Insulin Resistance

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: Robert Ferry Jr., MD

    Robert Ferry Jr., MD

    Robert Ferry Jr., MD, is a U.S. board-certified Pediatric Endocrinologist. After taking his baccalaureate degree from Yale College, receiving his doctoral degree and residency training in pediatrics at University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA), he completed fellowship training in pediatric endocrinology at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

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Lifestyle changes (diet, weight loss, exercise)

Insulin resistance can be managed in two ways. First, the need for insulin can be reduced. Second, the sensitivity of cells to the action of insulin can be increased.

The need for insulin can be reduced by altering the diet, particularly the carbohydrates in the diet. Carbohydrates are absorbed into the body as they are broken up into their component sugars. Some carbohydrates break and absorb faster than others; these are referred to having a high glycemic index. These carbohydrates increase the blood glucose level more rapidly and require the secretion of more insulin to control the level of glucose in the blood.

Examples of carbohydrates with a high glycemic index that rapidly raise blood glucose levels include:

  • Unrefined sugars (such as fruit juice and table sugar)
  • White bread
  • Unrefined corn and potato products (like bagels, mashed potatoes, doughnuts, corn chips, and French fries)

Examples of foods with a low glycemic index include:

  • Foods with higher fiber content (such as whole grain breads and brown rice)
  • Non-starchy vegetables (like broccoli, green beans, asparagus, carrots, and greens)

Since foods are rarely eaten in isolation, it can be argued that the glycemic index of each food is less important than the overall profile of the whole meal and associated drinks.

Several studies have confirmed that weight loss - and even aerobic exercise without weight loss - increase the rate at which glucose is taken from the blood by muscle cells as a result of improved sensitivity.

Two important studies have assessed ways to prevent type 2 diabetes. Both assessed patients who could not control their blood glucose levels, which, for the purposes of this discussion, can be considered the same as patients with insulin resistance. One study, performed in Finland, showed that changes in diet and exercise reduced the development of type 2 diabetes by 58%. The Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) study performed in the US, showed a similar reduction in type 2 diabetes with diet and exercise.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/25/2016
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