When you have consumed a food type containing carbohydrates, the digestive system breaks down the digestible ones into sugar, which enters the blood.
As blood sugar levels rise, particular pancreatic cells produce more insulin, a hormone that tells cells to absorb blood sugar for storage or energy. As cells absorb blood sugar, levels in the bloodstream start to fall.
This is when other pancreatic cells start making glucagon, a hormone which tells the liver to release stored sugar. This interaction of insulin and glucagon makes sure that cells throughout the body, particularly the brain, have an ongoing supply of blood sugar.
For some people, this cycle does not function properly. Those who have Type 1 diabetes (those who are insulin-dependent or have juvenile diabetes) do not produce enough insulin. Hence, their cells are not able to absorb sugar. Those who have Type 2 diabetes (non-insulin-dependent or those who have adult-onset diabetes) have a different problem; their cells do not respond well to insulin’s “open up for sugar” signal.
The latter condition, insulin resistance, involves blood sugar and insulin levels staying high long after eating. In time, the immense pressure on insulin-making cells wears them out, with insulin production slowing down or stopping.
Researchers cite that 90% of type 2 diabetes cases can be avoided via a combination of a healthy diet as well as an active lifestyle.
Insulin resistance is not purely a blood sugar problem. It is associated with various problems, like hypertension or high blood pressure, low HDL (good) cholesterol, high levels of triglycerides as well as excess weight.
In fact, it travels with these problems so often that the combination has been given the name metabolic syndrome. Alone and as part of the metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance can lead to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and possibly some cancers.
Genetics, a sedentary lifestyle, carrying excess weight, as well as a diet rich in processed carbohydrates promotes insulin resistance.