What Is Insulin Resistance?

Whether or not you are aware of it, you could have insulin resistance, which is often a step toward the development of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is a condition that results when excess sugar builds up in the blood.  When we eat, our bodies convert food such as carbohydrates into sugar.  This sugar, also known as glucose, is carried by the blood to cells throughout the body where it acts as a source of energy.

Insulin is the key that opens cells so they can accept and access glucose in the blood.  Insulin resistance means the cells in the body resist the work of insulin.  If insulin is like a key that opens cells to receive glucose, insulin resistance is like a broken lock that will not let the key turn.

Insulin is a hormone or chemical messenger that is produced by the pancreas.  Cells in the pancreas constantly test the blood to see how much glucose is there.  When the glucose level reaches a certain point, it triggers the pancreas to release insulin to alert cells that glucose is available and to help them pull the glucose out of the blood.  This serves the double purpose of helping cells take in their main source of energy and getting the extra glucose out of the bloodstream.

When cells take in glucose, they can use it for energy right away or store it for future use. When there is a lot of glucose in the blood, such as when we eat a diet rich in carbohydrates such as bread, rice, or pasta, the cells can get overwhelmed by the amount of glucose available and start ignoring the insulin’s cue to take in more.

Insulin resistance is the condition when cells no longer respond effectively to insulin. Over time, this can become a chronic problem for cells which gradually lose the ability to respond properly to insulin. When this happens, even though glucose and insulin are available, the cells begin to starve because they are not able to respond to the insulin to get the glucose they need.

When glucose is not removed from the blood, it triggers the pancreas to produce even more insulin.  In the early stages of insulin resistance, the higher level of insulin is able to get the cells to take in glucose. But over time, the pancreas becomes overworked and cannot keep up with the higher demands to make more and more insulin.  When the pancreas is not able to produce enough insulin, sugar levels remain high in the blood and type 2 diabetes develops.

Denise DeWitt is a freelance writer for EmpowHER.com.



Diabetes Information Clearinghouse. Insulin Resistance and Prediabetes. Web. February 28, 2012.


About.com: Low Carb Diets. Laura Dolson. Web. February 28, 2012.


MedicineNet. Insulin Resistance. Ruchi Mathur, MD, FRCP(C),  Melissa Conrad Stoppler, MD. Web. February 28, 2012.


Healthwise. Insulin Resistance. Web. February 28, 2012.


Tags: insulin resistance,insulin resistance pancreas,blood glucose insulin resistance,pancreas and insulin

Category: Types of Diabetes