Insulin is a vital hormone made by the pancreas which allows our bodies to use the sugar (glucose) found in carbohydrates for energy, and helps us absorb nutrients from food.
When we consume carbohydrates, the amount of glucose in our blood increases and the pancreas releases insulin to help send it into our organs and muscle cells, where it’s used for energy or stored for future use.
Simply, insulin regulates your blood sugar so it doesn’t get too high (hyperglycemia) or too low (hypoglycaemia).
A diet heavy in carbohydrates (particularly sugars) can make us less sensitive to insulin (or ‘insulin resistant’) over time. When this happens, we produce more insulin than we need in order to keep blood sugar stable.
Insulin resistance leads to problems with digesting carbs and absorbing nutrients, which can result in weight gain. The pancreas makes more and more insulin to compensate for the body’s resistance, eventually becoming exhausted and unable to release the hormone adequately – that’s when type-2 diabetes occurs.
Insulin resistance doesn’t just increase the risk of diabetes, but also ups the risk of thyroid problems and several types of cancer.
Diabetes – Type 1 and Type 2
Type 1 diabetes develops when the beta cells of the pancreas pancreas are damaged or destroyed and stop producing insulin. The condition is life-threatening, and people need to inject insulin for the rest of their lives to avoid complications from hyperglycemia.
People who develop type-2 diabetes due to insulin resistance may also need insulin shots to help with processing sugar and prevent long-term complications from this disease. Those with type-2 diabetes may be treated with oral medications, along with exercise and modifications to diet.
SO HOW DO YOU REDUCE YOUR RISK OF TYPE-2 DIABETES?
Improving insulin sensitivity
Cutting out sugar isn’t enough to treat or prevent type-2 diabetes. Maximising insulin sensitivity is crucial for improving overall health and minimising diabetes risk, and simple diet and lifestyle changes can yield positive results.
Managing weight is key, as excess body fat (especially when stored around the abdomen), can increase insulin resistance, and moderate physical activity on most days of the week can also reduce blood sugar levels.
Eating fewer simple carbs (sugar), reducing salt, limiting alcohol intake and a diet high in fruit, vegetables and high-fibre foods, can also help. Drinking green tea has been shown to significantly reduce concentrations of blood sugar, along with cinnamon, which can be sprinkled over food to help control blood glucose.
With a few lifestyle changes and these simple measures, there’s a lot you can do to avoid a diagnosis of type-2 diabetes and maintain regulated blood glucose levels.
Monitor your Insulin level via a simple, near painless, finger prick test which can be collected from your home using our Fasting Insulin Screening Test. This useful assessment will screen insulin levels following a 12-hour fast, which is a reliable way of measuring the degree of insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas and is used by most cells, particularly muscle and liver cells, to take in glucose for immediate conversion to energy, or to store it for future use.