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What is insulin resistance?

Insulin is a hormone produced by the beta cells of the pancreas. These cells are scattered throughout the pancreas in small clusters known as the islets of Langerhans. The insulin produced is released into the blood stream and travels throughout the body. Insulin is an essential hormone that has many actions within the body. Most actions of insulin are directed at metabolism (control) of carbohydrates (sugars and starches), lipids (fats), and proteins. Insulin also regulates the functions of the body's cells, including their growth. Insulin is critical for the body's use of glucose as energy.

Insulin resistance (IR) is a condition in which the body's cells become resistant to the effects of insulin. That is, the normal response to a given amount of insulin is reduced. As a result, higher levels of insulin are needed in order for insulin to have its proper effects, and the pancreas compensates by trying to produce more insulin. This resistance occurs in response to the body's own insulin (endogenous) or when insulin is administered by injection (exogenous).

With insulin resistance, the pancreas produces more and more insulin until the pancreas can no longer produce sufficient insulin for the body's demands, and then blood sugar rises. Insulin resistance is a risk factor for development of diabetes and heart disease.

Return to Insulin Resistance

See what others are saying

Comment from: fairlight, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: July 03

Here are all my symptoms of insulin resistance. I have dark skin in my armpit area (very weird, I am fair skinned), and serious brain fog and short term memory issues that were scaring me to death as I make a living with my brain. I am 5 ft 6 inches, 207 pounds and an apple shape. I have tingling and numbness in my limbs especially at night, arms being the worst, and extreme tiredness always. My vision is deteriorating; worse at sometimes than others. I have skin tags, thinning hair at forehead, not sleeping well and low adrenals. I am so grateful to know what has been going on. At my age (62), I have been seriously wondering how much longer I could keep working in information technology when I know I must. I am now on a low carb diet, still in beginning phases, but these things have scared me enough that I am not likely to fall off the wagon. I really hope I can reverse this. Weight is coming down, I never have been able to lose since I put all this on 15 years ago.

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Comment from: Momofjohn1, 7-12 Male (Caregiver) Published: August 18

My son was diagnosed with insulin resistance about 4 weeks ago. For the last 2 years I knew there was a problem. No matter how little he ate or how much exercise he had, he continued to gain weight. I begged his pediatrician to refer us to a nutrition class for kids at the local children's hospital. At his last physical, his doctor finally ordered blood work for him. It came back at elevated levels. This qualified him for a referral to the endocrinologist, he was diagnosed, given metformin and vitamin D3 and he now has a nutritionist. He has lost 5 pounds in the last 4 weeks! He is doing great! Fight for your children!

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Comment from: a concerned mom, 7-12 Female (Caregiver) Published: April 24

My 11-year-old daughter was diagnosed with insulin resistance a year ago. No matter how much or little she ate, she continued to gain weight. Her thyroid levels were normal, and her pediatrician blamed her for the weight gain, telling her she needed to cut out the food. He told me to put her on a 1,000 calorie a day diet! I took her to a pediatric endocrinologist who immediately diagnosed her. She's been on Metformin, and so far, she has lost about 20 cm from her waist. She has more energy, and now loves to participate in sports that were almost impossible for her to do in the past. The treatment has been life-changing for her. She knows she will have this problem for the rest of her life. The only drawback is that the Metformin makes her nauseous, and I have to make sure she takes it daily. I want to tell all parents to listen to your intuition. If you see that no matter what your child does, he/she cannot lose weight/inches, insist on blood tests. Pay close attention to the insulin, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. Don't let the pediatrician tell you it's nothing. Find a pediatric endocrinologist and have your child evaluated. You don't want to let this go untreated!

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