Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas.

What is the main function of insulin?

insulin helps move glucose (sugar) from the blood to muscles and other tissues. Insulin controls blood sugar levels.

Metabolic weight gain

Metabolic weight gain

What is [block]0[/block] and how does it affect me?

See insulin resistance

How does excess insulin lead to weight gain?

Insulin controls blood sugar by pushing the sugar in to cells – the cells then either store it as fat or use it for energy. If the cells do not remove glucose from the blood, the body will store it in the tissues as fat. When a person takes insulin as a therapy, or they are insulin resistant, their body may absorb too much glucose from food, resulting in weight gain.

Insulin resistance is very common and affects up to 71% of the adult population in the US leading to significant weight gain, sugar cravings and increased risk of diabetes.

What are different types of insulin?

Several types of insulin are available. Each type starts to work at a different speed, known as “onset,” and its effects last a different length of time, known as “duration.” Most types of insulin reach a peak, which is when they have the strongest effect. Then the effects of the insulin wear off over the next few hours or so.

Insulin types
Types of Insulin and How They Work
Insulin typeHow fast it starts to work (onset)When it peaksHow long it lasts (duration)
Rapid-actingAbout 15 minutes after injection1 hour2 to 4 hours
Short-acting, also called regularWithin 30 minutes after injection2 to 3 hours3 to 6 hours
Intermediate-acting2 to 4 hours after injection4 to 12 hours12 to 18 hours
Long-actingSeveral hours after injectionDoes not peak24 hours; some last longer

Insulin and weight gain frequently asked questions

  • Why does insulin cause weight gain?
  • How does insulin affect body weight?
  • How can I avoid gaining weight on insulin?
  • Can high insulin levels cause weight gain?
  • Does insulin stop fat burning?
  • Does insulin make you retain water?
  • How does insulin get rid of belly fat?
  • What foods spike insulin?
  • How does insulin make you lose weight?
  • How much weight do you gain on insulin?
  • Does insulin increase appetite?
  • Does metformin make you gain weight?
  • What are good insulin levels?
  • Does apple cider vinegar lower insulin?
  • What does high insulin feel like?
  • What triggers fat burning?
  • How do I stop my body from storing fat?
  • How does insulin spike affect weight loss?




See Hemoglobin A1C Test. 


A procedure to cut off a limb, such as a foot, from the body. See Non-Traumatic Lower-Limb Amputation. 


Beta Cell

A cell located in the pancreas that makes insulin.


Blood Glucose

The main sugar found in the blood and the body’s main source of energy.



Body Mass Index (BMI)

A measure used to evaluate body weight relative to a person’s height. BMI is used to find out if a person is underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese.


Cardiovascular Disase

Disease of the heart and blood vessels (arteries, capillaries, and veins).


See Blood Cholestrol.

Chronic Kidney Disease

Any condition that causes reduced kidney function over a period of time. CKD is present when a patient’s glomerular filtration rate remains below 60 milliliters per minute for more than 3 months. CKD may develop over many years and lead to end-stage renal disease. Also see End-Stage Renal Disease.



A mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest.


A condition characterized by hyperglycemia (high blood glucose) resulting from the body’s inability to use blood glucose for energy. Also see Type 1 Diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes.

Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA)

An emergency condition in which extremely high blood glucose levels, along with a severe lack of insulin, result in the breakdown of body fat for energy and an accumulation of ketones in the blood and urine. Signs of DKA are nausea and vomiting, stomach pain, fruity breath odor, and rapid breathing. Untreated DKA can lead to coma and death.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Causes vision damage to the small blood vessels in the retina. Loss of vision may result, and is also called diabetic eye disease.

Diagnosed Diabetes

In the Diabetes Atlas application, a person is considered to have diagnosed diabetes if a doctor or other health professional had ever told that he or she had diabetes. Women who were told they only had diabetes during pregnancy are not considered to have diabetes.


The process of cleaning wastes from the blood artificially. This job is normally done by the kidneys. If the kidneys fail, the blood must be cleaned artificially with special equipment. The two major forms of dialysis are hemodialysis (using a machine to clean wastes from the blood after the kidneys have failed) and peritoneal dialysis (using the lining of the abdominal cavity, or belly, as a filter to clean the blood).


End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD)

Total and permanent kidney failure. When the kidneys fail, the body retains fluid. Harmful wastes build up. A person with ESRD needs treatment to replace the work of the failed kidneys.

Erectile Dysfunction

Also called impotence, is the inability to get or maintain an erection for satisfactory sexual intercourse.


Gestational Diabetes

A type of diabetes that only develops during pregnancy and usually disappears after delivery. It increases the mother’s risk of developing diabetes later in life. GDM is managed with meal planning, physical activity, and, in some cases, medication.


See Blood Glucose.

Glycosylated Hemoglobin

See Hemoglobin A1C Test.


High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) Cholesterol

A fat found in the blood that takes extra cholesterol from the blood to the liver for removal, sometimes called “good” cholesterol. Also see Blood Cholesterol.

Hemoglobin A1C Test

Measure of a person’s average blood glucose level over the past 2 to 3 months. Hemoglobin is the part of a red blood cell that carries oxygen to the cells and sometimes joins with the glucose in the bloodstream. The test shows the amount of glucose that sticks to the red blood cell, which is proportional to the amount of glucose in the blood. Results are given as a percentage or as an average glucose value.

Hyperglycemic Crisis

See Diabetic Ketoacidosis.

Hyperglycemic Hyperosmolar State

An emergency condition in which one’s blood glucose level is very high and ketones are not present in the blood or urine. If not treated, it can lead to coma or death.


Also called low blood glucose, a condition that occurs when one’s blood glucose is lower than normal, usually below 70 mg/dL. Signs include hunger, nervousness, shakiness, perspiration, dizziness or light-headedness, sleepiness, and confusion. If left untreated, hypoglycemia may lead to unconsciousness.


Impaired Fasting Glucose (IFG)

A condition in which a fasting blood glucose test shows a level of glucose higher than normal, but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. IFG, also called prediabetes, is a level of 100 to 125 mg/dL. People with prediabetes are at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

Impaired Glucose Tolerance (IGT)

A condition in which blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but are not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. IGT, also called prediabetes, is a level of 140 to 199 mg/dL 2 hours after the start of an oral glucose tolerance test. People with prediabetes are at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.


See Leisure-Time Physical Inactivity.


A hormone that helps the body use glucose for energy. The beta cells of the pancreas make insulin. When the body cannot make enough insulin, insulin is taken by injection or other means.

Insulin Pump

This insulin-delivering device is about the size of a deck of cards and can be worn on a belt or kept in a pocket. An insulin pump connects to narrow, flexible plastic tubing that ends with a needle inserted just under the skin. Users set the pump to give a steady trickle or basal amount of insulin continuously throughout the day. Pumps release bolus doses of insulin at meals and at times when blood glucose is too high, based on doses set by the user.

Insulin Resistance

The body’s inability to respond to and use the insulin it produces. Insulin resistance may be linked to obesity, hypertension, and high levels of fat in the blood.




See Diabetic Ketoacidosis.

Kidney Disease

See Chronic Kidney Disease.


Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults (LADA)

A type of diabetes, usually first diagnosed after age 30, in which people show signs of both type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. Most people with LADA still produce their own insulin when first diagnosed and do not require insulin injections. Some experts believe that LADA is a slowly developing kind of type 1 diabetes because patients have antibodies against the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. Several years after diagnosis, people with LADA must take insulin to control blood glucose levels.

Leisure-Time Physical Inactivity

In the Diabetes Atlas application, a person is considered to be physically inactive if he or she reported not participating in physical activity or exercise in the past 30 days.


Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) Cholesterol

A fat found in the blood that takes cholesterol around the body to where it is needed for cell repair and also deposits it on the inside of artery walls; sometimes is called “bad” cholesterol. Also see Blood Cholesterol.

Lower-Limb Amputation

See Non-Traumatic Lower-Limb Amputation.

Lower Limit

The minimum or lowest value used in a confidence interval. Also see Confidence Interval.


Macrovascular disease

Disease of the large blood vessels such as atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease.

Macular Edema

Swelling in the macula, the part of the retina in the eye, used for reading and seeing fine detail.

Maturity-Onset Diabetes of the Young (MODY)

A monogenic (i.e., related to a single gene) form of diabetes that usually first occurs during adolescence or early adulthood.


Measure of central location that divides a set of data into two equal parts, above and below which lie an equal number of values.

Microvascular disease

Disease of the smallest blood vessels, such as those found in the eyes, nerves, and kidneys.


Natural Breaks

A classification method used to identify groupings that naturally exist in the data. The classes or “breaks” (i.e., categories or intervals) are selected using a statistical process that determines the “break points” where there are relatively big jumps in the data values to best group similar values and to maximize the differences between classes.


Disease of the kidneys causing damage that allows protein to leak out of the kidneys into the urine. Damaged kidneys can no longer remove wastes and extra fluid from the bloodstream.


Disease of the nervous system that causes muscle weakness, pain, and numbness. The most common form of neuropathy in people with diabetes is peripheral neuropathy, which affects the legs and feet.

Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)

Fat in the liver which can lead to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis—a common liver disease that occurs in people who drink little or no alcohol—and chronic liver disease. NAFLD can be a complication of insulin resistance and diabetes.

Non-Traumatic Lower-Limb Amputation

A procedure to remove through surgery damaged feet or legs, where the injury was not caused by trauma (e.g., the injury was not caused by a car accident).



A condition in which a greater than normal amount of fat is in the body; more severe than overweight; having a body mass index of 30 or more. See Body Mass Index.


Physical Inactivity

See Leisure-Time Physical Inactivity.


A condition classified in people who have blood glucose or hemoglobin A1C levels higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as diabetes. People with prediabetes have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.


The number or rate of existing disease cases at a given point in time.



Relationship among a set of estimates such that, for any two estimates, the first is either ‘ranked higher than’, ‘ranked lower than,’ or ‘ranked equal to’ the second.


An expression used to measure the relative frequency that an event occurs among a defined population per unit of time. It is often used more casually to refer to proportions.


Type 1 Diabetes

A condition characterized by high blood glucose levels caused by a total lack of insulin. This occurs when the body’s immune system attacks the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas and destroys them. The pancreas then produces little or no insulin. Type 1 diabetes develops most often in young people but can appear in adults.

Type 2 Diabetes

A condition characterized by high blood glucose levels caused by either a lack of insulin or the body’s inability to use insulin efficiently. Type 2 diabetes develops most often in middle-aged and older adults but can appear in children, teens, and young people.


Upper Limit

The maximum or highest value limit used in a confidence interval. See Confidence Interval.

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