Insulin Resistance: Everything you need to know about it!

5 min read

Coming from a diabetic family, you grow up knowing you were going to get it too. Somehow, the answers you get from your parents, grandparents – people who suffer from diabetes , or even doctors don’t settle your building curiosity. While researching on the symptoms a pre-diabetic (which could be me), out of the blue came across something called ‘Insulin Resistance (IR)’. Over the years, researches slowly emerged out relating ‘Insulin Resistance’ not only to Diabetes or PCOS, but also with Cardio Vascular Diseases, Hypertension, Central Obesity etc.

Which is why we will kick start our diabetes series with this very topic, “Insulin Resistance”!


What is Insulin?

What is Insulin Resistance?

Causative Factors

Signs And Symptoms

Interesting Association with MOST lifestyle disorders!

What is Insulin?

Insulin! Most of us have heard of it but not every single one of us actually know what it is and what it does. It is a hormone secreted by the cells in the pancreas that reduce our blood sugar levels. We locally, use the term as it is popularly associated with the Lifestyle, Degenerative Disease called Diabetes


Mechanism of Insulin's Action


Mechanism of Insulin:

Digestive enzymes in our body breakdown the Complex compounds of long chain Carbohydrates into the simpler forms of short chain Carbohydrates, ultimately to Single unit sugar called Glucose. This glucose enters into the blood and Insulin absorbs them into the cells.

Insulin when latches onto insulin receptors, it sends a signal/stimulus to glucose receptors that are present on outer surface of cells. And after receiving the stimulus from insulin, the Glucose receptors creates a pathway/ bridge for the glucose to enter into the cell and perform its function.

But over few years, the body fails to maintain this mechanism due to Lifestyle changes(could be many reasons) and doesn’t respond to the Insulin signals to absorb Blood glucose, and shows ‘Resistance’ to it. This Resistance is called Insulin Resistance.


What is Insulin Resistance?

Insulin Resistance (IR) – A resistance to the Effect of Insulin’s Functionality. So, we understand in Lay terms that, it stops, reduces, inhibits the effect of Insulin produced or injected in our body. Watch this video that explains IR in simple terms.

Watch from start till 1:30, only.


 Imagine, a new mall has opened in your locality. People visit to discover the mall for its shops, food, events, exhibitions etc. They have to commute through the Elevator to different floor for their shopping experience. They use their Insulin Swipe card which signals the lift man to halt at their particular floor. The Elevator man welcomes and guides them into the elevator and lands them at their respective floors. Soon, the mall gains a lot of popularity, more people visit the mall for shopping. Although over the years, the Mall manager (You) neglected the maintenance and repairs of the mall’s infrastructure and also shown disregard to its employees, requested many overtime with no additional bonuses.

On a rainy day, the mall received a lot of people for an ongoing sale. Because of the constant neglect, the Circuit Board of one of the lift breaks down and keeps customers waiting. Agitated more and more people swipe their card to call the lift but it doesn’t initiate the lift to halt at their floor!

So, The people using the elevator are the glucose in our blood and the elevator their Glucose channel receptor. Due to damaged circuit board (Signals), the constant swiping does not halt  the Elevator. This could be due to many reasons like the ill-maintenance of the lifts system, overuse of the lift, monsoon damages, or even neglect of the employees! 😛


Causative Factors

There are several proposed mechanism for the cause of IR but scientifically there is no settling evidence yet.

Currently, the etiology of IR is connected to the following:

  1. High Consumption of Refined Carbohydrates: Sudden increase in Blood Sugar levels needs more insulin to absorb it. This agitates the pancreas to work overtime and body frequently experiences big fluctuations in the insulin level.


Looking to manage amount of carbs in diet? Read, Carbohydrate Counting Made Easy!



  1. High consumption of Fatty foods: This elevates the Free-Fatty acid/ Free radicals to circulate in our blood, which can have damaging effects to the receptor cells and change their molecular structure.   Moreover, oils that are filtered, double filtered – popularly called refined oils or even hydrogenated fats – vanaspati (Daldas), Margarine, Trans fats  are a further threat.




  1. Obesity/ Overweight: We are aware of the side-effects of abdominal obesity and its risky portal to various other complications. Visceral or abdominal fat is seen to increase IR by 80%. And excessive weight also puts a pressure on your internal organs increasing their organ tension.







  1. Inadequate rest/Sleep: Sleep regulates our hormonal balances and provides a recovery period for our body to re-function. Inadequate sleep for just one day has seen to have more detrimental effects than just eating high fat foods over a period of 6 months.





  1. Lack of Physical activity: The direct importance of this is unknown. But physical activity increases your body to take up glucose from blood, thereby reducing IR. Usually, the first 3 days of exercise, glucose by-passes most resistance and is ecstatically absorbed into the cells. Also, consistent, exercise for as less as 30 minutes a day, along with maintain balances Diet reduces IR condition.




  1. Genetic disorders: This is very rare, but females with certain genetic traits show many androgenic characteristics (male like characters). However, if you have a dominating family history of Diabetes, PCOS, CVD, Fatty liver etc. due to lifestyle changes or age, there is expression of IR-genes in your body.




Unfortunately there are no accurate Lab tests which diagnose the amount of Insulin Resistance. However, there are some test that quantify the amount of Insulin and the Glucose present in blood.

Suggested Read:Gestational Diabetes: 3 things your Dietitian wants you to know…


Early Signs and Symptoms you can Look out for

  1. Intermittent hunger and intense hunger pangs every 2-3 hours.
  2. Excessive thirst.
  3. General lethargy, tiredness, in spite of proper rest and sleep.
  4. Physical tension, tension near the abdominal area.
  5. Irritability, Moodiness, Brain fog.
  6. Acanthosis Nigricans- Velvety black patches/darker skin under your arms, elbows, all joints, ankles, groins, knuckles, soles of feet etc.
  7. Frequent Urination.

Did you know Insulin Resistance can cause hair loss?? Read, Receding Hairline, Diet, and Insulin: the Surprising Hair Loss Link

Interesting Association with Most Diseases

If you suffer from Cardio-Vascular Diseases, Hypertension, Impaired Clotting mechanisms, Fatty Liver, Arthritis, Renal diseases etc. Insulin Resistance now is slowly being correlated as one of the causative factors in the development and progression of all these (including Diabetes!)

Let’s correlate how and find out how –

If the glucose in your blood is constantly unabsorbed, the body squeezes your pancreas to perform more. In spite of it producing Insulin, if the cells remain unresponsive, all the excess glucose is converted as fat and stored in your liver.

Overload of fats in your liver causes Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver, can also mean an increased fat bodies- triglycerides, LDL, VLDL, Free-Fatty acids bodies in your blood, signs for the possibility for heart disease.

This also, agitates inflammatory responses; similar to arthritis produces by the fat cells itself (Adipokines chemicals). Which further curbs Insulins action, causing even more damage!

Also, Hyperinsulineamia (increased insulin in blood) is directly associated with retention of water and salt (Na+) in your body, which in long term could cause Hypertension/Portal Hypertension too.

Inabile to absorb the excess glucose, the body makes an attempt to throw it out via urination – like in Diabetes, hence there can be an excessive Urinary output of not only Glucose but also toxic Body Metabolites due to the above reasons causing trouble to your kidneys.

Coming Up:-

Check out the upcoming Blog Parts to combat/reduce this Resistance through just Regular Exercise and Balanced Nutrition. Also, read on for unique foods- spices, recipes, improved sleeping patterns, relaxation techniques that would prevent you from increasing complications.

Do send a feedback by commenting below, and stay tuned for more.

Poorvi Anandan, Nutritionist

Poorvi Anandan, Nutritionist

A Nutrition and Food Science grad, Poorvi is currently pursuing her Master's Degree in the same. She believes that a way to a better health both is through one's stomach :) She is on a quest to find out the innate wisdom of Intuitive Eating and also propagates it. She strongly believes, health is a holistic concept than just changes made in a Diet plan. Although she is not into cooking, she enjoys developing recipes and enjoys experimenting. But, mostly likes to be fed :P

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