How Insulin Resistance Affects Weight Loss

Although it is an undeniable fact that diet plays a significant role in making people becoming overweight, there are however several other factors which need to be taken into consideration due to the fact that they influence weight gain in one way or the other.

For instance, our metabolic health – the state of the different chemical reactions related to the production of energy and other products needed to sustain life from consumed food – can actually be regarded as one major weight loss factor which is not only affected by diet but equally by other factors such as stress, sleep, and exercise.

The amount and type of food that an individual eats has a significant role to play in his or her metabolism and the ability of the body to make use of that food. As a way of illustration, high glycemic index carbohydrate foods are generally known to be rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream leading to an almost instant increase in blood sugar levels. However, once the body notices an excess amount of glucose in the bloodstream, it secretes insulin from specialized cells in the pancreas to salvage the situation and in doing so maintain its metabolic health.

Closely related to the effect of diet on weight loss, this article takes a look at the concept known as insulin resistance, its causes and how it impinges on individual’s ability to effectively lose weight.

Insulin’s Functions
Insulin is a hormone produced by specialized cells in the pancreas and its major role is actually to regulate the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Insulin is particularly known for its assistance in controlling blood glucose (sugar) levels through the removal of any excess amount of glucose from the bloodstream and the storage of it as either glycogen in liver and muscle cells or as fat in fat cells.

Putting it more succinctly, one of insulin’s basic role is to transport excess blood sugar out of the bloodstream through binding with receptors on cell membranes and allowing glucose (and other nutrients) to flow into the cells for the body to use as energy. Thus insulin serves as a gatekeeper for glucose getting into body cells.

However, unhealthy eating lifestyles especially overeating caused by either “conditioned response” (a learned habit) or “emotional eating” often leads to increased blood glucose levels which make the body to secrete additional insulin as a way of attempting to maintain equilibrium in its metabolic health.

Generally, excess insulin secretion promotes excessive storage of glucose as fat in the body. Nevertheless, this situation can over time degenerate into one where insulin receptors may become less responsive to the effect of insulin.

Development of Insulin Resistance
If there is a cycle of fluctuating elevated levels of glucose in the bloodstream (caused by excessive consumption of high glycemic index carbohydrate-containing foods) and a counteracting secretion of insulin by the pancreas, with time, this interplay can result in insulin receptors becoming “de-sensitized” or “numbed” to the effect of insulin. This condition is what is generally referred to as insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance can therefore be regarded as a situation in which normal amount of insulin secretion becomes ineffective at producing an insulin response from muscle, liver, and fat cells. The cells of the body in this condition have essentially become incapable of responding adequately to insulin to the degree they normally should.

Due to this non-responsiveness, a situation is created whereby the pancreas is forced to secrete more and more insulin in order to control and normalize blood glucose levels. The only way that the body can overcome this difficulty is for the pancreas to produce enough insulin to bring the situation under control.

Unfortunately, not everybody is capable of producing sufficient amounts of insulin, a situation which inevitably results in a constant elevated blood glucose levels leaving the person feeling tired and cranky. Insulin resistance basically changes the way in which glucose and fat are metabolized by the body and is considered to encourage the excessive storage of fat in major fat-storage areas such as the hips, thighs, and stomach.

Furthermore, insulin resistance is a precursor to Type II Diabetes which has a 90% prevalence rate among those with diabetes. It is also noteworthy to mention that nearly everyone with a fatty liver has some degree of insulin resistance, and that 90% of people with diabetes have fatty livers. Moreover, it is estimated that about 80 million Americans suffer from insulin resistance.

Besides diet, another contributor to insulin resistance may be the lack of adequate sleep. A recent Boston study of twenty healthy men, aged between 20 and 35, found that lack of adequate sleep during a one-week period was able to cause a 20% drop in insulin sensitivity. Another independent study also observed that eight out of their nine subjects showed markers of insulin resistance after just about three nights of lack of deep sleep.

In summary, it can be deduced that the more fatty tissues an individual has, the more insulin resistant the body cells may become thereby making it even more difficult for the individual to be able to effectively lose weight.

Insulin resistance in and of itself can therefore be considered a very serious problem confronting a lot of individuals trying to lose weight. However, since an individual’s dietary lifestyle has been shown to have a significant influence on insulin resistance, adopting healthier eating habits in conjunction with getting more actively involved in physical exercise and having more adequate night sleep can help in restoring insulin sensitivity.