By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Insulin resistance often goes unnoticed in the initial stages when an individual is described as prediabetic. If the condition progresses to diabetes or metabolic syndrome, however, symptoms manifest and medication is needed. Aside from medication, changing certain lifestyle factors can improve insulin resistance. In general, treatment of insulin resistance involves:
Weight loss in obese and overweight individuals. Losing just 5% to 7 % of the body weight can prevent or delay the onset of diabetes by 60% and improve insulin sensitivity.
Regular physical exercise in order to maintain a healthy body weight. Moderate exercise should be performed for around 30 minutes at least 5 days a week. Exercise activates the muscle cells that utilize blood sugar for energy and therefore increases insulin responsiveness.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet comprised of foods that are high in fibre and have a low glycemic index and carbohydrate content. The diet should also be low in monounsaturated fatty acids and saturated fats as these can trigger insulin resistance. By contrast, polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega-3) increase insulin sensitivity.
Medications such as metformin, exenatide and a class of drugs called the thiazolidinediones can help improve insulin resistance. These are approved in the treatment of type 2 diabetes but not for the treatment of insulin resistance alone. Growth hormone replacement therapy, on the other hand, can be used when insulin resistance exists alone without type 2 diabetes.
Magnesium supplements administered daily can restore depleted levels of magnesium which can also improve the glucose uptake from blood mediated by insulin. Magnesium supplementation has been used as a preventive approach in type 2 diabetes by improving insulin sensitivity.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc
Last Updated: Nov 17, 2013