Archives for posts with tag: glucose

I woke up to a table of dreams today.

Marty Kendall from Optimising Nutrition posted an incredibly dense set of tabled data. Luckily he is an awesome person and took the time to sort out the data for everyone.

The end product: nutrient density analysis.

(Click on the table below or link above to go the full set of charts.)

The complete list of comparisons is found below the table, bottom right. He has given four main comparisons with all foods in each sheet, followed by the breakdown for each food group. Sweet. ūüôā

The main comparisons are:

  • Nutrient Density vs % Insulinogenic
  • Nutrient Density vs Insulin Load
  • Nutrient Density vs Energy Density
  • Nutrient Density vs Net Carbohydrates

Marty uses “nutrient density” to describe¬†the amount of nutrients per calorie of a foodstuff. Please see that link to his post on nutrient density to understand more about the different ways of measuring it.

Insulin load” is defined to include the combined effects of carbohydrates, fibre and protein, specifically:

insulin load = total carbohydrates ‚Äď fibre + 0.56¬†x¬†protein

He has defined the proportion of insulinogenic calories, “% insulinogenic“, as:


Now, if all of this is completely overwhelming, it’s okay! Not everyone reacts well to this amount of¬†information in graphs.

The basic ideas are useful though: if you want to get more micronutrients in, but don’t want to overdo your energy intake, there are certain foods that are perfect for this goal.

Similarly, if you are insulin resistant and want to control Type 2 Diabetes,  you can tailor your diet specifically to control your insulin response.

Of course, every single person is different. And that’s not even talking about the multitude of invisible friends (and/or foes) that live inside you: your own¬†gut microbiota.

This means that what you eat might not have the exact same effect on you as your sibling or friend, but the ideas  above of optimising your diet are a fantastic starting point in the road to improving your health!


The bottom line, as always: eat real food!


Healthy kids in control!

Watch “Diary of a Diabetic Kid” about young Gabriel Van Wesemael who was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes and then had to hop onto the¬†glucose high-and-low bus.
He finally got helpful advice from his GP and switched to a low-carbohydrate diet. (Shout-out to Dr Neville Wellington.)

Since then he has been able to reduce his insulin injections and lives with much more stable blood glucose levels. Awesomeness!

He has recently launched a YouTube channel, Gabriel’s Diabetic Kitchen, with Type 1-friendly recipes as well as a Facebook page. Go have a look and spread the word!

The last week has delivered two absolute gems to my screen.

The first, Strong Medicine by Dr Blake F. Donaldson, is available to read and download on Babel!

I accidentally came upon it via Ash Simmonds and his¬†HighSteaks¬†blog. His meat-filled twitter feed is also recommended. (I have to admit that I’m getting absolute¬†grills,¬†Afrikaans for the heebeejeebees, mentioning some stranger’s twitter feed. StalkerPro here.)

The book itself is quite the entertaining read! A lot of pervasive life truths are punctuated by some boldly stated and highly cringeworthy thoughts straight out of a totally different cultural era. It is a bit of a rollercoaster, but Doc Donaldson pulls out some great one-liners that keep me reading, consider:

“It seems to me there are three horns to the dilemma of the fat man.”


“There are probably only two perfect foods-fresh fat meat and clean water.”

Always cutting straight to the point, as he also was in his recommendations to patients:

“Unless you are willing to stop eating flour now and forever, I don’t want to take care of you.”

But the zinger award must surely go to:

“You are out of your mind when you take insulin in order to eat a Danish pastry.”

And then there are musings on medical science that shows some perceptions really have not changed, not one little bit:

“…cholesterol has been made a whipping boy, which is unjustified.
Since the determination of its importance much of the research work on cholesterol has been abandoned, though some is still going on. Talk about cholesterol is old hat, forget it, and certainly it would never help you with weight reduction.”


Donaldson put his patients on a very strict but simple regimen, mostly fatty red meat¬†and coffee three times a day. After the desired sustainable weight was reached, meals could be expanded to include four ingredients. I had a look at my breakfast of eggs, chorizo and tomato cooked in ghee and thought, ja, why overdo the ingredient list and make it more complicated for my body. It’s just a machine, after all.

The man had a sympathetic heart to make up for his stern and strong medicine. He recalls his experiences of working in a hall of soldiers in varying stages of recovery or death, or both, after mustard gas exposure. He crafts a striking image of a Hungarian violinist coming to the hospital ward to play beautiful songs by request from the suffering men, but the doctor, having built up strong armour to defend against the daily horrors of slow deaths, is suddenly overwhelmed by the atmosphere:

“As the strains of that old melody swept through the hall I had to leave. Some things in life you just can’t take.”

The other goodie was another one of the lectures from the Low Carb Down Under series:¬†Marty Kendall¬†on¬†“Managing Insulin to Optimise Nutrition”.

If you know someone who is unlucky enough to have Type 1 Diabetes, have them watch this talk. There is no sensationalism and the explanation behind why Marty and his wife eat like they do is wonderfully clear and logically explained.

But also, this is science communication done right! Yay!

By this I mean that someone has not only made an effort to understand the underlying science, but has taken the¬†extra (and necessary) step of translating it beautifully so that I can get an intuitive grasp of what the hell you are on about. I don’t want to spend two minutes figuring out your graph and axes in a short lecture. Stick some proper labels and pictures in the graph¬†so that I can see what’s up! I think it can be even better, as is always the case, but this is already great to see. Clear, concise and pretty.

Marty Kendall’s blog is over at Optimising Nutrition. Go have a look.

The Sugar Coated documentary is finally available!

You can rent or stream/download it on vimeo:

I just finished watching it and it’s more than worth the money.

It still makes me so angry that what we now consider common sense was so heavily formed by the marketing ploys¬†of an industry transforming the world a generation ago. The terms “balanced” and “moderation” in particular are in serious need of re-defining.

Here is today’s post on Andreas Eenfeldt’s

“The First Drug to Reduce Mortality in Type 2 Diabetes Revealed! And it‚Äôs Low Carb in a Pill!”

My only response: lol.

I seemed to have jumped the gun in my first basic science post! I followed the route that most textbooks (the ones I could easily find online) set out: highlighting the importance of glucose as the fuel needed for our body to function and that the metabolism of glucose is akin to the metabolism of fuel. And then later on there is a short chapter on the role of fats and keto acids, often paired with the phrase starvation mode.

So through this unintended marketing ploy, I already assume that glucose is the one and only preferred fuel of my body. I have heard that it can survive off of my stored fat, but this is only in case of emergency…

Let’s do it a bit differently, then.

As I outlined in my previous post, our cells need the molecule ATP to survive. This molecule is the food our cells need to function and perform all their tiny tasks. The food our bodies need to create ATP is often grouped into what people call macronutrients.

Food is our fuel.  What we eat can be divided into three main sources of energy: carbohydrates, proteins and fats.

Food is our fuel.
What we eat can be divided into three main sources of energy: carbohydrates, proteins and fats.

These macronutrients are luckily words we’re all familiar with: carbohydrates, protein and fats. Interestingly enough, alcohol also provides energy, but I think we can all agree that¬†we can’t live off a diet of pure alcohol, even though we sometimes try…

In the end, all three of these macronutrients have to be converted to the ATP molecule so that our cells can function. The journey from food as a body fuel to a potential cell fuel occurs through digestion. Carbohydrates get stored as glycogen, protein as amino acids and fats as triglycerides.

Once broken down into these compounds, they can be metabolised, chemically transformed, into the type of energy an individual cells can use. Each compound has its own path that it must follow to be metabolised. These are called metabolic pathways, and as you can see in this chart, I am greatly simplifying all the processes happening. And that chart should give you some idea of the headaches biochemistry students surely must endure.

In simple terms, carbohydrates and protein can form glucose, while fats can form keto acids (also called ketone bodies).


Two paths to a working body: glycolysis and ketosis.

The cells can use either glucose or keto acids to create ATP. When you’re body has any reserve glycogen stored up, or available¬†glucose in the bloodstream, it will choose to run on glycolysis. When your body sees that there is no more stored glycogen and no available glucose in the blood, it will naturally switch to ketosis¬†and use the stored fatty acids to form keto acids for energy.
This switch between processes is not a strange or frightening occurrence. In fact, most people switch into ketosis at night since the body is not getting fresh glucose supplied from food.

Something to note is that ketosis is not your body’s starvation mode if you are on a high-fat, carbohydrate-restrictive diet. How can it be if you are actively putting fuel into your mouth? Starvation is only starvation when you are actually starving.

Now, how about your brain?

Your brain needs fuel, too!

Your brain needs fuel, too!

Your brain also needs fuel to thrive, and like your cells, it will run on glucose as long as it is readily available.

However, your brain can also tap energy from keto acids! Just as in the rest of your body, your brain changes its metobolism method in order to use the keto acids as its source of fuel.

There is a catch, though. Your red blood cells need glucose to create ATP. Luckily, as mentioned in the previous post, your body can produce enough¬†glucose through gluconeogenesis for the red blood cells to function, even while running on ketosis. It’s amazing, really!

Is ketosis dangerous? Well, in the case of Type 1 diabetics it can be! In their special case, they can develop ketoacidosis. This happens when they can no longer produce enough insulin to tell their bodies to metabolise glucose, so their bodies over-produce keto acids while also retaining high levels of blood glucose. Total energy confusion, it seems.

This state only poses a threat to people who don’t know that they have type 1 diabetes. This is not a concern for the average human¬†able to produce insulin. However, as always, if you are worried go see a medical doctor for a check-up! But please go prepared and read up on type 1 diabetes.

I hope this post gave some insight into what happens after we eat! As always, this is a incredibly simplified outline, but I hope it gives a reasonable, bare-bones overview of what goes on inside.

Don’t fear fat. It is fuel. ūüôā

The first episode of the series: The Men Who Made Us Fat by the BBC.

It’s in the typical sensationalist documentary style that the BBC seems to keep producing, but it gives the watcher the factual context of the sugar and greater food industry over the last four decades, and how saturated fats became to be demonised.

I stopped biology classes at 16 when I chose to do history instead. This probably helped me in accepting the latest developments in the carbohydrate controversy, as my mind was already an embarrassingly blank slate. Hence, let me start with some basics that I learned this past week. (If there are mistakes or semi-truths, please please please leave a comment!)

First things first, we eat because our body needs fuel to function. But since we are an oddly-shaped collection of cells, we really eat because our cells need fuel.

ATP is the lifeblood, so to speak, of every single cell in your body.

ATP is the lifeblood, so to speak, of every single cell in your body.

Our cells can create a molecule called ATP to use as fuel for survival and any other functions it needs to perform. Without the ability to generate ATP, a cell would wither and die. To create this molecule, cells need glucose. I never knew that we were so dependent on glucose!  (Brrp, wrong: ATP can be formed from ketones. Will be discussed in a follow-up post.)

Now, glucose comes with its own story. It is either ingested in the form of the sugars and carbohydrates in our food, or synthesised by our liver and kidneys through a process called gluconeogenesis. This process is present in everything living from mammals to fungi to bacteria.

Our bodies, if healthy, will always synthesise glucose in this manner when we do not get it via food.  (Have a look at the comment section, please. This statement was totally inaccurate, as at some point we do need food for gluconeogenesis to occur, but the question is which kinds of food are vital for this process to occur.)


Glucose is a crucial ingredient for our cells to produce its own fuel, ATP.

Too little of it in the bloodstream and we get hypoglycemia, ¬†which in¬†everyday terms is the ‘low blood sugar‘ people refer to. Too much and we get the opposite, hyperglycemia. This delicate balance is regulated by that substance we associate with diabetes: insulin.

Insulin is therefore just as vital to our bodies as glucose.

Insulin regulates glucose by telling the body to take it out of the blood stream and store in certain cells as glycogen. Glycogen is a fuel source for our bodies, but it is a secondary source after fats stored in our fat cells, or adipose tissue.

Insulin is the regulator of blood sugar levels. Like a tax collector coming to balance your square your account with government , it comes along when there is too much glucose in the blood and tells the body to get rid of it.

Insulin is the regulator of blood sugar levels. Like a tax collector coming to balance your account with the government, insulin comes along when there is too much glucose in the blood and tells the body to give it to cells (glycogen).

The other command that insulin gives is to the fat cells to store any fats present in the blood highways as fatty acids and to inhibit the movement of the fatty acids within these cells.

We therefore see that both glucose and insulin are absolutely essential for us to carry on walking and talking, but also, and very importantly, that our bodies are fully capable of generating glucose by themselves. It is when we take in external sources of glucose that we call up insulin to the battle front to keep the amount of glucose in the blood in check.

People who suffer from diabetes¬†have a problem with either very low insulin levels, or in the body’s refusal to take orders from it (resistance to insulin). Their bodies are therefore terrible at getting glucose out of the blood stream and stored in cells as glycogen, and they end up with chronic hyperglycemia.

This is the story that glucose and insulin dances out in our bodies all day long, without most of us giving it a passing thought. It seems a deceptively simple dance, but has complexities that¬†we still haven’t mastered as outsiders looking in.