Insulin resistance is a common term used quite frequently in the obesity medicine world. Many patients ask what these terms mean? First, let’s start with what is insulin?
Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas. Insulin helps glucose in your blood enter cells in your muscle, fat, and liver, where it’s used for energy. Glucose comes from the food you eat. When blood glucose, also known as blood sugar, levels rise after you eat, your pancreas releases insulin into the blood. The Insulin then lowers blood glucose to keep it in the normal range. Insulin that enters the fat cells is converted to fat and trapped.
What is insulin resistance?
Insulin resistance, also known as impaired insulin sensitivity, is a built-up tolerance to insulin, making the insulin hormone less effective. As a result, more insulin is needed to persuade fat and muscle cells to take up glucose and the liver to store it.
How does insulin resistance develop?
- Insulin loses its ability to support body cells effectively.
- At first, the pancreas secretes more insulin to maintain safe blood sugar levels.
- The pancreas cannot maintain the release of extra insulin to compensate for the cells’ increasing resistance.
- Consistently high levels of blood glucose develop, which can lead to prediabetes and type 2 diabetes
No one test will tell you if you are insulin resistant. Still, if you have high blood sugar levels, high triglycerides (a kind of blood fat), high LDL (bad) cholesterol, and low HDL cholesterol, we can conclude that a patient may have insulin resistance.
Did you know that lifestyle can play a role, too? For example, being sedentary, overweight, or having the disease of obesity increases the risk for insulin resistance. Why? It’s not clear, but some researchers state that extra fat tissue may cause inflammation, physiological stress, or other changes in the cells that contribute to insulin resistance.
Good news is insulin resistance completely reversible! Getting active is the best way to combat insulin resistance. Exercise can also allow the body to be more sensitive to insulin. Building muscle also helps because muscle helps absorb blood glucose.