With type 2 Diabetes still on the rise, it is no wonder that there are on going studies to look at the most effective way to lose weight and how to do it safely. Insulin resistance is a term that constantly crops up when medics and nutritionists talk about both obesity and type 2 diabetes. It is a bit like a double edged sword because insulin resistance leads to weight gain, but also being overweight is a precursor to insulin resistance. The other thing to note as well, you don't have to be overweight to have insulin resistance.
And What is Insulin Resistance?
It is a condition in which our cells become unresponsive to insulin the hormone that is responsible for storing glucose in the cells. This leads to high blood sugar, as the cells are not absorbing the sugar, so it keeps circulating through our system hoping to be utilised. What happens next...the pancreas releases more insulin, because this is what carries the sugar to the cells and the body wants the sugar to be stored and we get a vicious cycle where people have too much insulin circulating and the cells don't want it so become insulin resistant.
SIGNS of Insulin Resistance: Tiredness, hunger, difficulty concentrating, weight gain around the middle, high blood pressure, high cholesterol.
How can we avoid this situation?
A) Recent research has looked into the effect skeletal muscle mass has on insulin dependent transport molecules (1). Our skeletal muscles, when exercised, get an increase in energy cells, and glucose transport molecules and have shown to have a positive effect on insulin sensitivity vs skeletal muscles that aren's exercised. Studies have shown that lower muscle mass can increase the risk of metabolic syndrome of which insulin resistance is a risk factor (2), Therefore, increasing muscle mass can have a positive effect on weight-loss and general health.
A lot of people shy away from working with weights as they do not want to get big muscles, however, when working with weights in the right manor this will not happen. My message to you is, make sure you do some resistance training this year, whether it is with weights, bands, boxing, swimming etc it doesn't matter but try to increase your muscle mass to help reduce your risk of insulin resistance.
B) As we have seen above, insulin resistance is caused because the cells do not respond to insulin the hormone that is trying to deliver glucose, sugar from broken down carbohydrates, into the cells. So we need to bring the burden of sugar down so that our cells don't constantly get bombarded by insulin and learn to become more sensitive to it again! I am not telling you to cut out carbohydrates completely, however you need to be mindful about the types of carbohydrates you are choosing.
It is important to know the concepts of low GI and low GL foods when trying to improve insulin sensitivity. GI demonstrates how high our blood sugar rises after eating a certain food. This is heavily influenced by the amount of fibre a food contains, as the less fibrous the quicker the sugar enters our blood stream. The GL is also important as this takes into account the amount of carbohydrate in a food. Lets look at rice for an example: white rice has a similar GI to watermelon, however when we look at the GL, rice has a much higher value than the watermelon. This is because the amount of carbohydrate in white rice is significantly larger than watermelon as watermelon contains more water (5). There are lots of good charts where you can have a look at different foods and their I and GL content.
Sugar and natural sweeteners should be kept to a minimum when working on insulin resistance as these hit the blood stream almost immediately and too much causes insulin resistance. Check food labels for all the hidden sugars in food products.
C) Quercetin is a flavonoid, which basically gives many plants their colour. It is an antioxidant that has shown to be beneficial in improving insulin resistance in type 2 diabetics. Food sources with higher amounts include: peppers, apples, blueberries, blackberries, leafy greens etc.
I hope you have found this interesting and can find a different spin on how and why weight-loss is important and also small choices you can make to improve your insulin sensitivity to achieve your weight-loss goals. For more information please email:firstname.lastname@example.org.
1) Meshnikova et al., (2017) Calorie Restriction-induced Weight Loss and Exercise Have Differential Effects on Skeletal Muscle Mitochondria Despite Similar Effects on Insulin Sensitivity. The Journals of Gerontology, 73:81-87.
2) You-Ci Cu et al., (2017) Gender difference in the association between lower muscle mass and metabolic syndrome independent of insulin resistance in a middle-aged and elderly Taiwanese population. Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics, 72:12-18.
3) Wang et al., (2016) Quercetin Decreases Insulin Resistance in a Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Rat Model by Improving Inflammatory Microenvironment. Reproductive Sciences, 24:
4) Pizzorno et al., (2008) The Clinician’s handbook of Natural Medecine 2nd edn. Churchill Livingstone Elsevier Ltd: USA
5) Nicolle & Bailey (2013)The functional nutrition cook book. Singing Dragon: UK