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Insulin resistance and weight gain

Insulin is the hormone that controls our blood sugar. As the name suggests, the term insulin resistance means that your body is not responding to insulin the normal way which means the body has to fight back and produce more insulin.

Insulin resistance leading to type 2 diabetes

This process of insulin resistance puts increased demand for more and more insulin leading to what is called burnout or overuse atrophy of the part of the pancreas where insulin is produced called Islets of Langerhans. This eventually can lead to type 2 diabetes.

Can insulin resistance lead to weight gain?

Yes. Insulin is one of the most anabolic (body building) hormone known to man. Although most people think of insulin as the hormone that controls blood sugar, it is actually the hormone that not only controls blood sugar but also your weight, your cravings, hunger to large degree.

How does insulin resistance lead to weight gain?

Insulin is produced every time the body sees blood sugar, and it is the key hormone that takes up the sugar, pushes that in to the cells and the cells then either use the sugar for energy or store as fat leading to fat accumulation.

High insulin levels

Since people with insulin resistance do not respond to insulin at the normal level, they have to keep producing more and more insulin leading to over production of insulin. This high amount of insulin on the one hand controls blood sugar, but on the other hand makes it harder for the body to burn fat.

Since insulin is one of the most powerful anabolic hormones known to man, high amounts of insulin leads to significant weight gain, difficulty in burning fat even when a person needs the fat stores due to a phenomenon called metabolic starvation.

What is metabolic starvation and why it leads to muscle wasting in obese people?

The way insulin works is that it controls whether you store fat or burn fat at any given point in time. So, if your insulin levels are high, which it will be in all that are insulin resistant, they can store all their excess sugars as fat as insulin helps with this. However, in between the meals when they do need to start accessing their fat stores, their high insulin levels prevent this as insulin keeps the fat cells in storage mode. This then leads to increased hunger, cravings and if the person does not respond to their hunger and skip a meal, the only other way the body can get energy in between the meals is to burn your own muscle as the fat is locked away and all the sugar is stored away as fat. This is called metabolic starvation.

Belly fat and insulin resistance

How does the increased insulin levels in insulin resistance lead to weight gain?

After you eat carbohydrates, your blood sugar levels will increase. It is the insulin’s job to push the glucose into the cells where it is used for energy or stored for future needs as fat. Insulin also helps muscles, fat and liver cells store sugar that can be released when it is needed. Each cell surface has insulin receptors which act like little doors that open and close to regulate the amount of blood sugar allowed to flow in. If the body takes in too much simple sugars found in carbohydrates (like white breads, potatoes, sugary drinks, etc), the cells are bombarded with so much insulin that the “doors” begin to malfunction and shut down. If the doors aren’t open, the pancreas feels the need to produce even more insulin to push into the cells because it cannot perform its function to lower sugar levels tending to leave the insulin floating in the blood stream.

A vicious cycle is now in place resulting in a condition called insulin resistance (IR) which inhibits our fat cells from giving up their stores of energy to let us lose weight. This is called “metabolic starvation” as your own fat stores are “locked” due to insulin resistance and unable to give the fat back when you need it despite having extra stored fat.

What is metabolic syndrome?

Metabolic Syndrome is a cluster of conditions including high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, excess body fat, especially “belly fat”, or abnormal cholesterol levels; which, when they occur together, increase your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. If you have metabolic syndrome or any of the components of metabolic syndrome, aggressive lifestyle changes can delay or even prevent the development of many serious health problems.

How can I find out if I have metabolic syndrome?

You can use the online tool from W8MD called metabolic syndrome meter. Answer few simple questions, and it will give you a score. You do need a measuring tape to measure your waist circumference at the level of the belly button, your height, weight and a copy of your last blood sugar test and lipid panel.

Is there a free online tool I can use to know if I am insulin resistance?

Yes. W8MD’s insulin resistance calculator is a simple online tool that can help determine if you are insulin resistant in just minutes.

Can insulin resistance lead to gestational diabetes?

Yes, insulin resistance typically gets worse during pregnancy which is why many women that otherwise may have occult insulin resistance before pregnancy tend to present with gestational diabetes.

Can insulin resistance lead to type to diabetes?

If left untreated, over the course of many years, insulin resistance not only leads to weight gain but also type to diabetes.

Insulin resistance questions to ask

What does insulin do?

  • Insulin is the hormone that controls the blood sugar. It is produced in the pancreas in an area called Islets of Langerhans and over use of this system due to insulin resistance leads to what is called overuse atrophy leading to diabetes.

How does insulin resistance present?

  • In many patients, there are no symptoms except weight gain especially in the middle and upper part of the body. In some patients, there may be some thicker or darker areas of the neck called Acanthosis Nigricans or skin tags.

What are the symptoms and signs of insulin resistance?

  • Acanthosis, weight gain, upper body weight gain, sugar cravings etc.

How do I know if I am insulin resistant?

  • Use our insulin resistance calculator to know your risk

How does inulin resistance affect me?

  • It puts you risk of not only weight gain but also increases your risk of diabetes, and increases intra abdominal fat which leads to increased inflammation. Increased inflammation can lead to many health problems including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and increased risk of even many types of cancers

Can insulin resistance explain why I crave starchy foods?

  • Yes. Since insulin is the hormone that determines whether your store fat or burn fat, people with insulin resistance, have trouble burning their fat due to high insulin levels keeping their fat stores in storage mode even when they need to access their fat stores such as in between the meals leading to cravings for starchy food.

Can insulin resistance be reversed?

  • Yes, it is a reversible and treatable condition even when you have early stages of type 2 diabetes and W8MD can help.

Can insulin resistance lead to weight gain?

  • Yes, due to the profound anabolic effects of insulin.

How common is insulin resistance?

  • It is so common that up to 70% of the US population have some degree of insulin resistance while about a third of the entire adult population in the US has what is called metabolic syndrome or prediabetes, and 11 percent have type 2 diabetes.

Did the failed and withdrawn food pyramid lead to increased insulin resistance?

  • Absolutely. Since the food pyramid from the USDA which is now withdrawn put its emphasis on low fat foods, they ended up recommending a lot of high starch foods including grains which are high glycemic even if they are whole grain leading to insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance finder – answer these simple questions

Affecting about 1/3 rd of the US population, the diagnosis of insulin resistance is fairly simple.

Place a check next to any item that applies to you:
□Do you have a family history of diabetes, being overweight, abnormal cholesterol or triglycerides, high blood pressure or heart disease?
□ Do you crave sugary or starchy foods frequently or feel you are addicted to carbohydrates?
□ Is it difficult for you to lose weight, especially around your middle?
□ Is your waist over 36 inches in women or 40 inches in men?
□ Do you experience shakiness, difficulty thinking, or headaches (often in the afternoon) that go away after you eat?
□ Are you ten pounds or more over what you would call your “ideal” weight?
□ Do you exercise fewer than two times per week?
□ Do you have high blood pressure?
□ Do you have high triglycerides and low HDL cholesterol?
□ Do you have polycystic ovary syndrome?
□ Have you ever experienced acanthosis nigricans skin changes – velvety, mossy, flat, wart-like darkened skin on your neck or armpits or underneath your breasts?
Your Score: ________

If you answered yes to three or more of these questions, you are most likely insulin resistant. The more yes answers you gave, the more prone you are to have insulin resistance and the greater your risk is of developing health problems, such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

W8MD’s Insurance Physician Weight Loss Program is unique in many ways with a comprehensive multidisciplinary approach to weight loss addresses all the complex issues leading to weight gain, both in adults and children. The Center’s team of practitioners are among the most qualified, dedicated and hospitable professionals in the industry. Learn more…

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Insulin resistance frequently asked questions

  • Can I just cut off a skin tag?
  • What does high insulin indicate?
  • Why am I getting lots of skin tags?
  • Are skin tags a sign of prediabetes?
  • Are eggs good for insulin resistance?
  • How does insulin cause belly fat?
  • How do you test for insulin resistance?
  • Can fasting reverse insulin resistance?
  • Can I test for insulin resistance at home?
  • Does insulin resistance cause weight gain?
  • What are the warning signs of prediabetes?
  • Are skin tags a sign of insulin resistance?
  • Can lack of sleep cause insulin resistance?
  • Can I lose weight if I am insulin resistant?
  • What is the main cause of insulin resistance?
  • What should you not eat when taking metformin?
  • What comes first insulin resistance and obesity?
  • What are the symptoms of being insulin resistant?
  • How does insulin resistance make you gain weight?
  • Can insulin resistance keep you from losing weight?
  • Can eating too much sugar cause insulin resistance?

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