A condition in which the hormoneinsulin is unable to do its job is called insufficiencies.

When the body breaks down food, sugar enters the bloodstream. The main source of energy in the body isglucose, which the body can use or be stored for later use.

This process goes awry when a person has diabetes.

The door to their cells can be unlocked with the help ofinsulin. That door needs to be opened in order for the blood to leave the cell, said Kimber Stanhope, a nutrition research scientist at the University of California at Davis.

Stanhope said that when people are insulin resistant, their pancreas is still making those keys, but they don't work as well as they should.

What is normal blood sugar?

In the early stages of resistance to the drug, cells ignore the signal from the drug to take in blood sugar. The blood sugar stays at a normal level because the pancreas pumps out moreinsulin. Over time, the cells stop responding to higher levels ofinsulin.

Calum Sutherland, a professor at the University of Dundee in the U.K., said that it isn't like you suddenly don't respond toinsulin. Your body loses its ability to respond toinsulin.

Blood sugar levels rise when the pancreas can't keep up.

People with persistently elevated blood sugar can be diagnosed with either prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, which can lead to a host of life-threatening consequences if left unaddressed, according to the CDC. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 96 million Americans had prediabetes in 2019. The CDC.

Causes of insulin resistance

A diagram of how insulin resistance works.

(Image credit: ttsz/Getty Images)

According to the American Diabetes Association, it is not clear what causes insulin resistance.

Being overweight or obese and having a family history of type 2 diabetes are some of the risk factors associated with being overweight or obese.

According to the ADA, some researchers think that extra fat tissue may cause inflammation, stress or other changes that contribute toinsulin resistance.

The vicious cycle is caused by weight gain and insulin resistance.

Being overweight is a risk factor for diabetes, but some people are not. About 10% to 15% of people with type 2 diabetes are at a healthy weight.

The National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse says that inactivity is a risk factor for resistance to the drug. If you're not active, you're more likely to have resistance to the drug because your muscles use more of the drug than other parts of the body. People who don't exercise often don't benefit from this effect.

According to a review article in the journal Comprehensive Physiology, people who lose muscle mass as they age are more likely to have aging related issues. Less muscle mass means less cells that can take large amounts of sugar.

Symptoms and diagnosis

Most people in the early stages of diabetes have no symptoms and no idea that they are on the path to disease. Doctors don't diagnose impaired insulin sensitivity, it's usually only measured in research studies.

We don't have a threshold where we say someone is resistant to the drug.

According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, a related condition known as metabolic syndrome includes high blood sugar, high cholesterol and high blood pressure levels and excess belly fat.

Many people don't know that they have prediabetes or type 2 diabetes when they start showing symptoms. According to the Cleveland Clinic, these symptoms include increased thirst, hunger and urination, blurred vision, and slow healing of cuts and sores.

The A1C blood test, which measures a person's average blood sugar over the preceding three months, is one of the tests doctors can order to diagnose high blood sugar.

Polycystic ovary syndrome is a hormonal disorder that can affect women of reproductive age and can be diagnosed with tests that help to diagnose other conditions associated withinsulin resistance.

Insulin resistance and diet

Our Western diet is one of the reasons for the rise in Insulin resistance. The Western diet is high in calories, refined grains and low in fiber.

Certain diet may improve insulin sensitivity, even though no single diet has shown to be most effective. A review study published in the journal Advances in Clinical and Experimental Medicine states that a diet low in simple sugars but high in fiber and complex sugars may be helpful.

The Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes eating vegetables and fruits, nuts, whole grains, fish and extra virgin olive oil, has been shown in several studies to reduceinsulin resistance.

The DASH diet, which emphasizes vegetables and fruits, low-fat dairy foods and limits sweets, has been shown to lower the risk of diabetes.

Can insulin resistance be reversed?

Metformin pills.

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

In some people, it can be possible to reverse the effects of insulin resistance.

With weight loss and fat loss, we know that the resistance to diabetes can be reversed.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, doctors may recommend eating less processedCarbohydrate and less fat, sugar, red meat and processed starches to aid weight loss.

Losing 5% to 7% of your starting weight can help reduce your chances of developing diabetes, according to the Diabetes Prevention Program. People in the study lost weight by changing their diet and being more active.

A clinical trial published in 2020 found that both high-intensity interval training and moderate physical activity increases the amount of energy used by the body.

Some people with diabetes may benefit from a drug called Metformin, which reduces the amount of blood sugar the body makes and causes the muscles and other tissues to take up more blood sugar. The results of the Diabetes Prevention Program showed that people with a history of diabetes, as well as people with a body mass index greater than 25 were more likely to benefit from the drug.

The article is only for informational purposes and is not meant to give medical advice.

Live Science contributor Natalie Grover updated the article.

Additional resources


The American Diabetes Association. Diabetes.org explains how to understand insulin resistance.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Insulin resistance and diabetes.

The Cleveland Clinic. There are diseases that haveinsulin resistance.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases is located there. The Diabetes Prevention Program is for people with diabetes. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is part of the National Institutes of Health.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is part of the National Institute of Health.

Additional reporting by Live Science contributor.

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