What is insulin resistance and why is it important?
Insulin resistance happens when the cells in your body stop responding well to the insulin in your bloodstream. Insulin is a hormone that acts like a key to let the glucose into a cell. This is going to be the first in a series of posts looking at insulin resistance and how it can be reduced or even reversed.
We tend to develop insulin resistance as we get older and the tell tale sign that you might be insulin resistant is a thickening of the waist line. If you find that you are putting on weight and building up fat around the abdomen. As a guide a waist measurement above 31.5 inches or 80 cm if you are a woman, 37 inches or 94 cm if you are a man indicates possible insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance is a risk factor for a lot of the lifestyle diseases that we read about in the news: diabetes and obesity are the two best known but there are also links with cardiovascular disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and more.
What insulin does
Insulin is a hormone, produced by the pancreas, that is needed to get blood sugar (glucose) into the cells in our body. Once it is in a cell the glucose is taken to the mitochondria and used to make energy. Because glucose is water soluble it can travel quite easily in the blood. The outside of cells are made of fat (cholesterol and other lipids) which means that insulin is essential to get the glucose into the cell. Without insulin the glucose cannot get through the cell wall as glucose does not dissolve in fat.
As we age cells become resistant to insulin. It’s a bit like shouting at a toddler. The first time you shout – it works! After a while though the toddler gets used to being shouted at and you have to shout even louder to have an effect. Eventually the toddler just ignores you as a bit of background noise.
It’s like that with the cells but the problems are not just limited to a lack of glucose in the cells. Glucose in the bloodstream is toxic. Glucose in the bloodstream can cause permanent damage to the body.
The body has to convert glucose into fat (triglycerides) and get it out of the way quickly to prevent damage. Fat is removed to the fat cells for safe storage. This is why insulin resistance gives you a large waist.
What to do if you have insulin resistance
Always talk to your GP about any concerns that you may have.
Insulin resistance responds well to health and lifestyle changes:
- discover the right foods for you
- increase the amount of fibre in your diet
- experiment with timing and size of your meals
- eat more slowly
- drink more water
- reduce stress
- get enough sleep