Insulin resistance is often a precursor to type 2 diabetes. Many people who develop the condition may not know they have it, as insulin resistance symptoms can go unnoticed.
Type 2 diabetes is a serious metabolic illness that compromises your body’s ability to process sugar, which converts to glucose in the blood. By reversing the effects of insulin resistance, you can avert the debilitating side effects of type 2 diabetes that include amputations, heart disease, blindness, tooth decay, stroke, and death. Furthermore, diabetes aggravates other ailments and impedes your body’s natural ability to heal itself.
There are 1.5 million newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes cases that occur each year in the United States. In recent years, new diabetes cases have increased exponentially in other countries that consistently had far fewer incidents of the illness in the past. So stave the type 2 diabetes wave. Learn the dire importance of taking control of your health now. Maintaining a passive approach to health could spell disaster in the short term, as well as the long term.
In your quest to prevent type 2 diabetes, it is important to understand the risk factors and causes of insulin resistance.
What Is Insulin Resistance
Insulin resistance is a condition in which your body develops a resistance to the hormone insulin. As a result, blood sugar levels may increase, putting you at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
Beta cells of the pancreas produce the vital metabolism-regulating hormone insulin, which helps facilitate crucial cell absorption of glucose that derives from sugars we consume from food and beverages. When beta cells detect high glucose concentrations in the blood, they release insulin, and cells burn the absorbed glucose, rather than body fat, for energy.
Chronically high concentrations of sugar in the blood can cause your body to become less sensitive to the presence of insulin in the blood. If this happens, cells do not absorb the excess glucose and blood sugar levels remain high. Prediabetes, or abnormally high sugar levels, and poor insulin metabolic activity are the early stages of type 2 diabetes.
Aside from seeing your doctor on a regular basis and undergoing blood screenings to test blood sugar levels, closely monitoring your sugar intake and exercising consistently are a few of the best ways to keep insulin resistance and other diabetes complications in check.
Insulin Resistance Symptoms
The American Diabetes Association estimates that nearly 70% of people with prediabetes and insulin resistance will suffer type 2 diabetes. Take action to prevent your risk of developing type 2 diabetes if you or your medical practitioner notice any of these 8 insulin resistance symptoms.
#1 High Blood Sugar
A blood sugar test administered by your doctor should reveal if you have abnormally high blood sugar levels. Most people who suffer high blood sugar levels also have high insulin levels. This is especially true for overweight and obese patients. High blood sugar is perhaps one of the most serious causes of insulin resistance. A test that detects blood sugar levels may also detect insulin levels.
#2 High Blood Pressure
Maintaining the integrity of the arterial wall structure is another key function of the hormone insulin. A decrease in insulin in the blood may compromise arterial wall strength and lead to hypertension, or elevated blood pressure in the arteries. A urine test (urinalysis), blood test, cholesterol test, and electrocardiogram analysis—a test that monitors electrical activity in the heart—help to determine high blood pressure.
#3 Unusual Weight Gain
Insulin resistance is strongly linked to the formation of fatty cells in the abdominal region, in particular. These fatty cells release a hormone in both males and females that is suspected to trigger insulin resistance. It may also be difficult for you to lose weight if you suffer insulin resistance.
#4 High Cholesterol Levels
Blood work that reveals high “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and low “good” high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is of particular concern. Diabetes tends to elevate LDL cholesterol, which may harden arteries and lead to heart disease, as it lowers HDL cholesterol, which works to carry cholesterol in the body to the liver for removal.
#5 Frequent Dizzy Spells
A constant inability to focus or frequent dizzy spells may be due to insulin malfunction effects on the brain. Under normal conditions, insulin maintains a balanced glucose and energy environment for proper brain function. A 2014 study in the journal Current Vascular Pharmacology further highlights how insulin resistance may trigger an inflammatory response in the hypothalamus region of the brain, which primarily regulates metabolism. The hypothalamus contains cells that are normally very sensitive to the presence of insulin. An insensitivity to insulin impairs hypothalamic, and therefore brain, function.
If you are used to eating sugary and starchy foods, you may feel sleepy most of the time. When you first start consuming foods with a high glucose level, you may experience a brief spurt of energy, or “sugar high,” followed by fatigue and hunger. But regularly inundating your body with these foods over time may cause your body’s cells to build resistance to the insulin it produces in response to high blood sugar levels. Spikes in blood sugar cease to have the same effect on you, and you may start to feel lethargic more often.
#7 Craving Sugary and Starchy Foods
If the only foods that excite you are loaded with sugars and starches, you may be experiencing insulin resistance. Your insensitivity to high glycemic foods may increase your tolerance for large amounts of sugar in one meal sitting. Food loaded with sugar and preservatives often lack essential nutrients, like fiber, that satisfy hunger naturally. You can develop a dangerous addiction to foods that provide an acute high, but little nutritional value.
#8 Unexplained Hunger
Insulin acts to lower blood sugar, which may induce hunger. Ghrelin and leptin are two other hunger-regulating hormones. Experiencing constant hunger, especially only a few hours after eating a meal, is a sign for insulin resistance. Extreme fluctuations in blood sugar from very high levels to very low levels, which may be due to surges in insulin, may lead to intense hunger sensations.
Causes of Insulin Resistance
Obesity is the most common cause of insulin resistance. Poor diet choices and a lack of exercise are common preventable causes of insulin resistance. Other causes include cellular dysfunction, pre-existing disease, genetic (inherited) factors, and certain medications, like protease inhibitors in HIV drugs that may impair insulin activity.
Age-related insulin resistance has been linked with an increase in excess body weight that may occur over a person’s lifespan. Women who have experienced gestational diabetes are at risk for developing insulin resistance as well. Insulin resistance occurs in most serious illnesses and after injury.
Reverse Insulin Resistance
If you are overweight, the most effective way to reverse insulin resistance is to lose weight. A loss of just 5 pounds can normalize glucose metabolism for at least a while, although sustained reversal of insulin resistance requires lowering body weight to a relatively normal value.
If you suffer ailments that require you to take medications that may compromise your sensitivity to insulin, such as some antiretrovirals or hormone therapies, there may be alternatives. Insulin resistance may be a side effect for certain drugs and supplements, so speak with your physician especially if you exhibit other risk factors for metabolic disorders like diabetes.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids and Insulin Resistance
Leucine, isoleucine, and valine are the dietary branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). They are all essential amino acids, meaning they cannot be produced in the body, and are therefore required in the diet. The value of the BCAAs, along with the six other essential amino acids, as nutrients is unarguable (the term essential should be the tip-off). However, there is some controversy regarding BCAAs and insulin sensitivity.
Insulin resistance elevates the blood concentrations of BCAAs. Some have interpreted this to mean that BCAAs contribute to the development of insulin resistance. However, it is well-established that taking amino acid supplements that contain BCAAs reduces insulin resistance. This has proven to be the case when leucine is given alone or with other essential amino acids or in the context of a balanced mixture of essential amino acids, as evidenced by a study published in the Journal of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Obesity and a study published in the American Journal of Cardiology.
The apparent dichotomy between elevated BCAA plasma concentrations with insulin resistance and the ability of nutritional supplements containing BCAAs to improve insulin sensitivity, is best interpreted as elevated BCAA levels being a symptom of insulin resistance rather than a cause. For this reason, supplementing daily with a balanced mixture of essential amino acids containing all the BCAAs will provide short-term benefits for insulin resistance and long-term benefits for increased muscle mass and improved metabolic health.