What is Insulin Resistance?
Insulin is a hormone. It helps your body move sugar from the blood stream into the muscles and the liver where the sugar is used as fuel or converted into fatty acids that are later moved into the fat cells and are stored as energy there.
In some people, a condition of abnormal metabolism develops that causes muscle and liver cells to not respond as readily to insulin and the body has to create higher and higher levels of insulin in order to maintain a normal blood sugar. Doctors refer the metabolic abnormality that causes escalating levels of insulin as Insulin Resistance.
Why is Insulin Resistance Important?
Insulin resistance increases the risk of medical conditions such as:
- An increase in a dangerous form of fat that builds up in our abdomen below the muscles.
- Inflammation and damage of the blood vessels (Atherosclerosis)
- Elevated blood sugar (Type II Diabetes Mellitus)
- Low HDL cholesterol levels (the good or healthy cholesterol)
- Elevated triglycerides
- High blood pressure (Hypertension)
- Heart Attacks (Myocardial Infarction).
What Causes Insulin Resistance?
Many differ things may contribute to Insulin Resistance:
- Our genetic make-up
- Weighing too much.
- Eating too many carbohydrates (sugars and starches)
- Not enough exercise
Of all of these, the most important are felt to be increased body weight, excessive carbohydrate intake and decreased exercise.
How do I know if I have Insulin Resistance?
Insulin resistance is difficult to measure by a simple blood test so doctors depend on a combination of other simple lab tests and medical conditions in order to make the diagnosis.
If one or more of the following is true for you, you may very likely have Insulin Resistance:
- Body Mass Index is equal to or greater than 29.
- Fasting blood sugar level that is higher than normal (>100).
- Your hemoglobin A1C (a long term marker for blood sugar) level is 5.6 or greater.
- Fasting triglycerides are higher that 150.
- HDL Cholesterol is less than 50 for women or 40 for men.
- You have an excessive amount of fat around your waist (> 40 inches for Men & > 35 inches for Women; measure a relaxed abdomen at the midpoint between the top of the pelvis and the lowest rib of your flank)
- One (or more) of your brothers, sisters or parents has been diagnosed with diabetes.
- A history of Diabetes during pregnancy.
- Have been diagnosed with Sleep Apnea.
- Have been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.
- Have been diagnosed with Fatty Infiltration of the Liver.
- You have a skin condition known as Acanthosis Nigricans.
Remember, these conditions listed above are simply a symptom of a much larger medical problem known as Insulin Resistance. If you believe you answered yes to any of the above you need to consider reducing your carbohydrate intake and your weight in order to prevent some of the more serious complications of Insulin resistance such as heart attacks, Diabetes and high blood pressure. Check out our Science of Hunger Weight Loss Guide for some tips on reducing your carbohydrate intake and losing weight.