What is Insulin Resistance? Basic Facts and Tips for Prevention

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Insulin resistance results when a person’s body cannot properly use insulin. This condition has been linked with metabolic syndrome, pre-diabetes, and diabetes as well as many other related health conditions. Any age can be affected by insulin resistance.

According to the American Diabetes Association’s Diabetes Care article by Patrick M. Catalano et al entitled “Fetuses of Obese Mothers Develop Insulin Resistance In Utero” even unborn babies of obese women are more likely to be insulin resistant in utero.

Unborn babies of obese women are more likely to be insulin resistant in utero – image by babycenter.com

What Happens When Someone Has Insulin Resistance?

Insulin is a hormone naturally produced by the pancreas. The digestive system can convert foods and drinks into glucose, which is also called blood sugar. This sugar travels in the bloodstream until enough insulin is produced to pull this blood glucose into the cells where it can provide energy for the body.

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This sugar travels in the bloodstream until enough insulin is produced – image by spirit-pharmacy.co.uk

With insulin resistance, the body produces insulin, but many of the body’s cells, such as those in the liver, muscles, and fat, do not respond to the demand for insulin properly. More insulin is needed as blood sugar levels rise. Eventually, the pancreas simply cannot produce enough insulin to keep up with the higher blood glucose levels, which results in higher than normal levels of blood glucose and insulin together.

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Insulin resistance definition – image by quora.com

Higher than normal glucose levels may result in a diagnosis of pre-diabetes or diabetes. In 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimated that approximately 25% of American adults 20-years-old and over had pre-diabetes, which is also known as impaired fasting glucose or impaired glucose tolerance.

What are the Symptoms of Insulin Resistance?

Unfortunately, insulin resistance and pre-diabetes typically have no symptoms. Many people have these conditions for years and do not realize it. People who have pre-diabetes are likely to develop type 2 diabetes within ten years unless lifestyle changes are made and consistently kept.

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Insulin resistance symptoms – image by verywellhealth.com

According to the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC) article entitled “Insulin Resistance and Pre-diabetes,” a few people who have insulin resistance may develop dark patches or circles on the skin, called acanthosis nigricans. Some of the more common areas that these darkened areas may appear include the:

  • Neck
  • Armpits
  • Elbows
  • Knuckles
  • Knees
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Acanthosis nigricans – image by aocd.org

What are the Risks of Insulin Resistance?

According to the above NDIC article, risks for insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, and diabetes are increased by many lifestyle habits and conditions such as having:

  • ” that covers a wealth of information related to diabetes and metabolic syndrome, including fast facts, barriers to effective treatment, link between Agent Orange and diabetes, and prevention of diabetes complications.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact a doctor for advice


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