Insulin is a hormone which is produced in the pancreas. It enables our bodies to use glucose (sugar) from the carbs we eat to give us energy or store the glucose for later use.
Insulin resistance is what occurs when the cells in our bodies resist or ignore the signals sent out by insulin, allowing sugars to remain in our bloodstream, causing high blood sugar levels. As insulin resistance develops, so the pancreas produces more insulin to try and counteract the problem. Put simply, the pancreas is put under ever increasing pressure to keep up the supply of insulin and this is when serious medical problems begin.
Figures from the USA state that 1 in 3 people suffer from insulin resistance and, for people over the age of 60, this figure increases to 1 in 2. As insulin resistance shows no symptoms in the early stages, it often goes undiagnosed until we feel unwell.
Insulin resistance is linked to many diseases including: -
- Type 2 diabetes
- Cardiovascular disease
- Cancer of the pancreas, bladder, breast, cervix, colon, prostate and uterus
- Decline of memory function, increasing the possibility of Alzheimer’s
- Overweight or obese
- High calorie, high sugar/diet
- Little or no exercise
- Long time usage of high dosage steroids
- Prolonged exposure to chronic stress
- Cushing’s disease
- Polycystic ovary disease
Ways to Improve Insulin Sensitivity
If you are overweight or obese, your first step is to lose weight. Do this by eating a balanced low calorie/low carb diet. Include plenty of exercise in your weight loss programme and ensure you get plenty of sleep. Studies from the University of New Mexico School of Medicine and the Obesity Society have shown that a combination of exercise, good quality sleep and a low calorie/low carb diet have shown insulin sensitivity improve by as much as 80%.
If you are concerned about insulin resistance, discuss it with your GP.