Is Insulin Resistance a Defense Against Low-Grade Bacterial Infection?
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist
Researchers have demonstrated for the first time that insulin helps play a protective role against the toxicity of bacterial infection1. This new angle on insulin function suggests that many people with insulin resistance may have elevated insulin due, at least in part, to fighting low-grade bacterial infections in their digestive tract or mouth. In other words, it may be bacterial infection and not just dietary problems that is causing people to become type 2 diabetic and develop the metabolic syndrome.
The actual study exposed healthy individuals to an injection of bacterial endotoxin (also known as LPS or lipopolysaccharide). This endotoxin is released from the cell membrane of gram-negative bacteria, inducing a large inflammatory response with consequent free radical damage. In large amounts it is why individuals are injured or can die from septic shock. The research was suggesting that doctors could use an infusion of insulin during septic shock to help treat this life-threatening condition – which appears to be true.
My interest in the story is that individuals in poor metabolic health are known to have higher-than-baseline circulating levels of bacterial endotoxin, reflecting ongoing digestive imbalance, gum infections, or some other type of low-grade chronic bacterial problem. This study suggests that an elevated insulin level may actually be helping a person combat the toxicity of a low-grade infection. Previously, it has been shown that LDL cholesterol also performs this role (one reason why LDL can be elevated).
I have reported in recent months the findings that friendly flora can improve metabolism and lower endotoxin. I reported yesterday that antibiotics are now proven to alter the digestive tract in a way that is conducive to excess endotoxin production. Collectively, this data paints the picture that the rampant overuse of antibiotics by the medical profession is one cause of the obesity epidemic and metabolic disease.
This information also opens the door for a possible solution for stubborn metabolic problems, i.e., improving dental health, digestive health, or any other type of low-grade bacterial infection.
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