Insulin resistance is where cells less and less respond to insulin because of one of a number of health conditions such as high blood sugar, high triglycerides, high LDL, high abdominal fat/obesity. Type 2 diabetes is the next step.
While most people understand that in diabetes there is a loss of insulin, what most people do not realise is that estimates show up to 70% of adults in the UK and USA have some form of pre-diabetic insulin resistance, with one in three having a symptom of insulin resistance.
What is insulin resistance?
Insulin resistance is where cells in your tissue respond less and less to insulin and so cannot properly use glucose as a fuel, because insulin is needed to bring the glucose into the cell. As a result, your pancreas is required to make more and more insulin. In the end it gives in. That state is then called type-2 diabetes!
Insulin resistance can manifest in a number of ways – higher blood sugar levels, higher ‘LDL’ cholesterol, higher blood pressure, higher abdominal fat/obesity, higher triglycerides. Where people have three of these five traits, it may also be referred to as metabolic syndrome.
How do you test for insulin resistance?
Although a doctor can look at family history (it can run in families), nothing beats a fasting blood test where you have stopped eat at 6 pm the previous evening. He may also give you an oral glucose tolerance test.
How to reverse insulin resistance
Change your lifestyle
- Adopt a Rainbow Diet, with no empty calories, no bad fats, high soluble fibre, plenty of nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruits and olive oil and fish.
- Adopt an exercise programme – with aerobic exercise 4 times per week.
- Get yourself to a healthy weight with a lower BMI.
- Adopt time-restricted fasting daily
- Supplement with fish oils.
Fish oils reduce insulin resistance
While you can’t just take fish oils and ignore the new lifestyle requirements, there is a lot of research accumulating on how taking a daily fish oil supplement can help lower IR.
First, it has long been understood that fish oils are anti-inflammatory and that a precursor to diabetes, like any chronic illness, is inflammation. In fact, taking a daily supplement of fish oils increases levels of commensal gut bacteria that make anti-inflammatory molecules (1).
Omega 6, by and large, cause inflammatory. Omega 3 stops it. You want you daily total intake to be 1:1. At the worst, 2:1. There is 2017 on these inflammation issues (2).
Secondly, in a 2020 study (3) daily intake of omega 3 from fish oils reduces insulin resistance. All the participants had abdominal fat and/or obesity. The respondents were split by sex. Respondents took 2 gm of fish oil, or a placebo daily for 12 weeks. The fish oil group had much lower fasting blood glucose. This was true for men and women equally.
Finally, in a 2017 systematic review and meta-analysis (4), fish oil did not affect insulin sensitivity in the general population, but where a person had any one of the 5 metabolic syndrome traits, a daily fish oil reduced insulin resistance risk by 47%.
Fish oils are more than anti-inflammatory
Directly, or indirectly through the microbiome, omega 3 from fish oils also improves skeletal muscle mitochondrial function (5) while also having immunomodulatory effects through adipose tissue biology (6).