Insulin is a vital hormone that plays an important role in how the body processes glucose as a source of energy. Sometimes, however, the body fails to respond normally to the presence of insulin and is unable to metabolize glucose in an efficient manner, resulting in insulin resistance.
“Insulin resistance is a medical condition associated with serious metabolic health concerns including obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, polycystic ovarian syndrome, coronary heart disease and cholesterol abnormalities,” explains Ismary O. De Castro, M.D., an endocrinologist with Endocrinology Associates.
Symptoms include higher blood sugar levels and a higher compensatory insulin production. Insulin resistance is also associated with the release of other inflammatory signals by fat cells and blood vessels, increasing the risk of developing diabetes and chronic heart disease.
The latest scientific research reveals a correlation between insulin resistance and the location of fat accumulation in the body.
“An increase in abdominal visceral fat, which is the fat within our belly and in between our organs that you can’t pinch, is associated with the greatest risk for metabolic complications, versus general fat located and distributed evenly throughout the body,” explains De Castro. “The adipose tissue, which includes our body’s fat cells, is a hormonally active tissue which appears to control how the body responds to the use of glucose, fat and cholesterol.”
Prolonged stress translates into higher cortisol levels, which can increase the risk of insulin resistance. To combat the effects of stress and to keep the endocrine system healthy, De Castro recommends exercise, which helps the body use glucose more efficiently, as well as a healthy diet that is high in dietary fiber and low in saturated fats.
“Minimize consumption of pre-packed foods,” she advises, “and avoid genetically modified foods, which contain synthetic hormones and sometimes are treated with irradiation.”