Insulin is an important hormone that controls many processes in the body. It is made by the pancreas. It allows our body to use sugar (glucose) from carbohydrates in the food that we eat for energy or to store glucose for future use. Insulin helps keeps your blood sugar level from getting too high (hyperglycaemia) or too low (hypoglycaemia).
The cells in our body and brain need sugar for energy. However, sugar cannot go into most of our cells directly. After we eat food and our blood sugar level rises, cells in our pancreas (known as beta cells) are signalled to release insulin into our bloodstream. Insulin then attaches to and signals cells to absorb sugar from the bloodstream. Insulin is often described as a “key” which unlocks the cell to allow sugar to enter the cell and be used for energy.
The excess sugar from our food, insulin helps store it in our liver and releases it when our blood sugar level is low or if we need more sugar between meals or during physical activity. Therefore, insulin helps balance out blood sugar levels and keeps them in a normal range. As blood sugar levels rise, the pancreas secretes more insulin.
Insulin Resistance is a term that is used to describe when our cells stop responding to insulin as it supposed to be. If our body does not produce enough insulin (i.e. Type1 diabetes) or our cells are resistant to the effects of insulin (i.e. Type 2 diabetes), we may develop hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar), which lead to many health disorders and long-term complications if the blood sugar levels stay elevated for long periods of time. Insulin Resistance is the main cause of type 2 diabetes. 9% of people worldwide develop type 2 diabetes from Insulin Resistance (World Health Organization, 2017).
The incidences of insulin resistance continue to grow. In the USA 32.2 % of the population may be insulin resistant according to a study in 2002 (Ioannou, Bryson, & Boyko, 2007).
Another study involving 126 overweight and obese women found 89 of them (70.6%) was diagnosed with insulin resistant (Kocełak, Chudek, & Olszanecka-Glinianowicz, 2012).
Insulin Resistance is a health disorder caused mainly by dietary issues. Therefore a change in your diet and lifestyle will eventually prevent the progression and other diseases connected to insulin resistance. Stay active and adopt a Low-Carb diet can reduce and normalize our blood sugar levels and resistance to insulin.
Signs and symptoms of Insulin Resistance
There are several ways how to determine if we are insulin resistant. For example, having high fasting insulin levels is a good sign of insulin resistance.
A test called Homeostatic model assessment (HOMA) is a method for assessing β-cell function and insulin resistance (IR) from basal (fasting) glucose and insulin or C-peptide concentrations is fairly accurate.
There are also ways to measure blood sugar control more directly, such as an oral glucose tolerance test, where you are given a dose of glucose and then your blood sugar levels are measured for a few hours.
If you are overweight or obese, and especially if you have large amounts of fat around the belly area, then chances are very high that you are insulin resistant.
Having low HDL (“good” cholesterol) levels and high blood triglycerides are two other markers that are strongly associated with insulin resistance (Bonora et al., 1998).
Sources of Glucose
The main source of sugar is from carbohydrate. In our daily diet, we have many different foods which we combined into a dish. Most combination contains carbohydrate, protein, and fat. The amount of each in the food affects how quickly our bodies change that food into glucose.
- Carbohydrate: bread, rice, pasta, vegetables, fruit, sugar, yoghurt, and milk.
- Our bodies change 100 percent of the carbohydrate we eat into glucose.
- This affects our blood sugar levels quickly, within an hour or two after eating
- Protein: fish, meat, cheese, and nuts.
- Our bodies change some of the protein we eat into glucose.
- Most of this glucose is stored in our liver and not released into our bloodstream.
- Eating protein usually has a very little impact on blood sugar.
- Fat: Includes butter, salad dressing, avocado, olive oil, vegetable and seeds oil and animal derivates fats.
- We turn less than 10 percent of the fat we eat into glucose.
- The glucose from fat is absorbed slowly and it won’t cause an immediate rise in blood sugar.
- A high-fat meal can affect how fast our bodies digest carbohydrate.
- Fat slows down the digestion of carbohydrates, therefore, it also slows down the rise in blood sugar levels.
- A high-fat meal can cause a high blood sugar level several hours after eating.
Bonora, E., Kiechl, S., Willeit, J., Oberhollenzer, F., Egger, G., Targher, G., … Muggeo, M. (1998). Prevalence of insulin resistance in metabolic disorders: the Bruneck Study. Diabetes, 47(10), 1643–1649.
Ioannou, G. N., Bryson, C. L., & Boyko, E. J. (2007). Prevalence and trends of insulin resistance, impaired fasting glucose, and diabetes. Journal of Diabetes and Its Complications, 21(6), 363–370. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jdiacomp.2006.07.005
Kocełak, P., Chudek, J., & Olszanecka-Glinianowicz, M. (2012). Prevalence of metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance in overweight and obese women according to the different diagnostic criteria. Minerva Endocrinologica, 37(3), 247–254.
World Health Organization. (2017). WHO | Diabetes. Retrieved March 7, 2018, from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs312/en/