What is Insulin Resistance?

Insulin resistance describes when the body produces insulin but the usual actions of insulin are not mediated.

Glucose is one of the most important sources of the body's energy and is obtained from the foods we ingest. Rice, potatoes, bread, milk, cereal, and fruit are all important sources of glucose and other sugars. Once ingested, glucose is absorbed from food into the bloodstream where it is carried into cells to provide energy for various cellular functions.

This cellular uptake of glucose is stimulated by insulin which is secreted from pancreatic beta cells. Insulin also stimulates the liver to convert excess glucose into glycogen for storage and suppresses the production of glucose.

Type 1 diabetes

In type 1 diabetes, no insulin is produced, meaning glucose is not taken up from the blood, leading to a high blood sugar level or hyperglycemia.

Type 2 diabetes

In type 2 diabetes, blood sugar levels are also raised, because an inadequate amount of insulin is produced to facilitate the cellular uptake of glucose by the body's cells. Alternatively, insulin levels may be sufficient, but the body cells fail to respond normally to the presence of insulin, even when levels are raised. This is called insulin resistance.

The resulting lack of glucose in cells triggers the pancreatic cells to produce more insulin still, resulting in raised blood levels of insulin or hyperinsulinemia.

In healthy individuals, the effects of insulin are mediated when it binds to insulin receptors present on various target cells such as the fat, muscle and liver cells. In the case of insulin resistance, however, the high level of blood insulin triggers a down regulation or a decrease in the amount of insulin receptors produced. This leads to a diminished cellular response to insulin, even when levels are raised.

Therefore, type 1 diabetes is caused by an actual deficiency in insulin while type 2 is caused by a relative deficiency.

As insulin resistance increases, the insulin-mediated effects on fat cells are reduced; the uptake of lipids circulating in the blood is decreased and the breakdown of stored triglycerides into free fatty acids is increased. Insulin resistance is therefore characterized by increased levels of triglyceride and other fats in the blood.

In the liver, insulin resistance reduces the conversion of glucose to glycogen for storage and the organ also fails to suppress glucose production. Furthermore, insulin resistance interrupts kidney function and can cause high blood pressure.

Together, these effects raise a person's risk for complications such as cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Further Reading

Last Updated: Jul 3, 2023

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.


Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:

  • APA

    Mandal, Ananya. (2023, July 03). What is Insulin Resistance?. News-Medical. Retrieved on June 20, 2024 from https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-is-Insulin-Resistance.aspx.

  • MLA

    Mandal, Ananya. "What is Insulin Resistance?". News-Medical. 20 June 2024. <https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-is-Insulin-Resistance.aspx>.

  • Chicago

    Mandal, Ananya. "What is Insulin Resistance?". News-Medical. https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-is-Insulin-Resistance.aspx. (accessed June 20, 2024).

  • Harvard

    Mandal, Ananya. 2023. What is Insulin Resistance?. News-Medical, viewed 20 June 2024, https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-is-Insulin-Resistance.aspx.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
Post a new comment

While we only use edited and approved content for Azthena answers, it may on occasions provide incorrect responses. Please confirm any data provided with the related suppliers or authors. We do not provide medical advice, if you search for medical information you must always consult a medical professional before acting on any information provided.

Your questions, but not your email details will be shared with OpenAI and retained for 30 days in accordance with their privacy principles.

Please do not ask questions that use sensitive or confidential information.

Read the full Terms & Conditions.

You might also like...
Ancient grains show promise for type 2 diabetes