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Dairy: An insulin response as high as sugar!

An insulin response as high as sugar!

Doctor Nadia shares an unfortunate truth about dairy.

I write this note today realizing I might be the bearer of bad news for many of you. Please, don’t kill the messenger ;)

When I talk about dairy and its probable effect on your weight, health and insulin production, know that I am sourcing many amazing blog posts written by both Megan Ramos and Dr. Jason Fung. (Blame them, lol.) There is good science behind these words that can be practically applied to your lifestyle, weight loss and/or diabetes reversal journey. Read more here.

At some point, I heard something very interesting from Dr. Fung. He mentioned that some people, particularly those who are more insulin-resistant, may have an insulin response to dairy almost as high as to sugar! I was as shocked as you may be now, but I was also intrigued. I started reading about it and observing my clinic patients more closely. In fact, when people were having trouble losing weight or lowering blood sugars, I would challenge them to cut dairy for a little while to test it out. If they honestly accepted the challenge, those same people would start losing weight and lowering blood sugars again. But, how can that be, considering that dairy does not significantly raise blood sugars? (This is what my diabetic patients would say to me, very reluctant to drop the dairy. I may have even lost some clients/patients because of this recommendation.)

Dairy proteins stimulate high levels of insulin due, in part, to the incretin effect. (Read Dr. Fung’s words in: “Is Dairy Fattening?”) Dairy raises insulin without having much of an effect on blood sugars (i.e. cream/cheese). An insulin response is not the same as a blood sugar response. Our stomach produces incretin hormones that increase insulin secretion without the rise in blood sugars. Most dairy products score extremely low on the glycemic index, but very high on the Insulin Index.

All proteins cause this incretin response, but dairy is potent. Some proteins raise insulin a lot and some only a little. While lactose is a carbohydrate (sugar) contained in milk, and does raise blood sugars, it does not seem to play a major role in the incretin effect. It’s not the milk sugar, but rather the dairy proteins that cause the incretin response. There are two dairy proteins: casein and whey. It’s the whey protein that produces a higher incretin effect.

Now, here’s something that also might throw you. Although the increase in insulin promotes weight gain, protein also promotes satiety (by slowing down gastric emptying for one), thus suppressing appetite (and helping with fasting).

So, how can you implement this information practically into your fasting and feasting? It seems obvious to me, have SOME protein with meals (i.e. low-carb, moderate protein, higher healthy fats… sound familiar?), but have NONE (i.e. cream in your coffee) in between meals.

In “Women and Fasting – Top tips for women going through menopause, Part 2”, Megan also suggested some tips and tricks for cutting out cream (and sweeteners) during fasts (read more here)

  • Add a pinch of natural salt like Himalayan salt to black coffee or tea to cut the bitterness

  • Use cinnamon to sweeten your beverages or simply boil some cinnamon bark in water to change things up

  • Take mint leaves and a touch of lemon and add them to hot water to make your own peppermint tea, which is also an amazing, caffeine-free, appetite suppressant

  • Try out a variety of herbal teas in both hot and cold water to change things up


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