Thursday, April 9, 2009

What Is Insulin Resistance?

You may have heard the term "insulin resistance" and wonder what it means. It does not sound like a good thing, and it isn't. You probably know that insulin has something to do with diabetes, and wonder if it means you have diabetes. Let me shed some light on this and help you avoid insulin resistance, an important risk factor for heart disease.

The official definition of insulin resistance from the NIH is "a condition in which the body produces insulin but does not use it properly. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps the body use glucose for energy. Glucose is a form of sugar that is the body’s main source of energy." In other words, you have plenty of insulin being produced but there is "resistance" at the cell level from it doing its job, and your blood sugar stays high. This is the underlying cause of most type 2 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes.

Besides a high blood sugar, people with insulin resistance usually have an abnormal cholesterol pattern. They have a lower level of "good" cholesterol (HDL cholesterol) and a higher level of the "bad" cholesterol (LDL and VLDL cholesterol). This combination causes plaque to form faster in our blood vessels leading to the blockages that cause heart attacks and stroke.

While there is an important family history (genetic) component to insulin resistance, there is something that you can do to reduce or even eliminate it. The degree of insulin resistance you have is directly related to our fat cells. The more body fat, the more insulin resistance. The less body fat, that is becoming lean, the less insulin resistance. That alone is a strong motivator to lose body fat. Also, a healthy diet of less saturated fat and more vegetables, and exercise, all help to lower insulin resistance.

Hopefully you are now able to understand and explain this important concept. There is no blood test that measures insulin resistance specifically. Your doctor can estimate it presence based on your blood sugar and your cholesterol pattern. Ask about that at your next check-up.

Good source for more information:

1 comment:

Anne said...

I probably have insulin resistance. My blood sugar shoots up to over 200 when I eat a meal high in carbohydrates. I was told not to be concerned because my fasting glucose was "normal". So I got a glucometer and started eliminating foods that made my blood glucose rise. I eat lots of low carb veges, meats, fish, eggs and just a few carbs. My blood glucose looks great now. I lost 15 lbs - I am not overweight. My lipid profile has never looked better. My triglycerides went from over 300 to 85.

A low carbohydrate diet is strong medicine.