How does insulin resistance lead to type 2 diabetes?
Beginning from the basics, the food we eat gets converted to glucose. This glucose acts as an energy source for our body. Glucose is then transported across the cell using insulin. Now, sometimes, the body stops responding or resisting to insulin leading to insulin resistance. When this happens, glucose spills into the blood instead of being transported to the cell, leading to hyperglycemia (high blood glucose)- a characteristic of type 2 diabetes.
Symptoms of insulin resistance
Insulin resistance is often marked by Acanthosis Nigricans (hyperpigmentation of skin folds such as the nape of the neck, underarms, inner thighs), excessive hunger and fatty liver. Blood tests like impaired fasting and post-meal blood sugar also help determine insulin resistance. In case you find anything relatable, get yourself diagnosed by your doctor.
What causes insulin resistance?
Several causes can lead to insulin resistance. Natural causes include genetics, ageing and ethnicity. However, it is lifestyle reasons like excess body weight, belly fat, lack of physical activities, smoking and irregular sleep that accelerates the condition. All of these causes point towards diet as a key player in developing insulin resistance. Food high in refined carbohydrates, saturated and trans fats puts you at a higher risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
The prevalence of such diets in Indian subcontinent also makes the country more prone to diabetes. Consumption of high amounts of carbohydrates in the form of white rice, all-purpose flour (maida) based products (such as naan, paratha, pav, bread, etc.) and the lack of proteins creates an imbalanced diet. In addition to this, excess invisible fat (mostly found in bakery and ready to eat products) decreases the cell sensitivity to insulin.
Dietary precautions for insulin resistance
The best way out to treat and prevent insulin resistance is by adopting a low calorie diet. In such a diet, there is a restriction on calorie intake to help a person lose weight. Along with this, the inclusion of protein in the form of nuts, pulses, milk and milk products like yoghurt, low-fat paneer and lean meat creates a balanced diet. Include green leafy vegetables, and two servings of fruits in the food as well.
The key is to switch to complex carbohydrates like brown rice, whole wheat or millets, but in limited quantities. Another way to make sure you keep away insulin resistance is by practising right cooking methods. Always avoid deep frying or grilling where the meat or vegetables are charred. This leads to an increased oxidative burden on the body. An ideal cooking method would involve boiling, steaming, slow cooking using minimum fats.
Physical activities and stress-free lifestyle to the rescue
Now that we have learnt how diet influences insulin resistance, it is time to understand the importance of physical activities on the same. Exercise makes muscles more receptive to insulin, decreases body fat and insulin resistance. When one is physically more active, secretion of endorphins (feel-good hormones) increases too. Thus, not just regular activities, but cardio exercise and strength training can only help you with insulin resistance as well as maintain your required body fitness. Rejuvenation of the body through sound sleep and meditation to reduce stress is another proven way of disease management.
Since insulin resistance is an outcome of multiple factors, treating it can be a task. However, with healthy lifestyle modifications, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes is now a manageable condition.