Diabetes 101: the Causes of Insulin Resistance (Part 2 of 4)

Wednesday, September 03, 2008 by: E.L. West
Tags: diabetes, health news, Natural News

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(NaturalNews) In the previous installment of this series, Diabetes 101, we saw just exactly what type II diabetes is, how it is diagnosed, and how it relates to insulin resistance. In part 2, we are going to examine the causes of insulin resistance.

As more is known about insulin, diabetes, and insulin resistance, the question now becomes what causes insulin resistance? What brings about the onset of this illness? Magee-Women's Research Institute Investigator Dr. Robert Powers states that race (particularly African-American) and age (the elderly have less sensitive insulin receptors) are factors, but what about genetics? According to Jeffrey Pessin et al, there is "compelling evidence that susceptibility to insulin resistance is itself the result of a complex pattern of inheritance." Here, Pessin illustrates that the first risk factor involved in developing insulin resistance is genetic make-up; however, that does not exclude other factors.

Pessin went on to say, "Most likely, insulin resistance is really a complex phenomenon in which several genetic defects combine with environmental stresses... it remains possible that there are no molecular defects in any signaling or effector system, but that several of these key molecules function at a lower range of what is considered normal" (v106.2). In other words, though family history and genetics have some responsibility for the insulin resistance syndrome, there are more pieces to the puzzle than one's family tree.

First, nature provided a seemingly satisfactory explanation for insulin resistance, but another factor has come into play: the environment and how individuals exist in their environment. The most important factor that must be included in the environmental aspect of insulin resistance is diet, since it is the (relatively) easiest area of life to change. People who consume large amounts of processed, nutrient-deficient food are putting themselves at risk for developing this disorder and, ultimately, type II diabetes, especially if the aforementioned genetic factors are present (Powers, R.).

Dr. Ron Rosedale in his lecture at BoulderFest stated, "Anytime your cell is exposed to insulin, it is going to become more insulin resistant... So every time you have a surge of sugar and you have a surge of insulin, you get more and more insulin resistant." Many Americans find themselves consuming large amounts of highly processed, refined carbohydrates as Dr. Rosedale described and because of this, thousands more will find themselves drifting even further into poorer health. Furthermore, Jack Challam (a personal nutrition coach) stated that the culprit for insulin resistance syndrome lies solely in the consumption of "...sugary foods and refined carbohydrates... leading to a surge in blood sugar levels, followed by a rush of insulin... But after years of dealing with high insulin levels the body becomes resistant to it... leading to a diagnosis of diabetes."

Though a high, simple carbohydrate diet factors into the insulin resistance equation, another risk factor that is very changeable for many is the issue of poor exercise habits and a sedentary lifestyle. Through the hustle and bustle of the day, many find it difficult to fit an exercise routine into their ever-full schedule. "I just don't have the time," is the mantra that echoes through the busy streets of many urbanized cities. But, those who proclaim to be lacking in time should re-evaluate that decision when faced with the following evidence, "...a large body of evidence supports the role of exercise in improving insulin sensitivity and its beneficial outcomes in insulin resistant states.

Epidemiological studies such as the U.S. Physicians Health Study have reported substantial decreases in the relative risk of type 2 diabetes with lifelong regular physical activity..." (Kahn, B. et al). It is high time for America to re-evaluate its dietary decisions and re-prioritize: exercise is a great tool in the tussle against insulin resistance; therefore, not having enough time shouldn't be an excuse. Type II diabetes is a devastating condition, and every avenue that can be used to prevent its development needs to be implemented.

In part 3, the obesity and insulin resistance connection will be explored.


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2. Challem, Jack. (

3. Glaser, Benjamin. Pub Med. (

4. Goutham, Rao. "Insulin Resistance Syndrome." American Family Physician. 63.6 (2001).
19 Mar. 2008.

5. Insulin Resistance and Pre-Diabetes. (

6. Kahn, Barbara B., Flier, Jeffrey S. (

7. Kitabchi, Abbas E., et al. (

8. Number (in Millions) of Persons with Diagnosed Diabetes, United States, 1980-2005. ( .

9. Pessin, Jeffery E.; Saltiel, Alan R. (

10.Powers, Robert W. Telephone interview. 28 Feb. 2008.

11. Rosedale, Ron. Lecture. Health Institutes Boulder Fest Seminar. Aug. 1999

12. Shulman, Gerald I. (

13. Wardlaw, Gordon, Anne M. Smith. Customized Contemporary Nutrition. Updated 6th ed.
New York: McGraw-Hill, 2007. 126-30.

14. Wilcox, Gilesa. "Insulin and Insulin Resistance." PubMed. 26.2 (2005). 19 Mar. 2008.

About the author

Emily West is a freelance writer that focuses on topics of natural health and sustainable food production systems. She also maintains a blog, The Wordsmith, at

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