Insulin resistance, metabolic defect that characterizes type II diabetes, but also present in other clinical conditions such as metabolic syndrome, is a condition characterized by a response less effective on the part of our cells to the action of insulin.
Insulin is a hormone, produced by the beta cells of the pancreas, which is essential in the metabolism of sugars. In fact, it is the insulin that allows the cells of our body to incorporate the glucose. This will be then used as energy for immediate use, or it will be stored in the form of glycogen or converted to fatty tissue.
When the release of insulin produces a less effect than expected on the cells, as in the case of insulin resistance, the pancreas tries to compensate for the lower effectiveness with an increase in the amount of insulin that is produced (hyperinsulinism). The consequence is not only an increase of the weight, but the possible onset of various diseases, including diabetes.
Let’s see in detail what are the causes of insulin resistance and also to possible treatments, both pharmacological and at the level of power and lifestyle.
What is insulin resistance?
The main task of insulin is to regulate the level of glucose in the body: this hormone is essential to not raise the level of sugar in the blood. Insulin is the main hormone responsible for the phenomenon of fattening, i.e. the storage of fat within the adipose tissue (lipogenesis).
The term insulin resistance denotes the inability of insulin to perform its function in a regular way, in fact, occurs when our cells become insensitive to its action. In summary, in the cases of insulin resistance, insulin is unable to promote normal glucose homeostasis.
Glucose is necessary to our cells to live in, and that’s why, if you get less in the cells, the body tries to compensate by producing more amount of insulin.
This increased production of insulin can compensate for the resistance of the cells only in an initial phase: the blood glucose levels remain normal. In time, when you get to an advanced stage, also, the increase in insulin is no longer able to guarantee the normal blood glucose values.
In fact, if the pancreas does not produce insulin in the correct way, or if its effect is not as effective as it should, you experience hyperglycemia, or an excess of glucose in the blood.
In this way, it is easy to understand, the condition of insulin resistance can be considered to be the antechamber of diabetes.
Insulin resistance and sugar
The causes of insulin resistance
Insulin resistance mainly affects the adult population, with higher rates for the age groups of the elderly. The causes of insulin resistance are diverse, but arise from a combination of familial predisposition and bad habits, like poor diet and sedentary lifestyle.
The insulin resistance is only one of the factors of cardiovascular risk, and may frequently be associated with other, such as:
Being obese or overweight. In particular, is a determinant of the width of the waist circumference, or abdominal obesity. Excess of fat in the abdominal area, also, is most associated with cardiovascular diseases, especially in the presence of high cholesterol.
The hypertriglyceridemia, a triglyceride level in the blood is too high.
Low levels of HDL cholesterol. The HDL cholesterol is considered good, as it reduces the chances of cardiovascular diseases. On the contrary, it low increases the risk of these diseases.
The arterial hypertension, especially when it is greater than 140/90 mmHg.
The hyperglycemia. High levels of fasting glucose can be a warning sign of diabetes. The normal values of reference blood glucose as measured by examination, and fasting, are between 60 and 110 mg/dl.
Taking steroids for long periods of time.
Having high levels of stress.
Be suffering from Cushing’s disease or polycystic ovary.
Of course, also very important is the style of food and the practice of physical activity. In fact, having a sedentary lifestyle and follow a diet high in calories, very rich in carbohydrates and sugar, can create the basis for the onset of insulin resistance.
Symptoms of insulin resistance
In an initial phase there are no symptoms for insulin resistance. As previously explained, initially, it compensates for the resistance of the cells with a higher production of insulin. However, when compensation no longer works, and the condition of hyperglycemia, you may experience symptoms such as:
- drowsiness and tiredness;
- the sense of hunger;
- difficulty concentrating;
- cardiovascular problems, such as increase of blood pressure;
- weight gain;
- high levels of bad cholesterol, the LDL.
The symptoms of insulin resistance
As previously explained, in the condition of insulin resistance of the liver cells and tissues, muscle and adipose tissue do not respond adequately to the stimulation of insulin. Thus, the cells are not longer able to absorb in the correct manner, and quick glucose. The sugars remain in the blood causing hyperglycemia, a situation that can lead to prediabetes, diabetes, and other disorders.
In the impaired fasting glucose (called prediabetes), the blood sugar is high (between 100 and 125 mg%), but the levels are not so high as to allow a diagnosis of diabetes. This condition is often the prelude to diabetes.
Diabetes, in turn, with the years, can lead to other complications, such as:
- heart disease;
- blindness;renal failure;
- amputations of the lower limbs.
Diagnosis and tests
For the diagnosis and definition of the insulin resistance and clinical conditions associated, you can perform some laboratory investigations.
The most commonly used are:
Measurement of blood glucose, usually performed in the fasted state. In some situations, it may also be carried out a glucose tolerance test (OGTT) with repeated measurements after a glucose load.
Glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c). It is a test that allows to estimate the increases of the average concentration of glucose in the 3 months prior to the test. Is carried out by measuring the percentage of glycated hemoglobin (bound to glucose) in the blood.
Lipid profile. Includes the complete measurement of triglycerides, total cholesterol, LDL and HDL.
The index HOMA (Homeostatic Model Assessment). It is a test that, on the basis of a mathematical model to calculate the insulin sensitivity by comparing the concentrations of plasma glucose and insulin fasting. In this way, you can evaluate the evolution of a possible metabolic syndrome.