An estimated 50-70% of the United States population is insulin resistant. This is a condition that can lead to type 2 diabetes, pre-diabetes, or a host of other serious medical conditions. If you have insulin resistance, eating the wrong diet can literally be killing you slowly. Having a basic understanding of insulin resistance could save your life.
What is insulin?
Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas that plays a major role in how the body uses digested food for energy. The digestive tract breaks down sugars and starches found in many foods into glucose. Glucose (a form of sugar) enters the blood stream and combines with insulin so cells throughout the body can use it for energy.
Insulin’s role in blood sugar control
Insulin helps muscle, fat and liver cells absorb glucose from the bloodstream to lower blood sugar levels. It stimulates liver and muscle tissue to store excess glucose in the form of glycogen. Insulin also lowers blood sugar levels by reducing glucose production in the liver. When a person is healthy, these functions keep blood sugar and insulin levels balanced and within the normal range.
When a person’s muscle, fat and liver cells do not respond properly to insulin, the cells in their body cannot easily absorb glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream. Consequently, the body requires higher levels of insulin to help glucose feed the cells. This condition is called insulin resistance.
Over time, this resistance can cause excess glucose to build up in the bloodstream leading to diabetes, prediabetes, and other serious health disorders.
Should you be tested?
The American Diabetes Association recommends testing for any adult who is overweight/obese AND has one or more of the following risk factors:
- Physically inactive lifestyle
- A parent or sibling with diabetes
- African American, Alaskan Native, American Indian, Asian American, Hispanic, Latino or Pacific Island heritage
- Giving birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds
- A history of gestational diabetes
- High blood pressure
- HDL cholesterol level below 35 mg/dL, or a triglyceride level above 250 mg/dL
- A history of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- A waist measurement of more than 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women even if your body mass index is within the normal range.
Insulin resistance and pre-diabetes usually have no symptoms. You could have one or both conditions for several years without being aware of it. Should you have either of these conditions, everything you put in your mouth could have a serious long-term effect on your health.