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Hunters vs. Farmers

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Hunters vs. Farmers

How do they fare with sugary foods?
Mark  Liponis M.D.
Mark Liponis M.D. More by this author
Sep 15, 2012 at 10:00 AM

Are you a hunter or a farmer? In his book The Hunter-Farmer Diet Solution, Dr. Mark Liponis explains how your metabolism determines whether a low-carbohydrate or a low-fat diet is best for you. You take his quiz to find out if you’re a hunter or a farmer by clicking here.

In the article below, Dr Leponis describes the effects of sugar on both metabolic types:

It’s important to understand how sugar affects Hunters and Farmers differently. Both are efficient absorbers of sugar in all its forms. Enzymes beginning with the amylase in saliva begin to break down carbohydrates into sugar before we’ve even swallowed. Then digestion continues in the stomach and duodenum with the help of gastric and pancreatic enzymes.

Simple sugars like sucrose, lactose, and maltose are released and absorbed by the lining of our small intestine, where they’re quickly cleaved for their glucose molecules for immediate energy—blood sugar.

What that means is that a bagel begins to become blood sugar in about five minutes. As digestion and absorption continue, blood sugar continues to rise. That triggers the release of insulin from the beta cells of the pancreas, which lowers blood sugar by causing our muscle and liver to soak up glucose from the bloodstream, and either use it for energy, or store it for later use as a starch called glycogen.

But here’s where we begin to see some sharp differences between Hunters and Farmers. As we’ve learned, Hunters produce much more insulin, and it has much less of an effect. The result is that blood-sugar levels are higher overall, and remain higher after a meal. Hunters may still have high blood sugar two hours after eating that bagel. The problem is that when a Hunter eats too many carbohydrates, the pancreas keeps producing more and more insulin as the blood sugar goes higher and higher, which contributes to more insulin resistance, creating a vicious cycle that inevitably ends with diabetes.

So if you give a Hunter a bagel, both blood sugar and insulin climb higher and stay higher than they would for a Farmer.

The best way to bring down that high blood sugar for a Hunter is to move around and do something physical, like go for a walk. Activity helps lower blood sugar by improving glucose uptake by the muscles. Thus, taking a walk after dinner can be the best medicine for Hunters who want to avoid diabetes.

Farmers experience a different response to sugar. Blood sugar and insulin levels also rise after eating a carbohydrate-rich meal, but much less insulin is secreted by the pancreas, and it works quicker and better, so blood-sugar levels are controlled more quickly in Farmers. The sensitive responsiveness to insulin in Farmers keeps blood sugar lower, and also brings it down faster. That responsiveness can create problems for Farmers, because they’ll be more prone to hypoglycemia—low blood sugar.

The pancreas is pretty smart and acts preemptively in controlling blood sugar. It does so by reacting not just to the glucose level in the blood, but also to how quickly the blood sugar is changing. If we eat something that quickly spikes our blood sugar because of rapid absorption, say a pack of Twizzlers or a couple of Twinkies, for example, our pancreas cranks out a boatload of insulin because it senses a rapid and looming influx of glucose that it’s going to have to deal with. So it’s proactive, trying to stay a step ahead of blood sugar.

The same is true on the way down: When glucose levels are falling, the pancreas quickly cuts its production of insulin. But because a Farmer is sensitive to the effects of small changes in insulin, that commonly produces hypoglycemia. Thus, if you give Farmers a candy bar, they’ll like it, but they’ll likely be cranky and hypoglycemic in 30 or 40 minutes.

The best remedy is first and foremost to slow down the pace of eating, which slows release of glucose and lowers insulin. Also, by avoiding large quantities of simple carbs, “reactive hypoglycemia” can be avoided. Just a bite or two isn’t usually enough to cause problems, but a handful, bowl, or plate full might be.

If you give a Farmer a bagel, he or she should put a slice of lox on it and cut it in half, so that half can be eaten now and the other half in a couple of hours. Remember, Farmers do best with small amounts of carbs at regular intervals.

About Author
Mark  Liponis M.D.
Mark Liponis, M.D., is the Corporate Medical Director at Canyon Ranch Health Resorts and has been a practicing physician for more than 20 years, including extensive experience in emergency departments and critical care units. The co-author of the Continue reading