Insulin resistance & weight loss: symptoms, causes, consequences, test, and the right diet
In America, most people suffer from insulin resistance, and it’s probably not much better here. This metabolic disorder is insidious: it accelerates fat accumulation, even in calorie balance.
Insulin resistance is the starting point for most diseases in our civilization.
Insulin resistance (pre-diabetes) is considered a precursor to type 2 diabetes.
Typical symptoms of insulin resistance are:
- chronically high blood sugar and insulin levels,
- a steady weight gain and difficult weight loss,
- Symptoms of low blood sugar such as cravings, sweating, tremors, and dizziness.
The catch is that insulin resistance doesn’t hurt. In many cases, you only discover them when the child has already fallen into the well.
So you should know what’s behind it – and that’s what it’s all about today:
- What is insulin resistance?
- How is it created?
- Why are more and more people insulin resistant?
- How do you determine the metabolic disorder?
As far as balanced nutrition is concerned, the work of Rachel Roberts has been very influential over the past 10 years.
This includes, above all, her book and master customized Keto meal plan to your body, situation, goals, and taste buns program, which has just been released in a new edition.
Do we live in an insulin-resistant society?
Insulin resistance is one of the greatest health risks of our time.
Almost all major diseases of civilization are based on this disorder, which is largely self-inflicted.
The world is getting rounder. And the more obese a person is, the more likely they are to develop insulin resistance—if they don’t already have it.
Even people of normal weight are by no means immune to insulin resistance.
About 15 to 20 percent of slim people have manifested insulin resistance. Even children and adolescents are increasingly affected.
In late 2018, a representative survey of American adults found:
Only 12 percent are FREE of metabolic disorders belonging to the metabolic syndrome and caused by insulin resistance.
We don’t have exact figures for Germany. But if you orient yourself to the USA, you can get scared and anxious.
To understand the impact of insulin resistance, we need to understand why our body makes insulin in the first place.
What is insulin?
Insulin is the largest hormone in our body in quantity and has many different tasks to perform.
It is produced in the beta cells of the pancreas, and from there, it is made available to all tissues and cells day in and day out via the bloodstream.
The need for insulin is particularly high after eating.
But we also need a certain amount of “basic insulin” during the many hours without food – at night or during the day.
The most well-known effect of insulin is the lowering of blood sugar.
The term is not quite appropriate. The task of insulin is not to lower the sugar concentration in the blood.
It’s there to help transport sugar (which has passed from food to the bloodstream through the gut) to the various tissues. There the cells can then use it as fuel.
The main sugar recipients are the liver and muscle cells.
At some point, however, these “pantries” are full to the brim and can no longer absorb any more sugar. The excess sugar then also drives to the fat cells, which are converted into fat.
Excess sugar is converted into fat.
However, insulin has other functions.
It also ensures that amino acids, proteins, and fats from food can be absorbed into the liver, muscle, and fat cells and used there as a building material or energy source.
Insulin is the door opener into our tissue for all macronutrients.
In other words, insulin is the most important storage hormone. That is why it is also called the “mast hormone.”
Because of its ability to build muscle, it used to be used as an anabolic in competitive sports – until it got on the doping list.
But how can it be that such an important hormone suddenly loses its power?
What is insulin resistance?
Every body cell has special receptors for insulin on its surface.
The insulin gets there via the bloodstream and docks onto the receptors.
This triggers a signal to the cell nucleus, opening the cell doors.
The sugar enters the cell interior from the blood.
At least that’s the norm. But with insulin resistance, this process is disrupted.
Then the insulin receptors no longer work – or they no longer pass the signal on to the cell nucleus.
In the case of insulin resistance, the cell doors remain closed.
The insulin circulating in the blood does not work, and the transport system is paralyzed. And the cells are resistant to insulin.
What has to happen for this to happen?
How does insulin resistance develop?
How is it that cells can become deaf to the signaling effect of the insulin signal?
An unfavorable genetic makeup and increasing age can play a role.
But most triggers are homemade.
Here are the four most common causes of insulin resistance.
1., Insulin resistance due to a “modern” lifestyle
More and more people are chronically eating too many calories.
As a result, the fat cells grow, and the muscle and liver cells become fatty.
Excessive fat storage causes cells to become insulin resistant.
This is particularly problematic when there is a chronic lack of muscle activity.
It is enough if someone moves a little over a long period of time.
Inactivity alone can make muscle cells insulin resistant, whether you’re lean or obese.
There are four other common suspects for developing insulin resistance:
- lack of healthy sleep,
- too little sun exposure
- too much negative stress and
In recent years, science has also discovered other possible causes.
A bacterial imbalance in the intestinal flora (dysbiosis), various chlorinated hydrocarbons from the environment, or too much fructose promote or trigger insulin resistance.
The more these factors come together. The more likely insulin resistance will set in.
Some experts also believe that hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s promote insulin resistance.
They recommend stopping your thyroid hormones first. So far, however, this thesis has not been sufficiently scientifically proven.
2., Insulin resistance due to vitamin D deficiency
In industrialized countries around the world, a large part of the population now has a vitamin D undersupply or even a clinically relevant vitamin D deficiency.
The cause is quickly explained:
We no longer live outside as hunters and gatherers in loincloths but mostly stay under roofs.
At home, on the way to work, and at work.
Your body can only produce enough vitamin D when intense sunlight is on your skin.
But even in the summer half of the year, the intensity in our free time is not enough – i.e., in the morning and evening hours.
In the winter, the sun cannot stimulate your skin to produce any significant vitamin D, even at midday.
At least not in our latitudes.
This situation is problematic for many reasons. On the one hand, vitamin D is a bone vitamin (or hormone). But that’s not all:
You need vitamin D to make insulin. In addition, vitamin D makes muscle, fat, and organ cells insulin sensitive.
Therefore, a vitamin D deficiency promotes insulin resistance.
And in the winter half-year, around 80 percent of the population and around 60 percent of the population in the summer half-year are undersupplied with vitamin D.
3., Insulin resistance due to magnesium deficiency
Magnesium is an essential mineral involved in many metabolic processes.
Your body needs magnesium so that about 600 enzymes can develop their effect. It is also involved in the activation of 200 other enzymes.
When it comes to symptoms of magnesium deficiency, most people first think of calf cramps. Magnesium can do much more than just “relax.”
Magnesium can lower blood pressure and improve blood lipid levels.
There’s also growing and strong evidence that magnesium improves insulin sensitivity when it’s in sufficient amounts. This means:
A magnesium deficiency promotes insulin resistance.
Unfortunately, the reverse is also true: an existing insulin resistance exacerbates a magnesium deficiency.
So it’s no wonder patients with metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes are often also deficient in magnesium.
Magnesium is believed to work in the body in the following ways:
- improves insulin secretion,
- increases insulin sensitivity of cells,
- reduces inflammation,
- optimizes the sugar and energy metabolism.
Clinical studies have shown beneficial effects on fasting sugar and insulin sensitivity with a dose of 250 to 500 milligrams of magnesium per day (as magnesium citrate, magnesium gluconate, magnesium orotate, or magnesium aspartate) for four weeks to six months and demonstrate insulin resistance.
A Mediterranean diet is known to protect against diabetes. This diet’s high magnesium content certainly contributes significantly to this.
Foods rich in magnesium include nuts, seeds, bran, oatmeal, whole grains, legumes, and green vegetables.
In addition, it makes sense to drink magnesium-rich water in the event of an undersupply.
If this is not enough, dietary supplements can be useful.
4., Insulin resistance due to imbalance in the gut
Trillions of bacteria live in your gut.
This used to be called the intestinal flora, but today the term “microbiome” has become established.
Normally, the numerous bacterial strains are in a healthy balance.
They are not pathogenic but helpful bacteria that keep your body healthy through their activities and metabolic products.
Under certain circumstances, more unfavorable or harmful bacteria can settle.
The technical term for such a condition is “dysbiosis.”
A healthy microbiome forms a natural “bacterial lawn” on the inner intestinal wall.
This protects the intestinal mucosa from toxic substances. If there is a problematic imbalance in the bacteria, the protective layer becomes thinner and thinner – until it finally disappears completely.
A defenseless intestinal wall will eventually become permeable.
This is also called leaky gut.
Toxic substances from the intestine enter the bloodstream through these “holes.”
Once there, they alert the immune system. And if the causes are not eliminated, a kind of permanent inflammatory state develops in the body.
Such chronic inflammation increases the risk of insulin resistance.
They also favor a disturbed carbohydrate metabolism and a metabolic syndrome – with all their well-known negative consequences.
As if that weren’t enough, the bacterial toxins from the gut also reach the liver, where they provoke inflammation and disrupt metabolism.
Ultimately, the liver also becomes insulin-resistant, fatty (“fatty liver”), and fatty liver hepatitis can follow.
Why do cells become insulin resistant?
Your body converts all carbohydrates you eat into glucose, i.e., sugar, during the digestive process.
It then transports it to the two responsible stores: liver and muscle cells. The storage form of glucose is called glycogen.
Your liver can hold around 80 to 100 grams of glycogen, and your muscles can hold 300 to 400 grams of glycogen – depending on muscle mass.
The liver either uses the glycogen for its energy supply or, if you don’t eat for a few hours, releases it (again as glucose) into the blood.
Your brain plays a big role in this. Because it constantly consumes sugar from the blood and needs continuous replenishment.
While you sleep, your liver constantly releases some glucose into the blood to keep your brain working properly.
The liver needs to release enough, but not too much, sugar for this to work.
Your pancreas controls this regulatory process by releasing some insulin.
The lean, healthy liver understands these signals: “release sugar” or “stop sugar release.”
Unlike the brain, your muscles use little to no glycogen during sleep and when muscle activity is low.
When they are not under intense stress, they prefer fat for fuel. Since most people no longer work physically and lead a sedentary lifestyle even in their free time, they hardly use any more glycogen from their muscles.
In most people, muscle glycogen stores are constantly full to the brim.
Nevertheless, they fill up with plenty of carbohydrate-rich fuel every morning, noon, and evening.
That’s the real dilemma!
What happens if the tank is full, but you continue to fill up? The fuel overflows!
It’s just that the excess fuel in the body doesn’t flow to the ground like at a gas station but is diverted to reserve tanks – for bad times.
The reserve tanks are your fat cells, where excess energy is stored in the form of fat. This is how fat tissue increases.
That goes well for a while. At least as long as the fat cells are well supplied with blood when you gain weight and can be kept fit.
This can be achieved through physical activity:
Fit fat cells need physical activity.
But if that doesn’t happen, the blood supply to the fat cells reaches a standstill. The fat cells become inflamed, and a vicious circle is created that leads to fatty liver, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
(Too) fat cells become inflamed.
With insulin resistance, this evil takes its course even faster. Then, after eating, there are always high to very high amounts of insulin circulating in the blood.
Such hyperinsulinemia further accelerates fat storage.
Anyone who is (already) insulin-resistant puts on fat quickly and “effectively.”
It used to be different.
People have regularly emptied their carbohydrate stores through strenuous physical activity at work and during leisure time.
They could fill up on plenty of bread, potatoes, and pasta daily without any negative consequences.
Conclusion: If you want to eat traditionally, you also have to live traditionally. Live modern and eat traditionally – that makes you sick!
Modern muscle wasting is another phenomenon that we need to be aware of.
A clever body breaks down those tissues that aren’t being used. This saves valuable energy.
Without strenuous muscle activity, the body breaks down muscle mass excessively quickly at a young age.
This phenomenon, known as sarcopenia, has also matured into a widespread disease.
One of the serious consequences is:
The post-meal sugar and starch tanks are getting smaller and smaller!
We now know what this leads to when less and less sugar fits into the muscles, but the same amount is refueled every day.
What are the consequences of insulin resistance?
As described, the sugar remains in the blood with insulin resistance even if the insulin has already been released.
In such a situation, sentinel cells alert the brain. This, in turn, signals the pancreas:
“More insulin, quick!”
The result is abnormally high levels of insulin, known as hyperinsulinemia.
So the body simply increases the signal strength: it yells louder to make itself heard by the muscle and liver cells that have become deaf.
Your body can compensate for increasing insulin resistance over many years by releasing more and more insulin.
As long as this mechanism is still functioning, the sugar is quickly drained from the blood.
Your doctor would not find elevated blood sugar levels during a routine test in this situation.
Unfortunately, insulin resistance does not yet cause any noticeable symptoms.
You just don’t notice it.
If you felt pain or discomfort, you would probably do something about it.
But as it is, there is no reason for those affected to change anything in their lives while the situation continues to deteriorate beneath the surface.
Because if you leave everything as it is in such a situation, you need more and more insulin.
One day even doubling or tripling the insulin dose for a normal meal is no longer enough.
Then the pancreas must release six, eight, or ten times the amount of insulin.
At some point, she works at her limit and can no longer cope with these insane amounts.
Let’s say you need ten times the insulin dose to flush the sugar out of the blood. And your pancreas produces nine times the amount and is at its limit – more is impossible.
Then all the sugar stays in the blood.
Only now does the blood sugar level rise measurably.
Only now would you have developed type 2 diabetes after an oral glucose tolerance test by definition.
And that, although you are swimming in insulin at the same time.
Hyperinsulinemia: The danger of abnormally high insulin levels
So the real problem isn’t insulin resistance. The real problem is the abnormally high insulin concentration in the blood for hours after eating.
Hyperinsulinemia becomes dangerous over time.
Among other things, it activates genes in the liver. And they then ensure that a large part of the food’s carbohydrate is converted into fat and stored directly with maximum efficiency.
The tricky part:
Fat is now stored even without a calorie surplus.
Not only in the liver – which is gradually turning into a non-alcoholic fatty liver – but also the fat cells are now swelling at an accelerated rate.
The designation of insulin as a storage or fattening hormone is correct.
But only if we are talking about pathologically high concentrations. This does not apply to the normal, vital amounts of insulin.
In the hormonal network, these high insulin levels shift the hormonal balance in general.
For example, women can become infertile because there is suddenly too much testosterone. As a result, their egg cells no longer mature.
This disorder is called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCO syndrome).
In men, it’s the other way around: testosterone levels drop, men develop erectile dysfunction, lose fertility and develop man-sized breasts.
Last but not least: Insulin is a potent growth hormone.
Too much of it also allows cancer cells to thrive and supports their spread.
Finally, let’s discuss a special form of insulin resistance that can also develop in a healthy organism.
Due to “no-carb” and keto nutrition, insulin resistance in healthy people?
The healthy body reacts with “voluntary” insulin resistance with a very low-carbohydrate diet. It’s a kind of primal program.
In “no carb” circumstances, your body no longer allows sugar into the muscles.
It does this to save what little sugar is left for the cells that need it for survival – the central nervous system.
After all, the brain and nerves must be constantly supplied with a minimum amount of glucose.
Muscles, on the other hand, also work with fat. They only need sugar to perform at their best.
With a very low-carbohydrate diet, the body builds up so-called ketone bodies from the stored fatty acids.
These ketone bodies can alternatively cover up to 60 percent of the sugar requirement.
This makes a lot of sense because, with this sugar-saving measure, your body also protects you from excessive muscle breakdown.
In an emergency, your body would otherwise break down muscles to form sugar from them.
However, as soon as enough carbohydrates are available again, your body deactivates this muscular insulin resistance again. This form of insulin resistance is therefore unproblematic.
Above all, Rachel Roberts has been very influential in the world of Keto diets over the past 10 years.
Her book and master customized Keto meal plan to your body, situation, goals, and taste buns program, which has just been released in a new edition.
How do you determine insulin resistance?
The general practitioner can track down insulin resistance with a simple determination of the fasting insulin level in the blood.
You are most likely insulin resistant from a value above 11 mU/ml.
For a somewhat more concrete estimate, the so-called HOMA index is calculated.
Two measured values are compared here after a twelve-hour fasting period: the fasting blood sugar and insulin value.
The value is then calculated from the two measured values.
A HOMA index value below 2.5 is in the green range.
Such a result indicates a (still) normal insulin sensitivity.
But a HOMA index of 6 indicates severe insulin resistance.
This value says that the pancreas must produce about six times as much insulin for the same amount of glucose supplied as insulin-sensitive people.
The blood sugar load test (oGTT) mentioned is even more meaningful.
To do this, you first eat 75 grams of glucose. One and two hours later, the blood sugar and insulin concentration in the blood should be determined.
The more insulin there is in relation to the sugar concentration in the blood, the greater the insulin resistance.
Clarifying the ratio of blood lipid levels, more precisely triglycerides to HDL cholesterol (TG/HDL), is very informative and simple.
If the TG/HDL ratio is above 2.5 in women and above 3.5 in men, then insulin resistance is very likely.
Insulin resistance – Conclusion
The older we get, the more fat we store in the body, the less we exert our muscles, and the more likely we are to become insulin resistant (or the greater the insulin resistance becomes).
In a nutshell, we can also say:
The less »species-appropriate« we live, the more likely we will become insulin resistant.
Everyone with increasing age or increasing obesity should urgently take care of their insulin balance.
The first part about insulin and diabetes: Training with diabetes you have to consider this as a fitness trainer