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Insulin Resistance: Treatment, Cost and Side Effects

Last Updated: Mar 17, 2022

What is the Insulin Resistance?

Insulin is a hormone secreted by a set of cells called beta cells in the pancreas. Insulin helps in the absorption of sugar by other cells of the body to get energy. Insulin resistance is a condition wherein the cells are not able to absorb blood sugar, thereby increasing blood sugar levels. High blood sugar level triggers the beta cells in the pancreas to produce more insulin which in turn contributes to a high insulin level in the bloodstream. This eventually leads to latent autoimmune diabetes in adults and type 2 diabetes. If the blood glucose level in your body is not as high as in type 2 diabetes but is higher than normal, then the condition is considered to be prediabetes.

Risk factors for insulin resistance are obesity and overweight, physical inactivity or sedentary life, old age or more than 45 years, giving weight to an obese baby, having gestational diabetes during pregnancy, having cardiovascular disease, and having polycystic ovary syndrome in girls. The medical conditions associated with insulin resistance are fatty liver, acanthosis Nigerians, arteriosclerosis, issue in reproductive health, and skin tags. Treatment for insulin resistance mainly involves changes in lifestyle and can sometimes require medication. The first and foremost treatment to fight insulin resistance is physical exercise to lose weight and maintain proper metabolism. Some medications that help control the condition are thiazolidinediones and metformin. Another medication used in the treatment of insulin resistance is acarbose (Precose).

What is the difference between insulin resistance and diabetes?

Insulin is a hormone responsible for preventing high sugar levels in the blood. It enables the body to use glucose effectively so as to prevent such conditions. However, in certain conditions, it fails to work as such, the condition commonly known as Insulin resistance. Insulin resistance may be responsible for causing diabetes.

Insulin resistance is associated with prediabetes, a condition in which a person is on the verge of developing diabetes but not actually having it. It is a feature of type 2 diabetes.

Summary: Insulin resistance is a basic factor responsible for raised blood sugar levels. It may be associated with diabetes, mainly type 2 diabetes while in certain conditions it is associated with pre-diabetic conditions.

How is the Insulin Resistance treatment done?

The medications used for the treatment or reversing insulin resistance are metformin (Glucophage), acarbose (Precose), and thiazolidinediones like rosiglitazone (Avandia) and pioglitazone (Actos). Medication with metformin has been found quite effective as it works in two mechanisms. Metformin resists the liver cells to release glucose into the bloodstream and it also increases the sensitivity of the muscle and fat cells to glucose in the blood. The fat and muscle cells absorb more glucose from the blood, thereby decreasing the blood glucose level. Metformin has been proved to decrease the chance of diabetes by 31 percent. The drug is mainly used for patients who are overweight and have been proved to promote the reduction of weight.

Acarbose has been found to act in the intestines wherein it slows down glucose uptake by the intestinal cells. This reduces the requirement of insulin thereby reducing the release of insulin by the beta cells of the liver. Acarbose has been found to reduce the change of development of diabetes by about 25 %. The use of thiazolidinediones drugs has also been found to act by increasing insulin sensitivity. A few other medications that have proved beneficial for treating severe insulin resistance are cyclophosphamide, prednisone, and rituximab. Insulin resistance can also be treated by bariatric surgery like gastric bypass, gastric banding, and sleeve gastrectomy. This has been the most effective treatment for obese patients who have not been able to reduce weight with other options like medication and exercise.

Who is eligible for the treatment? (When is the treatment done?)

Person diagnosed with excess level of glucose in the blood that are also overweight, have family history of diabetes, sleep problems, regular smoking, and old age and due to some other drugs like use of steroids, are eligible for treatment.


Who is not eligible for the treatment?

People who are not diagnosed with increased insulin level in the blood are not eligible for the treatment.

Are there any side effects?

Yes, the medications do cause side effects like nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, bloating, gas and loss of appetite, sometimes infections in respiratory tract, weakness, very low blood glucose level, chills, heartburn and low vitamin B 12. Metformin also has a rare but very serious side effect called lactic acidosis. Lactic acidosis in turn causes abnormal heartbeats, breathing problems, discomfort in stomach, muscle ache and light-headedness. Acarbose medication can have side effects like unusual, bleeding, severe stomach ache, severe itching due to allergic reaction, watery and bloody diarrhoea etc. Thiazolidinediones (TZDs) cause side effcts like edema, macular edema, heart failure, weight gain and hypoglycaemia.

What are the post-treatment guidelines?

Along with the treatment for insulin resistance it is recommended to work out so that you lose weight, quit smoking, cut on carbohydrate and sugar intake and get sufficient sleep. After getting the bariatric surgery done, it is recommended to take diet low on carbohydrate and sugar and that rich in proteins to preserve the muscles in the body. Also it is important to have small meals, eat and drink slowly, chew the foods thoroughly before swallowing and take mineral and vitamin supplements as recommended.

How long does it take to recover?

It takes about 6 to 12 weeks to normalise insulin levels in blood.

What is the price of the treatment in India?

It costs around Rs. 200 to Rs. 7 lakh including consultation, medication and bariatric surgery if required.

What foods are good for insulin resistance?

Insulin resistance may be affected by the foods we eat. Some food items lower it appreciably while some may aggravate the condition. Important food items to be preferred to minimize insulin resistance and enhance insulin-sensitivity include:

  • Plant-based foods: Plant-based food items are preferred rather than animal proteins to decrease insulin resistance. Such food items include a lot of green vegetables, salads, fruits, etc.
  • Low protein diet: Low protein diet along with moderate carbohydrates is a preferred combination for people suffering from high insulin resistance.
  • Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids: Fishes like sardines, salmon, herring, etc. are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Legumes: Beans and lentils are important examples in this category.
  • Barley, quinoa, oats, and sweet potatoes.
  • Unsweetened beverages like water, tea, etc.
Summary: Diet is an important part of our lifestyle choices which determines a person’s sensitivity towards insulin. Plant-based food items are more helpful in lowering insulin resistance, thus preventing risks of diabetes.

Is apple cider vinegar good for insulin resistance?

Apple cider vinegar controls blood sugar levels naturally. It exhibits the property of enhancing insulin sensitivity which enables more and more utilization of glucose by the body cells.

Thus, it is considered an effective way of decreasing insulin resistance and is preferred for people suffering from such conditions.

Summary: Apple cider vinegar, being an insulin-sensitivity enhancer, works well towards more and more consumption of blood glucose by our body cells, thereby decreasing insulin resistance. Meanwhile, it is good for enhancing insulin sensitivity.

What exercise is best for insulin resistance?

Insulin resistance enables the body to use glucose effectively, thus increasing the blood sugar level. It is associated with prediabetes as well as type 2 diabetes. Basic lifestyle changes including physical exercises and diet modifications are some important ways to minimize insulin resistance in our body. Preferred exercise forms include:

  • Aerobics: It includes some basic forms of exercise such as brisk walking, swimming, and cycling. These are effective as they burn more calories per session.
  • Resistance training: It includes moderate resistance training as well as interval resistance training. These forms of exercises are better as compared to aerobics as they burn more glucose during exercises or muscle-buildup.

    People with a sedentary lifestyle usually go for moderate resistance training exercises. For people who are already indulged in regular aerobics exercises, interval training exercises should be preferred.

Summary: People leading a sedentary mode of lifestyle are more prone to developing risks of diabetes or pre-diabetes. Hence, some basic forms of exercises such as aerobics, resistance training are necessary for the prevention of such conditions.

Are the results of the treatment permanent?

Yes the treatments are often quite effective and permanent. So, once treated for reversing insulin resistance and proper steps are taken to keep body weight under check and have appropriate food intake, the glucose and insulin level in the blood is maintained for whole life.

What are the alternatives to the treatment?

The alternatives for the treatment is changes in lifestyle like doing regular exercise and following a proper diet to lose weight and get rid of obesity.


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Written ByDr. Neeraj Garg MBBS Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery,MD - Medicine,DM - EndocrinologyEndocrinology
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Reviewed ByDr. Bhupindera Jaswant SinghMD - Consultant PhysicianGeneral Physician
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