Written by: Jonine Möller, M.Sc. in Sport Science
Insulin sensitivity is one of the aspects of health that our DNA influences. Insulin sensitivity refers to the body's ability to respond to insulin, the hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar levels. A person with high insulin sensitivity will require less insulin to control their blood sugar, while a person with low insulin sensitivity will require more insulin.
Genetic variations can lead to differences in insulin sensitivity, which can impact an individual's health in several ways. For example, low insulin sensitivity (or insulin resistance) can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, a chronic condition characterized by high blood sugar levels.
The lower the body’s insulin sensitivity, the more insulin needs to be secreted per amount of carbohydrates or sugar consumed, and the longer it stays elevated. The presence of insulin puts the body into an energy-storing state. This causes sugar to be stored and converted to fat, preventing the body from burning fat for energy.
Thus, insulin sensitivity greatly influences weight and body composition, which impacts health. People with low insulin sensitivity may be more prone to weight gain as their insulin levels will be more elevated after meals and stay high for longer. Insulin resistance develops secondary to the carbohydrate/sugar stores in the body being overly filled, thus requiring extra energy to be stored as fat.
Dietary needs are impacted by insulin sensitivity. People with low insulin sensitivity should focus on consuming a diet low in simple carbohydrates and high in fiber, as these foods are less likely to cause spikes in blood sugar levels. Healthy fats should also be included.
Insulin resistance has been found to be at the root of almost all non-communicable diseases. It is the cause of all the symptoms of the metabolic syndrome, which is a state of increased risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Insulin resistance is a condition that is very treatable but cannot be ignored.
In conclusion, genetic variations can play a significant role in determining insulin sensitivity, which can significantly impact health and dietary needs. Understanding your genetic insulin sensitivity and making dietary adjustments based on it can help improve overall health and reduce the risk of developing chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes.
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