The answer is obesity.
Insulin resistance and obesity go hand in hand. In fact, each problem makes the other worse—which is why it’s so important to lose weight if you want to reverse insulin resistance and prevent type 2 diabetes.
Avert Insulin Resistance, Prevent Diabetes
Our bodies break the food we eat down into glucose, and the beta cells in the pancreas respond by churning out insulin—a hormone that moves glucose from the blood into the cells, where it can be used for energy.
When you have insulin resistance, your pancreas makes plenty of insulin, but the cells are unresponsive to its actions. Consequently, blood sugar levels rise. As blood sugar levels increase, the pancreas—still trying to get the job done—churns out even more insulin.
The net result is that you have both elevated glucose levels and elevated insulin levels—making it very difficult to prevent diabetes.
Insulin Resistance Is Worse When You’re Overweight
Obesity simply throws fuel on the fire. Adipose tissue—otherwise known as fat, especially in the abdominal area—releases fatty acids that impair beta-cell function and insulin sensitivity. It also produces immune cells that lead to chronic, low–grade inflammation. Inflammation also increases insulin resistance and the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Fat cells also secrete hormones, including the hormone leptin. Leptin is best known for its role in appetite and energy metabolism. However, research has recently shown that it also has direct effects on insulin secretion and beta-cell growth.
How Insulin Resistance Drives Up Weight
At the same time, the high insulin levels that are characteristic of type 2 diabetes promote weight gain. That’s because insulin is the body’s primary fat-storage hormone. As it’s working to get glucose into the cells, it’s also storing fat.
So, the higher your insulin level, the greater your potential weight gain, the harder it is to prevent diabetes.
The bottom line: If you want to minimize your insulin resistance and prevent type 2 diabetes, you simply must get a handle on your weight. The diet program I find most effective with patients at Whitaker Wellness is my mini-fast with exercise program, also known as an intermittent fast. Give this eating plan a try, and get back on the road to health.
More Dr. Whitaker Advice to Prevent Diabetes