The silent epidemic claiming over 4.2 million lives around the world last year, Diabetes is on the march. With over 460 million people already living with diabetes, it is estimated over 700 million people (one in 10 of us!) will be affected by 2045.
The CDC estimates that in the US, 38.0% of the adult population (96 million people) have prediabetes, with 23.0% of adults undiagnosed.
Insulin is fundamental in two conditions that are epidemic globally: obesity and type II diabetes together with many common health-related issues, and insulin resistance is shown to be associated with poorer general health and adverse changes across a wide range of markers, both for those with prediabetic and diabetic conditions.
What is insulin?
Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that helps glucose from the food you eat enter cells in your muscle, fat, and liver, where it’s used for energy. When blood glucose, also called blood sugar, levels rise after you eat, your pancreas releases insulin into the blood. Insulin then lowers blood glucose to keep it in the normal range.
What is insulin resistance?
Insulin resistance is when cells in your muscles, fat, and liver don’t respond well to insulin and can’t easily take up glucose from your blood. As a result, your pancreas makes more insulin to help glucose enter your cells. As long as your pancreas can make enough insulin to overcome your cells’ weak response to insulin, your blood glucose levels will stay in the healthy range.
What is prediabetes?
Prediabetes means your blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. Prediabetes usually occurs in people who already have some insulin resistance or whose beta cells in the pancreas aren’t making enough insulin to keep blood glucose in the normal range. Without enough insulin, extra glucose stays in your bloodstream rather than entering your cells. Over time, you could develop type 2 diabetes.
Invisible changes in the body begin long before a person is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. That’s both bad news (no symptoms mean you won’t know you have it) and good news (you can prevent or delay it if you’re at risk). One of the most important unseen changes? Insulin resistance.
Insulin is a key player in developing type 2 diabetes. This vital hormone—you can’t survive without it—regulates blood sugar (glucose) in the body, a very complicated process. Here are the high points:
• The food you eat is broken down into blood sugar.
• Blood sugar enters your bloodstream, which signals the pancreas to release insulin.
• Insulin helps blood sugar enter the body’s cells so it can be used for energy.
• Insulin also signals the liver to store blood sugar for later use.
• Blood sugar enters cells, and levels in the bloodstream decrease, signaling insulin to decrease too.
• Lower insulin levels alert the liver to release stored blood sugar so energy is always available, even if you haven’t eaten for a while.
That’s when everything works smoothly. But this finely tuned system can quickly get out of whack, as follows:
• A lot of blood sugar enters the bloodstream.
• The pancreas pumps out more insulin to get blood sugar into cells.
• Over time, cells stop responding to all that insulin—they’ve become insulin resistant.
• The pancreas keeps making more insulin to try to make cells respond.
• Eventually, the pancreas can’t keep up, and blood sugar keeps rising.
Lots of blood sugar in the bloodstream is very damaging to the body and needs to be moved into cells as soon as possible. There’s lots of insulin, too, telling the liver and muscles to store blood sugar. When they’re full, the liver sends the excess blood sugar to fat cells to be stored as body fat. Yep, weight gain. And what’s more serious, the stage is set for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.
If you have insulin resistance, you want to become the opposite—more insulin sensitive (cells are more effective at absorbing blood sugar so less insulin is needed).
Insulin resistance is thought to precede the development of type 2 diabetes by 10 to 15 years. The wrong diet, inactivity, elevated levels of insulin resistance and weight gain in turn exacerbate insulin resistance, leading to a vicious cycle until pancreatic beta-cell activity can no longer adequately meet the insulin demand created by insulin resistance, resulting in hyperglycemia.
Getting enough sleep, physical activity, reducing stress and weight loss are important, as is and together with the right diet, making you more sensitive to insulin, one reason why it’s a cornerstone of diabetes management (and good health in general!) Don’t wait until you’re diagnosed with diabetes to start.
The earlier you take action (literally), the better off you’ll be!
Obesity, cardiovascular disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, metabolic syndrome, and polycystic ovary syndrome(PCOS) are all associated with insulin resistance, together with the microvascular complications of diabetes (neuropathy, retinopathy, and nephropathy), as well as the associated macrovascular complications (coronary artery disease [CAD], cerebral-vascular disease, and peripheral artery disease [PAD].) All have serious consequences with a tremendous burden being placed on healthcare to treat the direct and indirect conditions of insulin resistance.
How can I prevent or reverse insulin resistance and prediabetes?
Lifestyle modification should be the primary focus for the treatment of insulin resistance. Nutritional intervention with control of calorie intake and slowly absorbed carbohydrates are a cornerstone to treatment. Physical activity helps to increase energy expenditure and improve muscle insulin sensitivity.
Taking small steps, such as eating healthier foods and exercising more to lose weight, can help reverse insulin resistance and prevent or delay type 2 diabetes in people with prediabetes.
You have the power to change things.
Early treatment as well as moderate lifestyle changes and a well-controlled diet can actually return blood sugar levels to a normal range, effectively preventing or delaying type 2 diabetes. Ask your doctor plenty of questions and listen to the answers you get. Increase your daily physical activity. Start eating healthy.
The MealPlanner Technologies creates FoodHealth solutions to actively engage customers in their health through nutrition.
MIRA Health, a spinoff of the MealPlanner Technologies Oy, is a mobile app solution to manage & treat Insulin resistance, and is a crucial tool in the digital patient journey.
The application is a crucial tool for both medical & nutrition experts as well as individuals to support the diet & lifestyle changes required to prevent and reverse insulin resistance, with momentum and motivation as key elements of a success to ending diet-related diseases.