Affecting over 40% of the United States population, obesity is a severe and widespread health condition. The World Health Organization defines obesity as “abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to health.” Body Mass Index (BMI), is one screening tool used to measure body size based on height and weight; however, it’s not necessarily best tool for everyone since various races and ages have different BMI ranges associated with increased health risks.
Obesity can hinder a person’s well-being, causing psychological and social distress. They're at a high risk for serious diseases like cancers, high blood pressure, heart disease, osteoarthritis, and type 2 diabetes. The risk for type 2 diabetes is heightened by obesity due to the likelihood of developing insulin resistance, ultimately leading to type 2 diabetes.
What is Insulin & Insulin Resistance?
During digestion, starches and sugars from food are broken down into glucose and absorbed into the bloodstream, then the pancreas signals to release insulin. When glucose enters the cells, your glucose level decreases and signals your pancreas to stop releasing insulin. Insulin then unlocks your cells to access the sugar in your blood for energy and regulates your blood sugar levels.
Insulin production is based on the amount of sugar in your blood, and it’s usually a controlled process. Problems occur when cells in the muscles, fat, and liver become insulin resistant. When cells don’t respond to insulin and are not able to deliver sugar, it causes buildup, which stimulates the pancreas to produce more insulin. This vicious cycle due to insulin resistance can lead to metabolic complications and eventually, prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.
What Causes Insulin Resistance?
Biological factors such as genetics, age, and lifestyle can influence insulin resistance. Lifestyle factors like being inactive, consuming processed, high-carbohydrate foods, and taking certain medications can all elevate the risk of insulin resistance.
Why is this a Cyclical Effect?
Obesity and insulin resistance appear to have a cyclical effect. Studies support the idea that a main factor in metabolic disease is believed to be a leading cause of insulin resistance. When abdominal fat becomes inflamed and secretes small proteins called cytokines, this inflammatory response impairs the way insulin delivers glucose into cells which contributes to insulin resistance.
Columbia University provides research suggesting that the liver initiates a fat-induced inflammation where obesity triggers a production of liver enzymes called DPP4 that travels through the bloodstream to abdominal fat which activates inflammatory cells.
Many studies illustrate how obesity can cause insulin resistance but reverse research indicates that insulin resistance may induce weight gain and obesity. When cells are resistant to insulin and cannot absorb enough glucose, it builds up an excessive amount of glucose in the bloodstream. The body then stores the glucose in the liver and muscle tissues, leading to weight gain.
What is the Best Way to Stop the Cycle?
A lifestyle change is the best way to improve your body’s sensitivity to insulin. Please see these tips below to start making changes!
Pay attention to your waist circumference.
A waist of 40 inches or more for men and a waist of 35 inches for women have a higher risk of insulin resistance.
Improve your diet to minimize insulin spikes.
Eating high fiber and low-carb foods and reducing high-carbs foods are all effective ways to help with insulin resistance.
Boost your exercise routine.
Research shows endurance and strength exercises on a weekly routine build your muscles that improve your body composition and effectively decrease your insulin resistance.
Manage your stress.
Cortisone is a fight-or-flight hormone that provides your body with glucose for quick energy during stressful situations. Stress also makes you eat carb-rich foods while coping with your stress which leads to weight gain.
Source: Obesity and Insulin Resistance: How Are They Linked?