Before we understand insulin sensitivity, it’s important for us to understand insulin resistance.
What is insulin resistance?
When the cell receptors that recognise insulin stop responding to insulin even if it is present in optimum quantities in the blood, it leads to increased blood glucose levels due to the inability of the body to take up glucose for energy with the help of insulin. This condition where the cells fail to respond to insulin and can’t take up glucose from the blood is called Insulin Resistance.
How does a person become insulin resistant?
Insulin resistance can be caused due to various factors such as:
- A high-caloric diet or a carbohydrate-rich diet
- Being overweight or obese
- Leading an inactive lifestyle
- A family history of diabetes
What are the signs of being insulin resistant?
- Large waist size or obesity in the abdominal region
- Fat-rich liver
- High blood sugar levels
- Sharp and constant craving for food laden with sugar or carbohydrates
- Suffering with hormonal issues like Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
- Acne and hirsutism from elevated levels of testosterone in women due to high levels of insulin
- Hair loss in women
- Acanthosis nigricans or darkened patches over the neck and skin
- High blood pressure
- Skin tags
- High risk of gout
- Fluid retention in body
Now that we have understood insulin resistance, let us understand what exactly insulin sensitivity means.
What is insulin sensitivity?
Insulin sensitivity stands for how sensitive or how quickly and effectively the body responds to insulin.
Insulin sensitivity depends on various factors and every individual has different degrees of insulin sensitivity.
The more sensitive you are to insulin, the less amount of insulin you would require to regulate blood glucose levels.
Let us understand the factors that regulate, the ways in which we can increase our insulin sensitivity and why insulin sensitivity is beneficial to our body.
What are the factors affecting insulin sensitivity?
Research shows that leading an active lifestyle and consuming a balanced diet are directly linked to better insulin sensitivity. On the contrary, leading an inactive lifestyle, and consuming high-caloric foods causes an increased risk of developing insulin resistance and lowered insulin sensitivity.
Why is it beneficial to have high insulin sensitivity?
- High insulin sensitivity helps in easy management of weight: Those with high insulin sensitivity find it easy to shed some kilos or increase their weight as opposed to low insulin sensitivity where it becomes difficult for the body to lose weight.
- Reduced sharp cravings for sugar due to better management and utilisation of glucose within the body.
- High insulin sensitivity also reduces the risk of suffering from many diseases like hypertension, heart disease and hormonal disorders like thyroid and PCOD.
- Better memory: Studies have shown that high insulin sensitivity also helps in maintaining good brain health and mental agility.
- Improved skin health: Since insulin resistance causes several skin diseases like darkness in the neck and armpit region, acne and greasy skin along with hirsutism or unwanted hair growth, insulin sensitivity not only helps in improving skin health but also reverses ageing.
Can we regulate and improve our insulin sensitivity?
We can improve our insulin sensitivity through
- An active lifestyle: regular physical activity is a primal factor in improving insulin sensitivity.
- A balanced diet: A balanced diet helps in keeping blood glucose in check helping in better assimilation of nutrients.
- Better sleep: A good night’s sleep is crucial in maintaining low-stress levels which are key to keeping lifestyle diseases at bay.
- Losing weight: Losing weight is known to reduce the risk of developing insulin resistance by up to 50% thus helping in increasing insulin sensitivity.
Insulin sensitivity and insulin resistance are two edges of the same sword. Hence, maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle becomes essential to increase insulin sensitivity and lower insulin resistance. To understand and improve your insulin sensitivity, consult a diabetes specialist and lower your risk of falling prey to diabetes and other lifestyle diseases arising as a complication from decreased insulin sensitivity.