Explained: The link between diabetes and insulin resistance

The world is facing a growing epidemic that threatens the health and well-being of millions of people – diabetes and insulin resistance. These issues have worsened to frightening proportions, affecting people of all ages and communities throughout the world. 

To successfully address this epidemic, it is crucial to comprehend how insulin resistance and diabetes are related. 

We can empower people, medical professionals and society at large to adopt proactive actions in prevention, early identification and management if we can solve the mysteries underlying these disorders.

How many people are affected by diabetes and insulin resistance?

In recent years, diabetes has become much more common. A number of 700 million individuals are expected to have diabetes by 2045, according to the International Diabetes Federation, up from an estimated 463 million in 2019 [1]. 

In comparison to 1980, this reflects an almost doubling of the global frequency. With millions of people struggling with diabetes, areas like North America, the Caribbean and the Middle East have particularly high rates.

However, diabetes does not function alone. Type 2 diabetes, the most prevalent form of the illness, is largely caused by insulin resistance, a condition in which the body’s cells become less receptive to insulin. 

In fact, a sizable section of the population is affected by insulin resistance; in the United States alone, 88 million persons have been diagnosed with prediabetes, a condition that is preceded by type 2 diabetes and is characterized by increased blood glucose levels and insulin resistance [2]. 

As diabetes affects kids and teenagers more and more, this disease goes beyond adults. About 70% of those with prediabetes will eventually develop diabetes if nothing is done.

Moreover, a worrying development that was previously unheard of is the growth of type 2 diabetes in younger populations, which is a result of the rise of childhood obesity and sedentary lifestyles. 

These facts portray a sobering reality and implore us to face the problems that diabetes and insulin resistance present head-on.

What are the types of diabetes?
Photograph: towfiqu98/Envato

What are the types of diabetes?

A chronic metabolic condition called diabetes is characterized by high blood glucose levels. Either inadequate insulin synthesis or inefficient insulin usage hinders the body’s capacity to control blood sugar levels. It is crucial to comprehend the various forms of diabetes in order to develop effective management and treatment plans.

Type 1 diabetes

Insulin-dependent diabetes, sometimes referred to as type 1 diabetes or juvenile-onset diabetes, is an autoimmune condition. 

In this kind of diabetes, the immune system accidentally targets and kills the pancreatic cells that make insulin. 

Type 1 diabetics need ongoing insulin therapy for the rest of their lives in order to control their blood sugar levels [3]. 

Although it can happen at any age, type 1 diabetes commonly manifests in childhood or adolescence.

Type 2 diabetes

The most prevalent kind of diabetes is type 2, sometimes referred to as non-insulin-dependent diabetes or adult-onset diabetes. 

It happens when the body stops producing enough insulin to fulfill the body’s needs or when the body develops a resistance to the effects of insulin. 

Obesity, inactivity and poor eating habits are among lifestyle variables that are frequently linked to type 2 diabetes. 

Despite mostly affecting adults, it is now frequently diagnosed in children and adolescents as a result of the growth in juvenile obesity.

Gestational diabetes

About 2–10% of pregnant women acquire gestational diabetes throughout their pregnancy [4]. 

Pregnancy-related hormonal changes might cause insulin resistance, which raises blood sugar levels. 

The risk of problems for both the mother and the fetus rises with gestational diabetes. 

After giving birth, the majority of women with gestational diabetes have their blood sugar levels return to normal, but they are more likely to subsequently acquire type 2 diabetes.

Other types of diabetes

There are less common types of diabetes, such as latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA) and maturity-onset diabetes of the young (MODY). 

A hereditary type of diabetes called MODY is brought on by certain gene mutations and often appears before the age of 25. 

LADA is frequently initially misdiagnosed in adults as type 2 diabetes while sharing traits with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

What is the role of insulin in the body?

The management of blood glucose levels and preservation of the body’s overall metabolic balance depend heavily on insulin. 

Understanding the connection between insulin and diabetes requires an understanding of the uses of insulin, how it is made and how it works.

A key hormone, insulin, is in charge of controlling blood sugar levels and preserving the body’s energy balance. 

It stimulates the storage of glucose as glycogen in the muscles and liver and limits the liver’s ability to produce glucose. 

It also makes it easier for glucose to enter cells [5]. 

By encouraging the synthesis and storage of lipids while blocking their breakdown, insulin contributes to lipid metabolism as well. 

Additionally, insulin affects protein metabolism by encouraging the absorption of amino acids and protein synthesis.

When blood glucose levels rise, the pancreas, and more especially its beta cells, generate and release insulin into the blood. 

When the body’s cells lose their receptivity to the effects of insulin, glucose absorption and utilization are reduced. 

This condition is known as insulin resistance. Genetic predispositions, obesity, sedentary lifestyles and unhealthful eating patterns can all contribute to this resistance.

The most prevalent form of diabetes, type 2 diabetes, is mostly caused by insulin resistance. 

It describes a situation in which the body’s cells become less receptive to the effects of the hormone insulin, which controls blood sugar levels. 

As a result, glucose absorption and utilization are compromised, raising blood sugar levels and perhaps accelerating the development of diabetes.

In order to appreciate the underlying processes and adopt efficient preventative and treatment methods, it is essential to know the relationship between insulin resistance and diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is preceded by insulin resistance, which acts as a warning indication that the body’s glucose management system is not working properly. 

The pancreas produces and releases extra insulin into the circulation to make up for cells that do not react to insulin effectively [6]. 

This adjusting mechanism initially assists in keeping blood glucose levels within the usual range. 

However, when insulin resistance worsens, the pancreas’ beta cells could find it difficult to keep up, which would lead to insufficient insulin production. 

Due to continued insulin resistance and this decrease in insulin production, chronic hyperglycemia and the formation of type 2 diabetes result.

Gestational diabetes is a symptom of insulin resistance that can appear during pregnancy. 

Insulin sensitivity can be affected by hormonal changes during pregnancy, such as elevated levels of certain hormones including estrogen, progesterone, and human placental lactogen. 

Increased blood glucose levels and gestational diabetes are the outcomes of this. 

Although gestational diabetes usually goes away after delivery, both the mother and the child are more likely to acquire type 2 diabetes in the future.

Preventing and delaying diabetes and insulin resistance

In order to slow the incidence and progression of diabetes and insulin resistance, prevention and early intervention are crucial. 

It is feasible to lower the risk and postpone the onset of these disorders by being proactive and altering one’s lifestyle. 

The following tactics and measures can help stave off diabetes and insulin resistance and delay their onset:

1. Maintain a healthy weight 

Obtain and keep a healthy body weight by eating a balanced diet and engaging in regular exercise. 

The risk of developing insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes can be considerably decreased by losing extra weight, especially abdominal fat.

2. Adopt a balanced diet 

Eat a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. 

Reduce your intake of processed meals, high-calorie snacks and sugary drinks and foods. Limit your portion sizes and eat mindfully.

3. Engage in regular physical activity 

Aim for 150 minutes or more per week of aerobic exercise at a moderate level. 

Improve muscular strength and insulin sensitivity by including strength training workouts. 

By taking breaks from extended sitting and incorporating physical exercise into everyday activities, sedentary behavior can be reduced.

4. Manage stress levels 

Insulin resistance and diabetes can both be exacerbated by ongoing stress. 

Practice relaxation-promoting hobbies and activities, such as yoga, deep breathing exercises and meditation, to help you manage your stress [7].

manage stress levels

5. Implement behavioral changes

Developing good behaviors can help avoid insulin resistance and preserve general health. 

These include regular meal schedules, mindful eating and getting enough sleep.

Closing thoughts

An all-encompassing lifestyle strategy is needed to postpone and prevent diabetes and insulin resistance. 

People may dramatically lower their risk and postpone the development of these disorders by implementing techniques including keeping a healthy weight, adhering to a balanced diet, getting regular exercise, controlling their stress levels and making thoughtful food choices.

When creating individualized preventive and management programs, it is crucial to consult with registered dietitians or other medical specialists. 

These professionals are able to offer direction, assistance, and evidence-based suggestions that are suited to specific requirements. 

A person can live a life with a decreased risk of diabetes and insulin resistance by making simple, lasting adjustments that have a big influence on their overall health and well-being.


How does diabetes cause insulin resistance?

Insulin resistance is a hallmark of type 2 diabetes. In this condition, the body’s cells become less responsive to the effects of insulin. This leads to reduced glucose uptake from the bloodstream, resulting in high blood sugar levels.

Is insulin resistance a symptom of diabetes?

No, insulin resistance is not a sign of diabetes; rather, it is a metabolic issue that may play a role in the onset of type 2 diabetes. 

What is the main cause of insulin resistance?

Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle are the primary causes of insulin resistance.

[1] https://idf.org/aboutdiabetes/what-is-diabetes/facts-figures.html
[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3891203/
[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7722981/
[4] https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/gestational.html
[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1204764/
[6] https://familydoctor.org/condition/insulin-resistance/
[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9561544/

Photograph: LightFieldStudios/Envato
The information included in this article is for informational purposes only. The purpose of this webpage is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.