Insulin is a hormone secreted by beta cells within the pancreatic islets of Langerhans. It is indispensable for sugar metabolism, in fact, it allows the body to use glucose for energy processes within cells, regulating its entry and use.

The term “glycemia” refers to the blood concentration of glucose, a fundamental element for the organism, since it is the essential nutrient for all cells, which take it directly from the blood.

The main source of glucose are simple and complex carbohydrates but, to a lesser extent, it can also be synthesized from proteins and lipids within the body itself.

The human body has an intrinsic regulation system that allows glycemia to be kept relatively constant throughout the day.

The regulation of blood sugar occurs by specific hormones:

hyperglycemic hormone, which raise blood sugar levels,

hypoglycemic hormones, which lower blood sugar.

Insulin is a fundamental hypoglycemic hormone because it regulates the amount of glucose in the blood and its use by the cells, thus avoiding the occurrence of the phenomenon of high blood sugar, characteristic of diabetes mellitus.

Insulin is secreted when the blood glucose level is too high with the function of lowering blood sugar by activating various metabolic and cellular processes; it works as a “key” to open the “doors” of the cells and let the sugars in.

When insulin is produced in insufficient quantities by the pancreas or the body’s cells do not respond to its presence, glucose levels will be higher than normal (hyperglycemia), thus favoring the onset of diabetes.

Specifically, we speak of type 1 or juvenile diabetes when the production of insulin by the pancreas is suppressed or greatly reduced due to the destruction of beta cells by the immune system and type 2 diabetes when a sufficient amount is not produced to meet the body’s needs (insulin secretion deficiency), or the insulin produced does not work satisfactorily (insulin resistance).


In the early stages of type 2 diabetes, an increased production of insulin is observed. The long-term increase in insulin secretion causes the body’s cells to resist its action. The cells gradually respond less and less to the stimulus of insulin to absorb glucose.

Since the cells do not respond to the insulin signal, the pancreas secretes more and more, which leads to a gradual exhaustion and a subsequent reduced production of insulin; as a result, blood glucose levels begin to rise and diabetes is diagnosed.

The first stage, which consists of the hypersecretion of insulin, is called prediabetes or metabolic syndrome.

It usually takes several years before the pancreas begins to run out and blood glucose levels rise: hyperglycemia develops gradually and is initially not severe enough to give the classic symptoms of diabetes. Diagnosis usually occurs randomly or in conjunction with a stressful physical situation, such as infection or surgery.

The risk of developing the disease increases with age, with the presence of obesity and with the lack of physical activity: this observation makes it possible to foresee “primary” prevention strategies, ie interventions capable of preventing the onset of the disease and which have their hinge in the application of an adequate lifestyle, which includes nutritional aspects and physical exercise.


In most living beings, glucose is also used to produce vitamin C; the latter has a structure similar to sugar.

Human, however, is one of the few species that does not produce the vitamin C that must inevitably obtain it from food.

White blood cells, consuming vitamin C and responsible for the body’s defense, need high concentrations of this vitamin to be able to deal with microbes and viruses.

The two molecules, glucose and vitamin C have a similar structure, so they compete with each other in our body.

What Happens When We Consume Foods High in Sugar?

Glycemia rises, glucose competes with vitamin C and prevents its entry into the cells.

One hundred grams of sugar (the amount contained in a dessert) can suppress the immune system by up to 75% for many hours.

The more sugar we consume the more insulin our body produces. High insulin levels cause our immune system to malfunction.

Modern research shows that general health and life expectancy depend on insulin values: the lower these values, the better the state of health.

Aging, predisposition to inflammation, infections, heart disease and cancer are all conditions directly related to high insulin values.

Maintaining a high blood sugar level weakens our defense capabilities and predisposes to insulin resistance, the antechamber of diabetes.

SUGARS: the food preferred by cancer cells

All complex sugars are broken down, during digestion, into the respective simple sugars (glucose, fructose, galactose…). The cells of the body, whether they are healthy or cancerous, use glucose as an energy source.

However, some research has shown that while healthy cells “burn” glucose for energy within cell organelles called mitochondria and with a process known as the Krebs cycle, cancer cells use glucose differently, through a process called glycolysis that occurs outside the mitochondria. How these two ways of using the same energy source can influence the disease (provided there is a direct influence) is still unknown and is a subject of research.

Insulin is a key hormone in the relationship between food and cancer, but it also regulates other aspects of our body’s functioning. Too much circulating insulin, for example, leads to excessive production of testosterone, the male sex hormone, in women. In addition, insulin promotes the production of a growth factor called IGF-1 which is a “fertilizer” for cells in general and in particular for cancerous ones. Some cancers, such as breast cancers, are particularly sensitive to the combined action of sex hormones and growth factors.

It is probable (and fairly sure as far as what concerns breast cancer) that a diet that is too high in sugar can promote the disease by maintaining an inflamed environment around the tumor.

However, it is certain that a reduced-sugar diet helps to hold off certain indirect risk factors both for the development of cancer and for its progression and metastasis, such as the sudden rise in glycemia linked to the consumption of high glycemic index foods and obesity.


New data reinforce the opinion that type 2 diabetes is reversible through the application of an intensive medical intervention on lifestyle and diet. In a study published in “The Lancet”, researchers compared the clinical course of patients who received drug therapy only with that of patients who combined a sudden change in diet and lifestyle with drug therapy.

The group of patients who changed their lifestyle and diet showed a significantly better picture than the group that received drug therapy alone.

After 12 months in the group of patients who changed their diet and lifestyle, the following were observed:

  • Regression of diabetes in 61% of people
  • Significant weight loss (12 kg on average)
  • Blood pressure regulation in 71% of people without antihypertensive drug therapy
  • Improvement of the quality of life
  • Reduction in the amount of drugs taken from an average of 3 at the beginning of the program to 1 at the end of the program

In the group that received only drug therapy, after 12 months the following were observed:

  • Regression of diabetes in 12% of cases
  • Weight loss three times less than in the group that combined the intensive intervention (4 kg on average)
  • Five out of 70 people experienced severe side effects from the drug and were forced into hospital
  • Increase in the amount of drugs taken from an average of 3 at the beginning of the program to 5 at the end of the program

Similar results and regression of type 2 diabetes were also achieved in other studies with lifestyle and diet interventions.

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