The #1 Cause of High Insulin, According to Science
High insulin—also known as hyperinsulinemia—is a condition where blood insulin levels are higher than what is considered normal, and is linked to diabetes. (What is insulin? "Inside the pancreas, the hormone insulin is made in the beta cells, which are part of the Islets of Langerhans. These islets also have alpha cells, which make glucagon, as well as delta cells. With each meal, beta cells release insulin to help the body use or store the blood sugar it gets from food," says the American Diabetes Association.) Here are five factors that could be contributing to high insulin levels, and what the main cause of high insulin is. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Type 2 Diabetes
High insulin is strongly correlated with type 2 diabetes—the most common form of diabetes. "Hyperinsulinemia means the amount of insulin in your blood is higher than what's considered normal," says M. Regina Castro, M.D. "Alone, it isn't diabetes. But hyperinsulinemia is often associated with type 2 diabetes. Insulin is a hormone that's normally produced by your pancreas, which helps regulate blood sugar. Hyperinsulinemia is a sign of an underlying problem."
Hyperinsulinemia can be very dangerous over the long term, affecting organs, limbs, eyes, and muscles. People who have insulin resistance should be very careful with their diet, making sure to monitor their blood sugar levels. "Insulin's primary purpose is to carry the sugar from your blood into your cells so that it can be burned for energy." says Beatriz Mendez del Rio, FDN-P. "Sugar is like Goldilocks. It is needed in the right amounts. If you eat too much sugar, you overflow your system, causing a massive spike in blood sugar levels, which requires the pancreas to make excess insulin to move the sugar to your cells… The best way to keep blood sugar levels balanced is to adjust your macronutrient ratio in each meal." Mendez del Rio recommends high fiber foods, "such as cruciferous veggies, leafy greens, mushrooms, root veggies, legumes, and whole grains."
Insulin resistance and abdominal fat are very closely correlated in a vicious circle—not only does abdominal fat cause insulin resistance, but insulin resistance leads to abdominal fat. "Carrying extra weight around your middle means fat can build up around organs, like your liver and pancreas," explains Diabetes UK. "This can cause something called insulin resistance as the insulin can't get through the fat. This means the insulin your body produces doesn't work properly, and that increases your chance of having high blood glucose (sugar). You should make sure your overall weight and body mass index (BMI) are healthy, but even if they are, you may still be at risk of type 2 diabetes if you have a large waist measurement." So how do you know if your belly fat is a cause for concern? Use a tape measure: 35 inches or more is a sign of visceral fat in women, and 40 inches or more is a sign of visceral fat in men.
Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is strongly linked to insulin resistance—although the precise connection is hotly debated. There is mixed evidence as to whether the fatty liver causes insulin resistance or vice versa, but there is no doubt they are closely related. "NAFLD is considered as the hepatic component of the metabolic syndrome, with insulin resistance and inflammation as key factors in its pathophysiology," says Prof. Shira Zelber-Sagi, RD, PhD, from the School of Public Health, Faculty of Social Welfare and Health Sciences, University of Haifa, Israel. "Unhealthy Western lifestyle plays a major role in the development and progression of NAFLD, namely, lack of physical activity and high consumption of fructose and saturated fat."
The #1 Cause of High Insulin Is Blood Sugar
Insulin resistance is the number one cause of high insulin in the blood—the pancreas is releasing larger amounts of insulin to try and manage blood sugar levels. This is why high insulin is so closely linked to diabetes. "Hyperinsulinemia is most often caused by insulin resistance — a condition in which your body doesn't respond well to the effects of insulin," says Dr. Castro. "Your pancreas tries to compensate by making more insulin. Insulin resistance may eventually lead to the development of type 2 diabetes. This happens when your pancreas is no longer able to compensate by secreting the large amounts of insulin required to keep the blood sugar normal."
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