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Insulin Resistance

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Insulin is a protein that is produced by the pancreas. Following a meal containing carbohydrates (sugars) insulin is secreted by the pancreas in response to the increase in blood sugar. Insulin proteins then travel throughout the bloodstream and attach themselves to insulin receptors on the surface of the body’s cells. When a cell has insulin attached to its surface, the cell activates other receptors designed to absorb glucose (sugar) from the blood stream into the inside of the cell.

 

What is Insulin Resistance?

Insulin Resistance (IR) vastly reduces the insulin sensitivity of cells. As a result, higher levels of insulin are needed in the body in order for insulin to have its effects. Insulin Resistance impairs the processing of glucose in fat and muscle cells where it is stored for energy. Higher insulin levels result in:

 

  • an increase in enzyme activity that promotes the storage of fat
  • the inhibition of the hormone lipase that is responsible for breaking down stored fat into energy
  • the activation of an enzyme that is responsible for converting carbohydrates into fat

 

Thus, insulin resistance results in the body's reduced ability to use stored fat for energy, combined with an increase in body fat storage. For this reason, people suffering from insulin resistance are prone to weight gain and have an abnormally difficult time reducing body fat when dieting.

 

Effects of Insulin Resistance in the Body

Insulin resistance prevents cells in the body from being able to absorb nutrients from the bloodstream. For this reason, despite eating an adequate diet with ample calories, your body actually becomes starved for nutrients. As a result, your body becomes malnourished and people with insulin resistance will feel tired and fatigued despite a healthy diet. Increased appetite and hunger for high-energy type foods is also common because the brain recognizes that the body is not being properly nourished. This explains why many people with insulin resistance crave foods that are high in sugar and carbohydrates.

 

The long-term consequences of insulin resistance include weight gain, high cholesterol (particularly with a low level of the HDL, or “good” cholesterol), high triglycerides, high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries that often leads to heart attack and stroke, high blood sugar and at times even the adult-onset form of type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance causes Metabolic Syndrome.

 

Risk Factors for Insulin Resistance

Insulin resistance affects approximately 1 in 4 individuals in the American population. Persons who develop IR may be genetically predisposed and then accentuate the condition by eating an unhealthy diet. Other people develop insulin resistance when they are exposed to high levels of insulin for prolonged periods of time. These cases are typical in people who have consumed a diet high in refined sugars and carbohydrates for many years.

 

Treatment of Insulin Resistance

Insulin resistance can be treated with proper diet and exercise. Because of the nature of this condition, an insulin resistance diet should severely limit the amount of sugar as well as foods high in carbohydrates, including breads, pasta, potatoes, rice, cereals and alcohol. Meal sizes should be small and frequent instead of having only one or two large meals a day.


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