What is Insulin Resistance?

Insulin resistance (IR) has become a significant and prevalent health issue of the 21st century. It is clearly associated with an increased risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. We don’t know exactly the cause of IR but there are several factors that play a role, including genetic, biochemical and lifestyle.

Insulin resistance is a pathologic condition in which cells fail to respond to the normal actions of the hormone insulin. The pancreas then attempts to compensate by producing two to three times more insulin until it is no longer able to meet the body’s demands, and the end result is glucose levels are left unchecked and elevated. As a result, the pancreas burns out and you and diabetes occurs.

What Is Insulin, and What Role Does it Play in the Body?

  • Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas
  • It is released in response to increasing levels of blood glucose
  • Promotes the storage of energy in the form of glycogen
  • It moves amino acids from the bloodstream into muscles cells for protein synthesis
  • Promotes storage of excess fatty acids in adipocytes (fat cells)
  • Fat remains in fat cells (adipocytes) as long as insulin is present. When insulin is low, triglycerides (a type of fat) are broken down, causing fat cells to shrink and resulting in weight loss

Who Is at Risk for Developing IR?

The principal cause of IR is obesity. IR is caused by persistently high levels of insulin in blood that eventually causes the body’s sensitivity to insulin to decrease. Insulin increases in response to food selection and quantity (e.g. a diet rich in refined carbs).

Visceral (central, abdominal) fat is a serious health risk associated with insulin resistance. It is the fat in the abdomen and it wraps around the inner organs. It is thought to play a role because it produces hormones (e.g. leptin and adiponectin) that promote IR.

How is IR Managed?

IR may be managed through:

  • Correcting associated abnormalities and deficiencies such as low thyroid, low vitamin D and low omega-3 levels
  • Exercise
  • Nutrition
  • Sleep and stress reduction

At times, appropriate medications may be necessary depending on the individual.

The Key is Lifestyle Changes

To combat IR, one of the most important lifestyle changes is optimizing a healthy weight. Obesity is a common denominator between insulin resistance, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. This is in part due to the development of visceral fat.

Changing your diet, specifically decreasing the intake of carbohydrates, may reduce the need for insulin. Carbohydrates can be broken down into one of two groups: low glycemic index and high glycemic index. Those with a high glycemic index raise blood glucose levels rapidly, forcing the pancreas to produce more insulin.

Examples of food with a high glycemic index include white sugar and bread as well as unrefined corn or potato products (e.g., doughnuts, corn chips or french fries). In comparison, foods that have a low glycemic index include fibrous foods and non-starchy foods like broccoli.

In addition, adding physical activity of any kind to your daily routine (even if it’s just a daily walk) can decrease your chances of developing insulin resistance by burning glucose and keeping blood sugar levels low.

What Absolute Health Can Do for You

At Absolute Health, our experts are highly experienced in determining your risk of insulin resistance as well as its related conditions (heart disease and type 2 diabetes). As part of our advanced testing, our assessment includes a panel of biomarkers that target the early detection of insulin resistance, pre-diabetes and pancreatic beta cell strain/dysfunction (cells in the pancreas in charge of insulin production).

Following the testing and assessment phase, our professionals—including a certified nutritionist and exercise specialist—will personally sit down and work with you to create a customized treatment plan that eradicates the risk or reverses the condition for a healthy, happy you.

For more information or to schedule a consultation, contact us today.