Insulin Resistance


Insulin resistance is a physiological condition in which cells fail to respond to the normal actions of the hormone insulin.  In this disease, cells are not able to take in glucose, amino acids and fatty acids adequately, resulting in higher blood circulating blood glucose and weight gain. 


Certain cell types such as fat and muscle cells require insulin to absorb glucose.  When these cells fail to respond adequately to circulating insulin, blood glucose levels rise.  The pancreas then secretes more insulin, in response to the rising blook glucose levels, further exacerbating the insulin resistance.


High plasma levels of insulin and glucose due to insulin reistance are a major component of metabolic syndrome.  If insulin resistance exists, more insulin needs to be secreted by the pancreas (due to the higher circulating blood glucose) and if this does not occur then blood glucose concentrations increase further and type 2 diabetes occurs as a result.


Signs & Symptoms

Various signs and symptoms of insulin resistance include: high fasting blood sugar, fatigue, weight gain, fat storage, increased blood triglyceride levels, increased blood pressure, increased inflammation, depression and increased hunger.


Associated Risk Factors

Various risk factors include: a family history of type 2 diabetes, obesity, fat stored predominantly in the abdomen, a sedentary lifestyle, hypertension, high triglyceride levels, low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol, increasing fasting blood sugar, etc.



It is well known that insulin resistance commonly coexists with obesity.  Dietary fat has long been implicated as a driver of insulin resistance, with elevated levels of free fatty acids and triglycerides in the blood stream and tissues being found in many studies to contibute to diminished insulin sensitivity.  Studies have also suggested that the intake of simple sugars (and particularly fructose) is also a factor that contributes to insulin reistance (with fructose being metabolized into triglycerides by the liver).


As elevated blood glucose levels are the primary stimulus for insulin secretion and production, habitual excessive carbohydrate intake is another likely contributor.  This serves as a major motivation behind the low-carb family of diets.


If you're overweight (i.e., outside of your target weight range) then you're at risk of insulin resistance.  This is often due to systematic overeating, which has the potential to lead to weight gain and insulin resistance due to: repeated adminstration of excess levels of glucose which stimulate insulin secretion; excessive levels of fructose which raise triglyceride levels in the blood stream; and excessive fat intake which can be easily absorbed by the adipose cells and tend to end up as fatty tissue.


What We See

People who are over 40 years of age and overweight are generally at risk of developing insulin resistance.  If they lead a sedentary lifestyle (don't exercise) and they continue to overeat, then over the years their blood glucose, triglycerides, cholesterol and blood pressure begin to increase little by little (one may progress faster than the other).  By the time that they are 50 years of age (or more) many of these people will be on blood pressure medication, have elevated cholesterol / triglycerides (and may be on subsequent medication) and their fasting blood glucose will also be starting to raise to a pre-diabetic state.  Some people say that everything is fine, as their cholesterol is the only marker that is starting to increase.  This lulls them into a false sense of security that everything is fine - when it is not.  It's just the beginning.


People will often seek out intervention at this point, by modifying their lifestyle, losing some weight and increasing their exercise.  What is very common, however, is that people don't make enough lifestyle changes.  They may lose weight (but they're still overweight), they may go for regular walks (but they don't undertake enough aerobic / puffing exercise) and they still eat sugary and fatty foods (although less than they used to). 


They will often complain that they have lost some weight, but their cholesterol or sugar levels (or both) are still outside of the normal range.  A little amount of intervention is not enough to turn back the clock on insulin resistance. 


It is very common for people in mid life to be on a number of medications in an effort to decrease the risks associated with insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome (instead of treating the cause). 


If you are serious about being healthy in your mid to older age then give Pauline a call on 0498 392 632.  She can evaluate your lifestyle and risk for insulin resistance, and guide you through the necessary change. 


It is never too late to decide to be healthy, however the earlier that you start.......the more well you will be for longer.