Insulin resistance: causes, complications and treatment methods

Monday, April 17, 2023

One of the most important warning signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes is insulin resistance. Read on to learn about the symptoms, causes and complications of insulin resistance and treatment methods:

insulin resistance

insulin resistance

What is insulin resistance?

The pancreas secretes the hormone insulin in order to help blood glucose enter muscle, fat and liver cells, in order to use it for energy.

Here’s how insulin regulates blood sugar (glucose) in the body:

  • After eating it is broken down into blood sugar.
  • After blood sugar enters the bloodstream, the pancreas releases insulin.
  • Insulin helps glucose enter the body’s cells to be used as an energy source.
  • After glucose enters the cells, its levels in the bloodstream decrease, which means insulin decreases as well.
  • Low insulin signals the liver to release stored glucose to make energy available all the time, even if you haven’t eaten for a while.

Insulin resistance or poor insulin sensitivity is when cells in the muscles, fats and liver do not respond to insulin and thus cannot easily absorb glucose from the blood.

People with insulin resistance build up a tolerance to insulin, and the hormone becomes less effective, increasing the need for more insulin to enable fat and muscle cells to take up glucose and the liver to continue to store it.

In order to help the glucose get into the cells, the pancreas produces more insulin to overcome the cells’ poor response to insulin and keep blood glucose levels in the healthy range.

Insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome leads to a range of health problems such as: obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes.

Symptoms of insulin resistance

Most people have no visible symptoms of insulin resistance. It is usually discovered during a routine health exam.

However, there are some signs of insulin resistance that a doctor will look for in a diagnosis, including:

  • Waist circumference greater than 101.6 cm in men and 88.9 cm in women.
  • The presence of dark, soft-touch skin patches (acanthosis nigricans).
  • Blood pressure of 130 over 80 or more.
  • A fasting glucose level of 100 milligrams per deciliter.
  • The level of glycated hemoglobin is between 5.7% and 6.3%.
  • A fasting triglyceride level greater than 150 milligrams per deciliter.
  • HDL cholesterol is less than 50 mg/dL in women and 40 mg/dL in men.

Causes of insulin resistance

according Centers for Disease Control and PreventionThere are no clear and specific causes of insulin resistance, but there are risk factors that contribute to its occurrence, including:

  • Family history of type 2 diabetes.
  • Weight gain (especially around the waist).
  • Lethargy and lack of physical activity.
  • Carbohydrate rich diet.
  • smoking.
  • Pregnancy diabetes.
  • Some health conditions, such as polycystic ovary syndrome and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
  • hormonal disorders.
  • Certain medications, such as: steroids and HIV medications.
  • sleep problems

Effects of insulin resistance on health

Insulin resistance leads to metabolic consequences that can adversely affect health, including: hyperglycemia, high blood pressure, obesity or accumulation of fat around the abdomen, hyperuricemia, elevated inflammatory markers, and coagulation status.

1. Diabetes

Insulin resistance can progress to type 2 diabetes, where the pancreas produces more insulin to compensate for the insulin resistance, and over time, the pancreas can no longer keep up.

Your blood sugar levels will rise until you develop prediabetes, and if you cannot control them, you will be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Your doctor will declare you to have type 2 diabetes when you get a fasting plasma glucose test result of 126 or higher.

2. Impact on cardiovascular health

Both insulin resistance and diabetes affect cardiovascular health through:

  • Cardiac dysfunction: due to an altered neurological environment that leads to changes in the metabolism and signaling pathways in the heart.
  • Heart failure: the result of changes in insulin signaling within heart muscle cells.
  • Heart stress: due to weight gain caused by insulin resistance.


Although the exact causes of PCOS are not known, there are contributing factors closely associated with insulin resistance, including:

  • Higher than normal androgen levels.
  • Overweight.
  • family history

Insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia are hallmarks of PCOS, in which hyperinsulinemia impairs ovulation and increases testosterone secretion in the ovaries.

Insulin resistance treatment

Insulin resistance cannot be completely overcome. However, there are several ways to encourage the cells of the body to accept insulin better:

1. Exercise

Physical activity is the best way to treat and improve insulin resistance in the short and long term, and to help:

  • Build muscles that can absorb glucose into the blood.
  • Reducing cells’ dependence on insulin for energy.
  • Improve blood glucose control.

2. Lose belly fat

To reduce insulin resistance, it is important to lose weight, especially the fat accumulated around the main organs, by:

  • Exercise.
  • Eating a weight-loss diet that consists of unprocessed foods and includes nuts and fatty fish (no diet is more effective, and low-fat, high-carb foods can exacerbate insulin resistance).

3. The insulin resistance diet

A proper diet keeps insulin and blood sugar under control. When you have insulin resistance, it becomes difficult for your body to burn foods for energy, and sugar builds up in your bloodstream, setting you on the path to prediabetes type 2. Here’s what you should eat:

  • Dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach.
  • Don’t overdo it on starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, peas, and corn.
  • Fruit, full of vitamins, minerals and fiber.
  • 50 grams of fiber per day, which you can find in almonds, black beans, broccoli, lentils, and oatmeal.
  • Carbohydrates, preferably from fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products, rather than white bread and pasta.
  • Whole grains that have not been converted into flour.
  • Lean proteins: skinless chicken, fish, low-fat cheese, egg whites, plant proteins.

4. Sleep

Lack of sleep causes insulin resistance, so improving sleep quality can help solve the problem, according to National Library of Medicine.

5. Medicines

There is no medication specifically designed to treat insulin resistance, but some diabetes medications can act as insulin stimulators and partially lower blood glucose.

What is the difference between diabetes and insulin resistance?

Type 2 diabetes is nothing but an extension of insulin resistance! Insulin is the vital hormone you cannot live without, as it is responsible for regulating blood sugar.

When diabetes begins, the pancreas works extra time to regulate blood sugar, and if it is unable to meet the demand here, insulin resistance develops from prediabetes to type 2 diabetes.

Within just 10 years, most people diagnosed with prediabetes end up with type 2 diabetes.

Does insulin resistance treatment reduce weight?

Some treatments for insulin resistance, such as a healthy diet and physical activity, can help reduce weight. On the other hand, there are drugs for type 2 diabetes that can improve blood sugar and reduce weight. These drugs are:

  • Glucagon-like peptide-1 agonists.
  • Sodium glucose transporter inhibitors.

Frequently asked questions that may interest you

Can insulin resistance be cured permanently?

according American Diabetes AssociationInsulin resistance cannot be completely overcome, but there are some

Ways to make the body’s cells more receptive to insulin, the best of them is physical activity.

Does insulin resistance affect the menstrual cycle?

Yes, insulin resistance can affect the menstrual cycle, making it less regular and in some cases may cause it to be lost, and the reason is the excessive production of insulin, which can indirectly affect the menstrual cycle.

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