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People around the world are becoming increasingly aware of their growing health problems, whether it’s hypertension, high cholesterol or PCOS. These issues are often become aggravated with age, as well — but what if there was a way to test for the potential root cause of these symptoms which are manifesting in the body?

As stated by ‘Hyperinsulinemia — A Unifying Theory of Chronic Disease?’(1), there is a growing epidemic of metabolic conditions that is impacting an increasingly large population, especially those living and working in urban areas. Insulin resistance is one of the unifying factors in many of these metabolic conditions and if the figure on your weighing scale has been on your mind, you should know that obesity is the most important risk factor(2) for it. 

The glaring issue here is that the medical community is not even testing for it, but let’s come around to that.

What happens when you’re constantly awash in insulin?

Snacking has become a way of life for many of us, with us constantly countering drops in energy with little ‘pick-me-ups’ by way of snacks – yes, we are very much talking about that mid-afternoon snack and late-night bingeing session you just can’t do without anymore. This results in constantly heightened blood glucose and, consequently, insulin levels.

Imagine you’ve polished off a hearty meal, your glucose levels have increased in the blood and insulin is released — but the muscle or fat cells refuse to respond to the signal sent by insulin to take up glucose. That’s not how this is supposed to work! This leads to the pancreas releasing even more insulin because of the increased glucose levels, leading to hyperinsulinemia.

As stated by Dr Jason Fung(3), ‘when blood glucose remains elevated despite normal or high levels of insulin, this is called insulin resistance’.

What causes insulin resistance?

We love the way Dr. Jason Fung has explained how insulin causes insulin resistance in this piece(4). Just as long-term exposure to noise causes a resistance to noise, or long-term exposure to antibiotics causes resistance to antibiotics, continuous exposure to insulin over a long period of time results in reduced insulin sensitivity.

Long story short: you need more and more insulin over time for the cells to take up the glucose needed for energy and keep the blood glucose levels even; this is a cycle that continues to reinforce itself. Constantly elevated insulin levels lead to your body increasingly remaining in ‘fat-storage’ mode (LINK to Amy Berger’s video), though, so if you’re aiming for weight loss and you’re awash in insulin — do you really think it’s going to work?   

It seems insulin resistance is so appallingly prevalent today because of the years of misguided dietary advice we have been at the receiving end of; it is the consequent long, continuous exposure to high insulin levels that causes insulin resistance(5).

Why is insulin resistance the medical condition of the day? 

As per ‘Hyperinsulinemia — A Unifying Theory of Chronic Disease?’, a host of metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension and inflammatory and vascular conditions all seem to have one thing in common(6) — chronically high insulin levels. This used to be known as the mysterious Syndrome X(7), and is now often referred to as Metabolic Syndrome or Insulin Resistant Syndrome. Just think about how many people you know today who are living with health issues such as obesity, PCOS and cardiovascular conditions, to name just a few afflictions.

Ironically, people with type 2 diabetes have been being treated with doses of insulin over the last 50 years(8). If their insulin levels are already so high, and their cells aren’t taking up the glucose — isn’t even more insulin the last thing they need?

So what can we do about the growing epidemic of insulin resistance?

Insulin resistance is not something that happens overnight — it’s a lifestyle disease that is developed over the years. Excessive carbohydrates, empty calories and erratic eating habits without enough time for the body to fast (or burn fat) are all insulin resistance causes(9).

But do our medical tests today include the investigation of the right biomarkers to target the root of the problem?

A good place to start would be to check whether any of the health issues mentioned above are affecting you. Even if they aren’t, you have little to lose from asking your doctor to check your fasting insulin levels as a part of your next physical check-up, to understand where you are on the spectrum of insulin resistance.

Understanding how changes in diets and lifestyle can increase insulin sensitivity is a good place at starting damage control. Low-carb high-fat diets, ketogenic diets, and intermittent fasting / time-restricted eating (not caloric restriction), are emerging(10) to be effective insulin-reducing strategies, as they cause stored food energy or fat to be broken down to power the body.