What is Insulin Resistance?

Insulin resistance is a condition that develops when the body cannot use insulin properly, which, over time, causes the development of chronic diseases of aging. Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, helps the body use glucose (a form of sugar that is the body’s main source of energy). Our digestive system breaks food down into glucose, which then travels through bloodstream to cells throughout the body. Glucose in the blood is called blood glucose, also known as blood sugar. As the blood glucose level rises after a meal, the pancreas releases insulin to help cells take in and use the glucose.

When people are insulin resistant, their muscle, fat, and liver cells do not respond properly to insulin. As a result, their bodies need more insulin to help glucose enter cells. The pancreas tries to keep up with this increased demand for insulin by producing more.  Eventually, the pancreas fails to keep up with the body’s need for insulin and excess glucose builds up in the bloodstream.  This blood sugar disregulation contributes to obesity, cholesterol abnormalities, elevated blood pressure (hypertension), osteoporosis, cancer, and ultimately the development of Type 2 diabetes (also called adult-onset diabetes) and cardiovascular disease (heart attack/stroke).  Therefore, controlling your insulin levels is one of the most powerful strategies you can possibly implement.

Symptoms of Insulin Resistance


The most common feature of Insulin Resistance is that it wears people out; some are tired just in the morning or afternoon, others are exhausted all day.

Brain fogginess

Sometimes the fatigue of Insulin Resistance is physical, but often it’s mental. The inability to focus is the most evident symptom. Poor memory, loss of creativity, poor grades in school often accompany Insulin Resistance, as do various forms of “learning disabilities.”

Low blood sugar

Mild, brief periods of low blood sugar (called hypoglycemia) are normal during the day, especially if meals are not eaten on a regular schedule. But prolonged periods of this “hypoglycemia,” accompanied by many of the symptoms listed here, especially physical and mental fatigue, are not normal.  Feeling agitated, jittery and moody is common in Insulin Resistance, with almost immediate relief once food is eaten.

Intestinal bloating

Most intestinal gas is produced from carbohydrates in the diet. Insulin Resistance sufferers who eat carbohydrates suffer from gas, lots of it.


Many people with Insulin Resistance get sleepy immediately after eating a meal containing more than 20% or 30% carbohydrates. This means typically a pasta meal, or even a meat meal that includes potatoes or bread and a sweet dessert

Increased weight and fat storage

For most people, too much weight is too much fat. In males, a large abdomen is the more obvious and earliest sign of Insulin Resistance. In females, it’s prominent in the buttocks.

Increased triglycerides

High triglycerides in the blood are often found in overweight persons. But even those who are not overweight may have stores of fat in their arteries as a result of Insulin Resistance.  These triglycerides are the direct result of carbohydrates in the diet being converted by insulin. See additional information about Increased triglycerides.

The Truth About High Fructose Corn Syrup

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), a highly processed sweetener made from corn, was introduced to the American market in 1975.  Food and beverage manufacturers began switching their sweeteners from sucrose (table sugar) to corn syrup when they discovered that HFCS was far cheaper to make and also about 20 times sweeter than table sugar. It was expected that less sweetener would be needed per product, but unfortunately the amount of sweetener used has steadily risen.

Since the use of HFCS, there has been a steady incline in the incidence of obesity (particularly childhood obesity), adult-onset diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer:

  • Glucose in other sugars is used by your body, and is converted to blood glucose, whereas the fructose from HFCS is a relatively unregulated source of fuel that your liver converts to fat and cholesterol.
  • Consumption of HFCS in high amounts can cause scarring and hardening of the liver, which can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer.
  • HFCS breaks down into a variety of waste products that are damaging to your body, one of which is uric acid. Over time, elevated uric acid drives up your blood pressure, increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • HFCS increases your insulin level, which causes you to store fat and overeat (largely due to its addictive quality and the suppression of appetite-controlling hormones)—a major cause of obesity, insulin resistance and the development of Type 2 (adult-onset) diabetes.
  • HFCS is almost certainly made from genetically modified corn and processed with genetically modified enzymes, linked to an array of heath problems from food allergies to cancer.

Aspartame and Weight Gain

Low-calorie artificial sweeteners were originally marketed primarily to diabetics and dieters, but now you find them in a variety of processed foodstuffs and snacks that are not specifically aimed at this target market.  But do these zero- or low-calorie products really help you lose weight and/or keep it off?

Well, the research and the epidemiologic data suggest the opposite is true, and that artificial sweeteners such as aspartame tend to lead to weight gain.  One reason for aspartame’s potential to cause weight gain is because phenylalanine and aspartic acid – the two amino acids that make up 90 percent of aspartame — are known to rapidly stimulate the release of insulin and leptin; two hormones that are intricately involved with satiety and fat storage. Insulin and leptin are also the primary hormones that regulate your metabolism.

So although you’re not ingesting calories in the form of sugar, aspartame can still raise your insulin and leptin levels.

Elevated insulin and leptin levels, in turn, are two of the driving forces behind obesity, diabetes, and a number of our current chronic disease epidemics.

Over time, if your body is exposed to too much leptin, it will become resistant to it, just as your body can become resistant to insulin, and once that happens, your body can no longer “hear” the hormonal messages instructing your body to stop eating, burn fat, and maintain good sensitivity to sweet tastes in your taste buds.

What happens then?

You remain hungry; you crave sweets, and your body stores more fat.

Leptin-resistance also causes an increase in visceral fat (belly fat), sending you on a vicious cycle of hunger, fat storage and an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and more.