Written by: Jonine Möller, M.Sc. in Sport Science
Fasting insulin levels are a crucial aspect of metabolism and overall health. Your fasting insulin level gives an indication of your whole-body insulin resistance, which puts you at an increased risk of developing conditions such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
For a simplified explanation of how fasting insulin may become elevated, imagine the muscles and liver in your body as the main storehouses for sugar and carbohydrates. Every time you eat carbohydrates, sugar enters your bloodstream. The liver takes up sugar from your blood and, with the help of insulin, the muscles too. The more sugar and carbohydrates you eat, the fuller these stores become.
The fat cells act as overflow containers for excess sugar. When the muscles cannot take in all the sugar in the blood, it converts into fat to be stored. However, the fat cells do not want to expand endlessly. Thus, as they get filled, they desensitize themselves to the actions of insulin.
As soon as your sugar stores are full, the body produces more insulin to try “force” more sugar into the stores to lower blood sugar levels. When your sugar stores are filled to the brim, your blood sugar levels and insulin levels remain elevated. The fuller the stores, the higher your fasting blood sugar and insulin levels will be.
The ultimate result of chronic over-filling of the body’s sugar stores is that the sugar and insulin in the blood remain elevated.
It is thus widely known and understood that lifestyle factors, such as diet and exercise, can greatly impact fasting insulin levels. Diet determines how much sugar enters the body, and exercise lowers the body’s sugar levels. However, many people may not realize that genes can also play a role in regulating these levels.
There are many genes that have been linked to fasting insulin levels and insulin resistance. The impact of genetic variations on fasting insulin levels can be substantial, with some people being more predisposed to insulin resistance due to their genetic makeup. This can result in an increased need for dietary and lifestyle modifications to keep fasting insulin levels in check and prevent the onset of related health problems.
For those with a genetic predisposition to insulin resistance, it is more important to maintain a balanced diet rich in fiber, lean protein, and healthy fats. A diet that is high in refined carbohydrates and added sugars can lead to spikes in insulin levels and contribute to insulin resistance. In addition, regular physical activity is crucial for improving insulin sensitivity and helping to regulate fasting insulin levels.
In conclusion, genetic factors can greatly impact fasting insulin levels and play a role in the development of insulin resistance. It is important for individuals to be aware of their genetic predisposition to insulin resistance and make the necessary changes to their diet and lifestyle to maintain optimal fasting insulin levels and overall health. Consulting with a healthcare provider or a registered dietitian can provide more personalized recommendations based on an individual's genetic profile and specific health needs.
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