A little knowledge of how this duo affects the body, will help make prevention and treatment more effective.
To understand Insulin Resistance – one first need to know a bit more about insulin.
Insulin is a hormone that is produced by the pancreas (an organ in the body. It functions as a key and opens cells to allow glucose sugar to enter the cells to be used by the cell as an energy source. Without insulin, cells cannot utilise the energy we get from food.
Insulin unlocks cells to allow glucose to enter. When the body becomes resistant to the effect of insulin (insulin resistance) it’s similar to a key that no longer fits the lock.
Additional to being involved in glucose uptake by cells, insulin is also a hormone. This means that it acts as a messenger in the body with specific functions. Increased levels of insulin in the body will also alter other functions in the body apart from allowing glucose to enter cells.
What does insulin do in the body other than allow glucose to enter cells?
Insulin promotes anabolism and inhibits catabolism – meaning that weight loss is more difficult and even a little bit too much food will be stored (mostly as fat) in the body. Insulin will also inhibit “breakdown” (or catabolism) of fat in the body.
What is insulin resistance?
Insulin resistance is a condition where the cells in the body are unable to use and produce energy the way they are supposed to. This is due to cells becoming insensitive to insulin.
Glucose sugar that is transported in our blood and that is supposed to be used by cells can not enter cells, which means that we can not use energy we get from food – and our body is unable to produce energy to keep us going.
What causes the body to become insulin resistant?
A malfunctioning energy cycle is the root cause of insulin resistance. This malfunction may be the result of the type of foods/diet, genetic factors, hormonal imbalance, stress (either a major event like an operation or accident or continuous stress that is not resolved) as well as lack of physical activity and exercise.
What happens in the body when we become insulin resistant?
Sugar or more specifically a sugar called glucose is the main source of energy for the brain and other cells in the body. It is an important source of “fuel” in the body. It’s so important; that the body has a whole series of “back-up” systems in place to ensure sufficient amounts of glucose energy is delivered to all the different cells, especially those in the brain, all the time. In other words, despite there being enough insulin, the glucose can not enter cells.
This faulty mechanism results in cells experiencing this as being “starved”. What then happens is a distress signal is sent to the brain, and the brain in turn signals “hunger”, which is our cue to eat. At the same time, the brain also signals the pancreas to secrete insulin to ensure that the glucose energy from the food that is coming, is going to supply cells with the needed energy.
Because there is a “short” in the circuit the insulin is unable to work, unable to unlock the cell for glucose to enter. This means that blood sugar levels may increase or remain elevated, which is again a signal for more insulin to be produced.
This cycle is repeated over and over again. The levels of insulin that circulate in the body are increased. These increased levels of insulin result in a slight improvement in glucose uptake by cells – but not enough to end this unhealthy abnormal cylce.
As a result of the increased levels of insulin in the blood, the body is geared to “store” the excess energy. (Another function of insulin is to promote “storage” of energy.)
Excess energy is stored in the form of fat in the body.
Insulin resistance can in the long run amongst other things, result in massive weight gain and inability to lose weight, if it is not detected and treated properly.
Other complications associated with insulin resistance include diabetes, heart disease and hormonal disorders such as polycystic ovarian syndrome.