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BackBlood Sugar and Aging

One of the most effective things you can do to extend your life is to consistently keep your blood sugar and insulin levels low. By doing this you will:

  • Reduce glycation, a major cause of aging-related conditions.1
  • Avoid TMS, or Syndrome X, a pro-aging health crisis that one fourth of the US population suffers from.2
  • Maintain low body fat, which itself substantially improves life expectancy.4
  • Possibly extend your life under the 'life calorie limit' theory, and observation that has been made, based partially on caloric restriction research, that our lives are measured not in years, but in calories consumed.
  • Reduce chronic inflammation,5
  • Reduce the formation in your body of free radicals, highly reactive molecules that cause a deterioration of the bodies tissues, associated with improper metabolism of food.
  • Help maintain healthy HDL levels.6
  • Possibly benefit from the dramatic life extension (6X) that Dr. Cynthia Kenyon has observed by reducing insulin levels in C. Elegans worms.

Optimal Range

Although 60-99 is considered normal, we regard an optimal range as 60-80 and less than 2-3 ng/dL for insulin

Insulin Resistance

Too much sugar and refined carbohydrate exposure results in insulin resistance, the compromised ability of every cell in your body to respond to insulin signals to open up their cell membranes and allow glucose to pass in. The result is even higher glucose levels in the blood, lower actual glucose usage by your cells, higher insulin levels (as your body tries to compensate), a strained pancreas and a cascade of related devastating effects, now known under the name of 'TMS' or 'Syndrome X', a epidemic today effecting 47 million Americans2.

People with TMS feel tired much of the time, have difficulty losing wieght, have large mid-sections (apple-shaped) and suffer problems with memory, concentrating and irratability. The diagnosing symptoms are excessive waist circumference, high triglyceride levels, low HDL levels, elevated blood pressure and high glucose levels.8 TMS can cause you to age more quickly and predisposes you to a host of catastrophic bodily dysfunctions.

Insulin Resistance Testing

Although a fasting glucose test is a good start, a patient can have TMS for years before it manifests itself in a high glucose blood level. Better tests are a Glucose-insulin tolerance test, or, even better, an insulin challenge test, where the doctor observes what happens to your blood sugar levels after being injected with a small does of insulin.


The solution to insulin resistance begins with the glycemic index. The index is a food rating system based on the effect a particular food has on blood sugar. Foods that cause a rapid rise in blood sugar, and therefore an excessive release of insulin, are high glycemic. Conversely, low-glycemic foods promote a slower, sustained release of glucose and insulin.

You can see a chart of basic foods and their corresponding glycemic index here, or can even select a particular food here and find out its glycemic index.

The glycemic index system can be useful, and some of the values can be a little counter intuitive, but it really is a sort of high-tech way of describing one thing: civilization has inundated us with foods that cause insulin resistance. A primarily vegetable-based diet inline with the one under which we evolved is the most healthy diet and the one most likely to stave off insulin resistance. If you are wondering if your consumption of a particular carbohydrate is healthy, just ask yourself if your paleolithic ancestors ate something similar to it with the same frequency. If the answer is no, then it probably is not. A lion eats only red meat. But this causes no health problems for it because it evolved around that diet. So that is really the trick - your body has it worked out, just don't throw it any curve balls by eating things it isn't expecting. In short, try to avoid sugar and refined carbohydrates, and greatly reduce your bread, pasta, cracker and other carbohydrate intake, foods that have all been introduced with civilization.

Sugar, of course, is the worst offender on the glycemic index, and it exists today in truly dangerous levels in America. One hundred years ago the average American ate five pounds of sugar per year. Today we average 152 pounds.9

Today in America technological advances in food production and capitalism have joined forces to put sugar into almost every packaged food product on the market. We recommend that before buying something in the grocery store, you do a quick scan for sugar (beware its many disguises: high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, dextrose, corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, agave, molasses, etc) and put the product down if you find it.

An occasional small dessert is one thing, but don't let sugar infiltrate everything you eat. Don't let your body be the battleground for the essentially unregulated (as far as sugar content goes) corporate competition for your food dollars. Also, don't assume that the health store will check for you. Almost all the soy milk products in health stores are loaded with sugar.

More Information


1. Cerami A, Vlassara H, Brownlee M. "Glucose and Aging", Scientific American. 256: 90 - 96 (1987).

2. Ford ES, Giles WH, Dietz WH (2002). Prevalence of metabolic syndrome among US adults: findings from the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. JAMA 287(3):356-359.


4. According to this study, an obese 20 year old man has a life expectancy 13 years less than contemporaries of normal weight, and the loss of life consequent to being overweight is about equal to that from cigarette smoking:
Fontain K. R. et all. 2003. Years of life lost due to obesity. JAMA. Jan 8;289(2):187-193

According to this study, being 20% overweight triples your risk o high blood pressure and diabetes, doubles your risk of elevated cholesterol (more than 250mg/dL), and increases your risk of heart deisase by 60 percent:
Kenchaiah et al. 2002. Obesity and the risk of heart failure. N Engl J Med. Aug 1;347(5)

5. Sjoholm A, Nystrom T. Endothelial inflammation in insulin resistance. Lancet. 2005 Feb 12-18; 365(9459):610-2
When you consume sugar or high glycemic carbohydrates, you increase your insulin level which stimulates production of arachidonic acid and the amount of inflammation in your body.
J. I. Kreisberg and P. Y. Patel. 1983. The effects of insulin, glucose and diabetes on prostaglandin production by rat kidney glomeruli and cultured glomerular mesangial cells. Prostraglandins Luekot Med. Aug: 11(4): 431-442

6. Drexel H, Aczel S, Marte T, et al.: Is atherosclerosis in diabetes and impaired fasting glucose driven by elevated LDL cholesterol or by decreased HDL cholesterol? Diabetes Care 28:101-114, 2005.

See also:

7. DeFronzo, R Ferranini, E. Insulin Resistance - a multifacted symdrome reponsible for NIDDM, obesity, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. Diabetes Care. 1991; 4(3):173-94

Zavoroni, I: et al. Risk factors for coronary artery disease in healthy persons with hyperinsulinemia and normal glucose tolerance. The New England Journal of Medicine. 1989; 32:702-6 See also: Lowering blood sugar can reduce your risk of heart disease

8. Executive Summary of the 3rd REport of the US National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) - Adult Treatment Panel II (ATP II);

9. US Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Factbook 2001-2002, chapter 2, Profiling food consumption in America

10. Jacob et al. 1999. Oral administration of RAC-alpha lipoic acid modulates insulin sensitivity in patients with type-2 diabetes mellitus: a placebo-controlled pilot trial. Free Radic Bio Med. 27(3-4):309-314

11. Storlien et al. 1987. Fish oil prevents insulin resistance induced by high-fat feeding in rats. Science. 237(4817):885-888