What is Insulin Resistance?
Reduced Insulin Sensitivity of Body Cells

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What is Insulin Resistance?

Insulin resistance (also called Insulin Resistance Syndrome) means your cells have become less sensitive to the effects of insulin, the hormone secreted by the pancreatic gland which helps glucose (from food) to enter cells where it is turned into energy. This provokes the pancreas to over-compensate by working harder and releasing even more insulin.

In simple terms, this combination of insulin-resistance and insulin over-production leads to two common outcomes: diabetes, or obesity combined with high cholesterol and increased rates of heart disease.

What are the Consequences of Insulin Resistance?

The condition of insulin insentivity known as insulin resistance commonly leads to two possible outcomes:

(1) The pancreas gets worn out and insulin production slows down to abnormally low levels. Result? You develop type 2 (adult onset) diabetes. Evidence suggests that insulin resistance leads to type 2 diabetes in about 30 percent of cases. Or:

(2) The insulin-resistant patient doesn't develop diabetes (because the pancreas continues to produce adequate amounts of insulin) but, instead, suffers from abnormally high levels of insulin in the blood (hyperinsulimia), which can cause chronic obesity as well as high blood pressure, high levels of triglycerides, low HDL (good) cholesterol, heart disease, and possibly some cancers.

What Causes Insulin Resistance?

Research into insulin resistance, hyperinsulimia and the other cluster of symptoms (eg. raised cholesterol, heart disease and type 2 diabetes) associated with Metabolic Syndrome X, has yet to determine the precise cause(s) of these conditions.

Although insulin resistance is believed to be largely hereditary, the main issue is why some people who are genetically predisposed to the condition go on to develop diabetes or increased rates of heart disease, while others do not.

The answer appears to be a combination of lifestyle factors. Research indicates that insulin resistance is aggravated by obesity and physical inactivity both of which are increasing in the U.S. Over-consumption of high-glycemic index foods is also an important factor. To what extent these factors cause insulin resistance, or are caused by insulin insensitivity is not yet known.

What are the Symptoms of Insulin Resistance?

There are no outward physical symptoms of insulin resistance. A glucose-tolerance test, which measures insulin and blood-glucose, can help verify if a person is insulin resistant. But many people who are insulin resistant produce large enough quantities of insulin to maintain near normal blood-glucose levels.

Diagnosis of Insulin Resistance

Medically speaking, insulin resistance is diagnosed when three of the following elements are present:

  • Intra-Abdominal obesity as measured by waist circumference:
    Men - Greater than 40 inches; Women - Greater than 35 inches
  • Blood HDL cholesterol:
    Men - Less than 40 mg/dL; Women - Less than 50 mg/dL
  • Fasting blood triglycerides greater than or equal to 150 mg/dL
  • Blood pressure greater than or equal to 130/85 mmHg
  • Fasting glucose greater than or equal to 110 mg/dL

How to Improve Insulin Resistance?

People who are predisposed to insulin resistance, or those who suffer from a lesser form of insulin insensitivity, can help alleviate the problem by taking positive action, as follows:

  • Follow a balanced healthy diet plan, which follows the guidelines as contained in the Low Glycemic Index Pyramid. In general, this entails reducing your intake of refined carbs and sugary foods, while upping your intake of healthy carbs from fruits, vegetables and beans. Good quality monunsaturated fats, lean protein and lower-fat dairy foods are also valuable elements in the diet. Data from the Insulin Resistance Atherosclerosis Study suggests that cutting back on refined grains and eating more whole grains in their place can improve insulin sensitivity.
  • Introduce regular physical exercise into your daily lifestyle. Gradually build up to 30-45 minutes of physical exercise per day.
  • For best results, consult your doctor before embarking on any dietary or fitness program.

News and Research into Insulin Resistance

Research into the causes, symptoms and treatment of insulin resistance is ongoing and likely to lead to more discoveries in the whole area of diet, obesity and exercise, before very long. Bookmark this site now for further news about insulin insensitivity.

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