Insulin resistance (IR) – What is it all about?

To understand Insulin Resistance, we first have to know something about insulin

The primary roles of insulin:

  • Insulin controls blood sugar levels
  • Insulin regulates how the body uses and stores glucose and fat (anabolic)
  • Insulin is a hormone produced by the beta cells of the pancreas.

People with type 1 diabetes cannot make insulin. These people need to inject insulin to allow their body to process carbohydrates and avoid complications from hyperglycemia. People with type 2 diabetes do not respond well or are resistant to insulin. Over time, high blood sugar levels due to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes damages nerves and blood vessels, leading to complications such as heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney failure, and lower limb amputations.

We also have to know what Insulin Sensitivity means

Insulin sensitivity is how our body responds to the insulin. In other words, how well our body allows blood sugar to be absorbed by the body’s muscle cells.

In a healthy person with normal insulin sensitivity the insulin rises sharply after high sugar meal, pushing glucose into our body’s cells  and then rapidly declines.

In a person with poor insulin sensitivity, insulin’s increase is sustained due to an inability to force glucose into our body’s cells. That’s why a prediabetic or diabetic has “poor” insulin sensitivity Their system has become insensitive to insulin and poor insulin sensitivity results in, you guessed it, insulin resistance.

So finally, what means Insulin Resistance?

The body has simply become resistant to insulin. Therefore, blood sugar remains elevated and the pancreas will continue to produce more and more insulin in response to the continued elevated blood sugar. Eventually, the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin for the body’s demands.  Unfortunately, many people don’t know they have insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance and prediabetes are often seen together and precede the development of type 2 diabetes. In fact, it is much easier to diagnosis prediabetes than it is to diagnosis insulin resistance. The diagnosis of prediabetes is confirmed with a blood test. In prediabetes, blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. With a confirmed prediabetes diagnosis,  it is accepted that this person also shows an insulin resistance.

Another indicator of insulin resistance is a high HbA1c (your average level of blood sugar over the past 2-3 months. Sometimes a fasting blood sugar level can be normal, but a three month blood sugar level is elevated. So it’s prudent to have it measured both ways.

What are the potential risk factors?

  • Consuming too much refined carbohydrates
  • Being to sedentary and lack of physical activity
  • BMI > 25
  • Waist/Hip/Ratio (WHR): Male > 1 and Women > 0.85
  • Waist/Hight/Ratio: > 0.6
  • Triglycerides to high: > 1.7 mmol/l
  • HDL too low: male < 1.03 mmol/l and women < 1.3 mmol/l
  • Blood pressure too high: > 130/85
  • Fasting Glucose levels too high: > 5.6 mmol/l or > 100 mg/dl
  • HbA1c too high: > 6.5%
  • Having had gestational diabetes
  • You have ever been diagnosed with coronary heart disease, polycystic ovarian syndrome, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease or skin tags.
  • You have a family history of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure or coronary heart disease
  • > 40 years old

How to manage Insulin Resistance?

  • You might also have to consider medications (your physician will know)
  • Incorporating a healthy diet by lowering carbs, increase healthy fats and moderately consume protein. Try to limit processed foods and rely more on whole foods.
  • Increased physical activity. As little as a 30 minute walk a day can be beneficial.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Sleep enough
  • Manage and reduce stress


Having Insulin resistance  kicks your body into a pre-diabetic state, followed by full-blown type 2 diabetes with all of its complications.

But bear mind – science clearly shows – that diabetes and pre-diabetes ARE reversible, by incorporating lifestyle behavior changes in diet and physical activity and occasionally medications.

Don’t wait until your sugar is high: testing insulin resistance, pre-diabetes and diabetes as early as possible is key.

YDWKeep it up!
Ihr Youdowell Team



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  1. The relative contributions of insulin resistance and beta-cell dysfunction to the pathophysiology of Type 2 diabetes:

  2. Dr. Bernstein’s “Diabetes Solution”

  3. Role of glucose and insulin resistance in development of type 2 diabetes mellitus: results of a 25-year follow-up study: