially still be eating excess calories and not losing weight on a high fat diet, however generally having a low HbA1c would be a sign you have your insulin and calorie intake under control. Let me know if you find anything.

        Also, let me know if there is anything that can be done specifically to manage leptin sensitivity that is not addressed by managing insulin load.

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