Diagram of insulin resistance characteristics in the human body

Can you reverse insulin resistance

Colin Chambersactivity, cancer, cells, CHD, cholesterol, diabetes, general health, insulin resistance, metabolism, obesity, play, pre-diabetes, steps, weight loss Leave a Comment

I read an article Insulin resistance and pre diabetes and just had to report the findings of the major study they refer to.

‘lifestyle changes reduced the risk of diabetes by 58 percent’

The main recommendation is to be active and eat well.

I just wanted to make the point that insulin resistance can be reversed. They also found that many people with pre-diabetes, symptoms that often lead to diabetes, returned to normal.

So anyone out there who’s worried about or has been told they have or are likely to get diabetes. There are options for you and they don’t all involve medicine. Simple approaches like looking at the balance in your life and including activity and adjusting your foods can make a big difference

These days diabetes type 2 is generally considered a self inflicted disease. The up side is that it means you can help fix it yourself with the right advice.


If you’re in a rush here is the take home message in one paragraph.

Insulin resistance occurs because your body forgets how to deal with sugar. This leaves sugar flowing through your body causing lots of damage. Exercise creates a big demand for sugar forcing your body to remember how to deal with it. Making sure sugar doesn’t get to flow where it shouldn’t, minimising the damage sugar can do. Improving your health in the process.

What is insulin resistance?

Insulin resistance is a condition in which the body produces insulin but does not use it effectively. When people have insulin resistance, glucose builds up in the blood instead of being absorbed by the cells, leading to type 2 diabetes or prediabetes

Insulin resistance means that the cells start losing their natural response to the presence of insulin and so sugar is no longer used properly within the body. This is because the levels of a cell component named Glucose Transporter 4 (GLUT4) fall. GLUT 4 responds directly to the presence of insulin and encourages cells to take up sugar. GLUT4 is the glucose transporter found in (skeletal) muscle and fat (Adipose) cells

This can lead to sugar shortages within the cell and an inability to clear sugar from the blood. Both situations can have serious consequences. This is often compounded by the pancreas secreting more insulin in an effort to trigger great uptake of glucose within cells. Over time this feedback loop can overload the pancreas and create problems in producing any insulin at all.

How important is insulin resistance?

The size of the problem can be large because insulin resistance affects two thirds of the human body since it effects both muscle and fat cells which account for around two thirds of an average humans weight.

Why does insulin resistance develop?

The reason insulin resistance occurs is because the body is constantly adapting to our lifestyle and looking for ways to save precious resources. When you lead an inactive life you rarely create a big demand within your cells for carbohydrate. So the GLUT4 receptors are lost by the cell. There seems no need for them.

How can you reverse insulin resistance?

What is not commonly known is that regular exercise can reverse insulin resistance by increasing the number of GLUT 4 receptors within cells. Research shows that exercise places a high demand on the bodies carbohydrate (sugar) stores. It tests its ability to mobilise and use carbohydrate to power the muscles to create movement. Most of the adaptations that happen when you get fit are designed to conserve carbohydrate by using it efficiently. As a result the body will increasingly prefer fat as a fuel. Small amounts of exercise have been shown to have a big impact on the bodies ability to regulate carbohydrate.

Benefits of reversing insulin resistance

It is becoming increasingly clear that insulin resistance causes obesity and diabetes. Not the other way around. If you consider How exercise combats Heart Disease, Insulin Resistance and Diabetes then you will find that learning how to move more can tackle insulin resistance. In turn this can help tackle:

  • Obesity
  • Coronary Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Stroke
  • Cancer

Often because all these problems are strongly linked to an inability to handle sugar properly.

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  • Mitochondrial Energetics and Insulin Resistance of Aging This in depth talk is the best summary I have seen for a while talk explaining the effects of physical inactivity on insulin resistance.
    • Higher Muscle density has weaker muscle, the more fat in the muscle the weaker the muscle
    • Just be active: Asked what type of exercise should someone do the response was “the type of exercise that you will do!!” so just be active and let your body adapt to that and reap the benefits
  • #490: How Does Exercise Impact Beta-cell Function in Type 2 Diabetes? – Mark Lyngbæk, MD 
    • A fascinating discussion covering so much that I learnt wt uni. Particularly 11:56 the description of the effect of insulin release on cells. 
    • I am frustrated how forgetful science is because they mentioned a lack of research but I was shown plenty over 30 years ago pre internet publishing and but also as part of exercise physiology and not beta cell function. The barriers between disciplines cause this kind of ignorance. 
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    • The link to sensitivity and not dose fits what I was told. 
    • Around 35 mins. Lose weight with diet increased insulin function by increasing insulin production . Exercise groups increases insulin function by increasing insulin sensitivity. 
    • The whole analysis is great and I realise now that it is finally combining the two things I heard in separate lectures 25 years ago at Loughborough.  I realised the implications then and thought others would but no. Only now do I hear of research finding these implications with the same results from basically the same protocols as before but now it’s done for clinical research and not for exercise science they connect all the dots at once. 
    • It is incredibly frustrating for me to wait 25 years to see this insight get research focus and shows just how slow and inefficient our scientific system is. I love the talk but dislike how slow all this stuff is and how distinct each field is which is why so many of these related insights get missed. 

Can you reverse insulin resistance first appeared on my original blog.

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