Insulin resistance symptoms are very similar to the symptoms associated with pre-diabetes, and I believe the two conditions are strongly related, in that insulin resistance is often the beginning stage of pre-diabetes and can worsen into type 2 diabetes.
Insulin resistance is closely associated with obesity, high cholesterol brought on by inflammation, high blood triglycerides, high blood pressure, and coronary heart disease. These health conditions often show up at the same time in many patients, and doctors call the combination the Metabolic Syndrome.
Avoiding and Treating Insulin Resistance
Although there are many drugs on the market touted to treat insulin resistance, (most have serious side effects) most people with insulin resistance symptoms can reverse them by:
- Following a low carbohydrate diet and
- Adding a long term program of high-intensity interval training exercise. This would include lifting weights and aerobic interval training.
The combination of a low carb diet and high-intensity exercise is the best treatment for avoiding and reversing insulin resistance symptoms and the eventual progression to the pre-diabetes symptoms associated with a breakdown in insulin sensitivity.
For example, look at the results of this study designed to test low carb diets on the factors associated with metabolic syndrome:
Eighty-three subjects were randomly allocated to one of 3 weight-loss diets for 8 weeks and on the same diets in energy balance for 4 weeks. Each diet provided identical amounts of calories but differed in the amount of carbohydrate, fat, protein and saturated fat included. This was expressed in a ratio (Carb:Fat: Protein; %SF). The diets included a:
- Very Low Fat (VLF) (70:10:20; 3%)
- High Unsaturated Fat (HUF) = (50:30:20; 6%)
- Very Low Carb (VLCARB) (4:61:35; 20%)
The results were telling. Those subjects on the VLCARB diet lowered their fasting insulin by 33%, compared to a 19% fall on the HUF diet and no change on VLF.
The authors concluded that very low carb diets resulted in similar fat loss to the HUF diets, (which were low in saturated fat), but the very low carb diet was more effective in improving triglyceride levels, increasing HDL-Cholesterol, and improving fasting and post-meal glucose and insulin concentrations. They noted that VLCARB diets may be useful in the short-term management of subjects with insulin resistance and high blood triglycerides.
Many other studies have repeated these results, even in people who have developed diabetes from years of chronically elevated insulin levels.
A Polish physician named Jan Kwasniewski has used very low carb diets (aka high fat or ketogenic diets) to effectively treat Metabolic Syndrome and Diabetes.
Intense Exercise is the Best
In addition to a low carb diet, intense exercise has been shown in many studies to reverse most insulin resistance symptoms in humans. Exercise in any form or intensity will help reduce insulin resistance, but high-intensity interval training has been shown to be especially beneficial. For more information, see this study and this study, and read Body by Science: A Research-Based Program to Get the Results You Want in 12 Minutes a Week by Dr. Doug McGuff and John Little. If you aren’t big on reading, here’s a talk was given by Dr. McGuff which covers the major points of his book.
Resources for Further Reading
- Dr. Mary C. Vernon explains Insulin Resistance and Diabetes.
- Carbohydrate Restriction has a More Favorable Impact on the Metabolic Syndrome than a Low Fat Diet.
- Carbohydrate restriction improves the features of Metabolic Syndrome.
- Syndrome X, The Silent Killer: The New Heart Disease Risk by Gerald Reaven, Terry Kirsten Strom, and Barry Fox
- Why You Don’t Want the Experts Telling You What to Eat an article by Richard Feinman