Insulin Resistance: The Silent Killer – Param Sivalingam

Insulin resistance, a precursor to type 2 diabetes, lurks silently within many individuals, posing serious health risks.

Once upon a time in a bustling city, lived a man named John. Little did John know that a silent menace was lurking within him — insulin resistance. Over the years, his love for indulgent meals and a sedentary lifestyle took a toll on his health, gradually pushing him towards a future he never imagined.

As time went by, John’s body began to show signs of insulin resistance — his blood sugar levels rose, but the symptoms remained undetectable. Ten years later, during a routine medical checkup, John received shocking news — he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Unfortunately, the consequences of insulin resistance had already been set in motion, silently paving the way for other health problems. 

The most elegant definition of insulin resistance in my opinion comes from Cyrus Khambatta, the author of Mastering Diabetes: “Insulin resistance results from the accumulation of excess dietary fat in cells that are not meant to store large quantities of fat, which inhibits the action of insulin”.

The Silent Killer

Insulin resistance, a precursor to type 2 diabetes, lurks silently within many individuals, posing serious health risks. Unfortunately, by the time diabetes is diagnosed through blood tests, the die has been cast for potential complications such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.  

Detecting insulin resistance early can be challenging because it often develops gradually over time without presenting overt symptoms in the initial stages. Several factors contribute to the difficulty in early detection:

  • Silent Progression: Insulin resistance typically progresses slowly, and its symptoms may not be immediately noticeable. As a result, health care professionals may not recognise the early warning signs. 
  • Lack of Specific Symptoms: In the early stages, insulin resistance may not produce specific symptoms that are easily recognisable. People may experience mild fatigue, increased hunger, or slight weight gain, which can be attributed to various other factors.
  • Insidious Nature: Insulin resistance can develop in individuals with normal blood glucose levels, making it difficult to identify through conventional diabetes screening tests that primarily focus on elevated blood sugar.

Reversing Insulin Resistance

Promising research suggests that reversing insulin resistance through dietary intervention and exercise can have a profound impact on health outcomes.

A well-planned diet can help improve insulin sensitivity, manage blood sugar levels, and reduce the risk of associated complications. 

Some of the key dietary considerations for reversing diabetes and insulin resistance:

  • Emphasise Whole, Plant-Based Foods: A diet rich in whole, plant-based foods is at the core of reversing insulin resistance. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds are abundant in fibre, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Aim to fill half of your plate with colourful plant-based options to maximise nutritional benefits.
  • Choose Low-Glycaemic Index Carbohydrates: Favor carbohydrates with a low glycaemic index (GI), as they have a slower impact on blood sugar levels. Low-GI foods, such as whole grains, sweet potatoes, and legumes, lead to gradual increases in blood sugar, reducing insulin spikes. 
  • Moderate Protein Intake: Include moderate amounts of lean protein sources in your diet, such as poultry, fish, tofu, tempeh, and legumes. Protein helps maintain muscle mass and contributes to satiety, reducing the risk of overeating and supporting overall metabolic health.
  • Healthy Fats in Moderation: While reducing unhealthy fats is crucial for improving insulin sensitivity, incorporating healthy fats in moderation is essential for overall health. Sources like avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil, which provide beneficial monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are the go-to choices. 
  • Avoid Added Sugars and Refined Carbohydrates: Avoid the consumption of added sugars and refined carbohydrates, including sugary beverages, candies, pastries, and white bread. These rapidly digestible carbohydrates can lead to sudden spikes in blood sugar and contribute to insulin resistance.
  • Regular Exercise and Sleep: Regular exercise and sufficient sleep play crucial roles in preventing insulin resistance and promoting overall health. Both lifestyle factors are essential components of a balanced approach to diabetes prevention and management.

Resistance To Change

If Insulin resistance is a precursor to cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure, then why are people not willing to change their lifestyle to prevent it from happening? 

From my own discussions with colleagues, I believe the reasons why people might be hesitant to make lifestyle changes are:

  • Lack of Awareness: Many people do not fully understand the risks associated with insulin resistance and its link to cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Without adequate knowledge about the consequences, individuals may not perceive the urgency to make changes.
  • Comfort and Familiarity: Humans are creatures of habit, and changing established routines can be uncomfortable and challenging.
  • Instant Gratification vs. Long-term Benefits: Making lifestyle changes to prevent insulin resistance and related conditions often requires sacrificing immediate pleasures for long-term benefits. 
  • Stress and Coping Mechanisms: Stress and emotional factors can influence lifestyle choices.
  • Accessibility and Cost: Access to healthy food options and their perceived high costs affects an individual’s ability to adopt healthier behaviours. 
  • Cultural and Social Norms:  People find it challenging to break away from habits ingrained in their cultural or social circles.

The key takeaway is that dietary choices should be personalised and should consider individual health needs, preferences, and cultural backgrounds.

Some individuals may thrive on a strict plant-based diet, while others may find a more flexible approach better suited to their lifestyles. The goal should be to make sustainable choices that promote overall well-being and align with individual health goals.

In conclusion, the journey to reversing insulin resistance and preventing diabetes is multifaceted and requires a holistic approach. Early detection is crucial but challenging due to the insidious nature of insulin resistance.

Ultimately, the key to success lies in personalisation and sustainable choices. By embracing early detection, adopting a proactive approach to health, and making informed dietary choices, individuals can reverse insulin resistance, prevent diabetes, and unlock the potential for vibrant, fulfilling, and healthy life.

  • This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.

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