What is Insulin Resistance?

Insulin resistance is a disorder in glucose metabolism. The pancreas has to produce more insulin because the cells absorb it more poorly and they are “resistant”, so to speak.

What is insulin resistance?

The main cause of insulin resistance is a diet high in sugar and fat combined with a lack of exercise. Simple carbohydrates such as table sugar and white flour cause blood sugar levels to rise rapidly. See AbbreviationFinder for abbreviations related to Insulin Resistance.

Insulin resistance is associated with diabetes. It is also known as prediabetes. Diabetes is playing an increasingly important role in industrialized nations. A lot of responsibility is attributed to nutrition, as well as a lack of sport.

Insulin resistance is the precursor to diabetes. It takes more and more insulin to process an equal amount of sugar in the body. The pancreas can keep blood sugar levels normal for years, but insulin levels are already elevated.

If the pancreas is no longer able to compensate after many years of overloading, diabetes occurs. Being overweight increases the risk of insulin resistance. The body fat in the abdominal region is said to be of particular importance.


The main cause of insulin resistance is a diet high in sugar and fat combined with a lack of exercise. Simple carbohydrates such as table sugar and white flour cause blood sugar levels to rise rapidly. The pancreas tries to regulate the blood sugar level back into the normal range.

The constant intake of simple sugars makes the body insensitive to insulin, so this is the beginning of a vicious cycle. Stored fats lead to free fatty acid increases, which in turn stimulate the liver to produce more sugar. This sugar is harder for the muscles to break down. The cause is therefore not the sugar intake alone, but is significantly favored by too many and bad fats.

Since exercise burns sugar and fat, a lack of exercise also means that the body is less able to work with the substances, or the result is a much higher load on the metabolism. Obesity from excess calorie intake in the form of simple sugars in combination with little or no exercise is thus the main pillar of insulin resistance.

Subordinate factors are smoking and constant stress – the body reacts with “stress control”. He tries to achieve this by producing more adrenaline and also makes more sugar available to enable an “escape”. With the aforementioned factors, the probability of developing insulin resistance increases many times over.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

In the beginning, insulin resistance often does not cause any specific symptoms. For this reason, it is often not diagnosed until serious complications arise. The symptoms are similar to those of diabetes : dry skin, blurred vision and impaired wound healing. Possible accompanying symptoms are tiredness, lack of concentration and exhaustion.

Physical and mental performance is limited, and those affected often have difficulty concentrating. When the muscles are involved, insulin resistance can cause muscle dysfunction and severe muscle weakness. In addition, a short-term weight loss can occur, which is often accompanied by deficiency symptoms. There may be weight gain in the abdominal area.

As a result of the high blood sugar level, there is usually a strong feeling of thirst, followed by an increased urge to urinate. Other signs are an increased Idl cholesterol level and a reduced HDL cholesterol level. This system complex is also known as the metabolic syndrome and indicates insulin resistance.

The disorder is usually not visible externally. However, typical symptoms can occur, such as weight problems, pale skin and sweating. In the long term, untreated insulin resistance can cause massive consequential damage. Both the cardiovascular system and the organs themselves are affected, where functional disorders can occur as a result of the increased blood sugar level.

Diagnosis & History

Diagnosis is via an oral glucose tolerance test. For this purpose, the fasting blood sugar is first measured and then a sugary solution is drunk quickly. Elevated fasting blood sugar can be the first indication of insulin resistance.

After the glucose solution has been taken, blood is drawn from the patient at specific time intervals. Now you can see what the blood sugar levels look like and how much insulin has been released. There is a comparison value for this, the so-called HOMA-IR. The ratio of insulin to glucose is calculated. Values ​​greater than 2.0 indicate insulin resistance, with values ​​of 2.5 and above insulin resistance is considered established. Values ​​of 5.0 are found regularly in type 2 diabetics.

If insulin resistance remains untreated, it gradually worsens and ultimately leads to diabetes or metabolic syndrome with side effects such as high blood pressure and severe obesity.

When should you go to the doctor?

People who suddenly gain a lot of weight for no apparent reason should see a doctor. When overweight or obesity occurs, help is needed. If sufficient exercise or sporting activities do not lead to an improvement in health or weight loss, a doctor should be consulted. If you feel generally ill, have emotional problems, feel unwell or are irritable, medical examinations should be initiated to determine the cause.

If there are changes in the muscles, a decrease in physical performance or abnormalities in the metabolism, a doctor should be consulted. In the case of cardiac arrhythmia, high blood pressure or persistent tachycardia, a doctor should be consulted. In order to avoid a life-threatening condition, examinations of the cardiac activity are necessary. If sleep disorders occur without the presence of other health problems or other illnesses, there are irregularities in breathing and a significant loss of well-being, a doctor should be consulted.

Skin changes, discolouration or blemishes should also be examined and treated. Restrictions on mobility, mobility disorders or problems in coping with the demands of everyday life are indications that should be followed up. A visit to the doctor is recommended as soon as the symptoms persist for a longer period of time, the existing symptoms increase or they increase in intensity.

Treatment & Therapy

Treatment of insulin resistance is achieved through long-term dietary changes. Special diets are controversial because those affected find it difficult to maintain them in the long term. It is better to switch the affected person to a wholesome but low-fat diet with complex carbohydrates such as whole grain products and vegetables.

It is important not only to reduce the simple sugars many times over, but also to be economical with the fats, especially animal fats. The second important treatment pillar is the inclusion of more movement. In principle, all endurance sports are suitable. With both forms of treatment, very overweight people should work towards steady weight loss and pay attention to their daily calorie intake.

Since insulin resistance can also occur in people who are not very overweight, the first priority is not to lose weight, but to improve the overall metabolic situation through better nutrition and exercise. In addition, insulin resistance can be treated with medication. Above all, metformin is used here, which has its active center in the liver and ensures that less sugar is formed there.

This lowers the blood sugar level and relieves the pancreas. Other drugs are insulin sensitizers, which improve the sensitivity to insulin in the cells, and acarbose, which inhibits a sugar conversion process in the intestine.

Outlook & Forecast

There is no prospect of a cure for insulin resistance. It is a health disorder that requires long-term therapy. In addition to medical care, this is absolutely dependent on the cooperation of the patient. If the guidelines are observed, a significant improvement in health is possible.

Those affected can achieve significant relief from the existing symptoms by changing their daily diet and their current lifestyle. With a balanced and healthy diet, sufficient exercise and avoiding obesity, it is often possible to achieve freedom from symptoms in everyday life. A good quality of life with the disease is thereby achieved.

As soon as the current lifestyle is maintained, an increase in symptoms and thus a worse prognosis can be expected. There is also a risk of developing secondary diseases. With diabetes, for example, the person affected falls ill with a chronic disease that can have far-reaching consequences.

Patients who adhere to the treatment plan and have achieved symptom relief can relapse at any time. As soon as the healthy lifestyle is not maintained permanently, the symptoms of insulin resistance return. In addition, the risk of organic damage increases. The liver and pancreas become dysfunctional and can lead to irreparable disorders.


Insulin resistance is prevented by a healthy lifestyle with lots of polysaccharides, such as whole grain products, legumes and vegetables. In addition, the intake of simple sugars and white flour should be kept very low, and the intake of fat should be reduced. Necessary fats should consist largely of vegetable oils. A lot of sport contributes to a better metabolism of sugar and should therefore be practiced regularly.


Insulin resistance is a carbohydrate metabolism disorder and can lead to serious health problems such as diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and dyslipidemia. Long-term monitoring and aftercare are therefore appropriate even when there are no symptoms.

Various studies show that insulin resistance can be slowed down or completely reversed by making appropriate lifestyle changes. Exercise and sport are the most important elements for resensitizing the body cells to the body’s own insulin. Light but regular exercise such as walking, swimming or other light sports are sufficient.

Furthermore, a diet aimed at avoiding blood sugar spikes is important to prevent premature fatigue of the pancreas and diabetes. Complex carbohydrates, such as those found in vegetables, fruit, and whole grains, are preferable to simple carbohydrates, especially sugar and white flour. Glyx diets, which classify foods according to their glycemic index, are recommended in this context. According to various studies, intermittent fasting also helps to regulate insulin levels and reduce insulin resistance.

Since patients with insulin resistance have a greatly increased risk of developing diabetes, their blood sugar should be checked by a doctor at regular intervals. In the case of elevated blood sugar levels, medication may be necessary.

You can do that yourself

Insulin resistance is the precursor to diabetes mellitus. With this disorder, more and more insulin is gradually needed to process the same amount of sugar in the body. At some point, the pancreas is finally overloaded and the person concerned becomes diabetic. But it doesn’t have to come to that in the first place. Insulin resistance is one of the disorders in which the patient himself can do a lot to improve his condition. Diabetes and its precursors are among the typical diseases of civilization that are strongly influenced by lifestyle. Insulin resistance, for example, is attributed to being overweight, particularly to a high concentration of fat in the middle of the body, and a chronic lack of exercise.

As soon as insulin resistance is diagnosed, obese people must first reduce their body weight. This is usually not easy, which is why patients should seek professional help. With the help of a nutritionist, they can identify and eliminate the worst dietary sins. In many cases, animal products such as meat, sausage and fatty cheese have to be replaced with healthier alternatives. Switching to a vitamin- and high-fiber, predominantly plant-based food is also a question of motivation. In addition to the nutritionist, membership in a self-help group can also be of great support. Many of those affected often cannot pull themselves together to do sports on a regular basis. Joining a sports club or a gym is a good strategy to push yourself and make exercise a regular part of your everyday life.

Insulin Resistance