Are Women More Insulin Resistant Than Men?
What is insulin?
Insulin is a hormone produced in our pancreas which is needed to turn sugar into energy. When we eat sugars and starches, they are broken down in the blood. Insulin then provokes our cells to accept this material in order to produce energy for the body. This process is essential in regulating our blood sugar levels, and maintaining a healthy weight.
Insulin resistance and diabetes
There are several conditions associated with insulin resistance, (sometimes known as Syndrome X) including glucose intolerance, hypertension, and Type II diabetes. It is therefore known as a metabolic condition. Those with Type I diabetes do not produce insulin, and must have regular insulin injections; those with Type II diabetes suffer from insulin resistance, and must take measures to regulate their blood sugar levels. These measures include maintaining a healthy diet which eliminates saturated fat and refined sugar. Daily exercise is also recommended. Rarely, insulin shots are recommended for Type II diabetes.
Insulin resistance and obesity
Although those with Type II diabetes may produce insulin, it is usually in a small amount which is inadequate to regulate blood sugar levels. Over time, the cells do not take in the amount of sugar that they need to, and residual sugar is left in the blood. The benefits of insulin are then decreased. A variety of factors are related to insulin resistance, including genetic predisposition, and the use of medication, but obesity seems to be a major one.
Insulin resistance, risk factors, and women
It is estimated that as many as 1 in 4 Americans have insulin resistance, and there may be more women affected than men. This possibility needs further research and substantiation, but may be implied from women, particularly those who are perimenopausal, acquiring more risk factors than men. Some risk factors of insulin resistance include:
- Genetic predisposition to the condition
- History of gestational diabetes
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
- High blood pressure
- Age—usually being over 40
- Descent—being Native, Asian, or African American; being Latino
- Dyslipidemia—a dysfunction of lipoprotein metabolism
Effects of insulin resistance
Women in particular find it increasingly more difficult to lose weight when they develop insulin resistance. More serious diseases like heart disease, breast and endometrial cancers, and even the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, can develop. Remember that insulin is a hormone, and other hormones in the body such as estrogen will be affected by how healthy the regulation of insulin is. For example, symptoms of menopause will depend on insulin regulation.
Management of insulin resistance
Management of insulin resistance, and improving the metabolism of sugar, starts with a healthy diet composed of plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Refraining from refined sugars and saturated fats is recommended, along with daily exercise to regulate blood sugar levels. If you haven’t been tested, your doctor can determine if you are at risk, or have already developed, insulin resistance. If you do have insulin resistance, ask your doctor about other strategies you can implement for its management. Sources: http://www.medicinenet.com/insulin_resistance/page3.htm http://www.womentowomen.com/insulinresistance/default.aspx http://www.medicinenet.com/insulin_resistance/page4.htm