Blog/What Is Insulin Resistance, and How Do You Reverse It?
Jennie Sanford, MD | 5/9/2024 | 3 min read

What Is Insulin Resistance, and How Do You Reverse It?

Understanding the impact of insulin resistance on weight loss

woman holding green apple and rejecting donuts

Insulin resistance occurs when the cells of the body become less responsive to insulin, causing your body to produce more and more insulin to control blood sugar. This results in weight gain, the inability to lose weight, inflammation and other  metabolism complications. We'll discuss what insulin resistance is, how it affects weight and how GLP-1 receptor agonists like semaglutide can help reverse insulin resistance and aid with weight loss.

What is insulin resistance?

Insulin is a hormone responsible for lowering blood glucose to normal levels and for cell-to-cell signaling in virtually every organ of the body. When you eat or drink carbohydrates and they are metabolized, your pancreas releases insulin in response to the rise in blood sugar.

Insulin helps direct the use of sugar in the blood, either sending it to organs to use as energy or storing it as fat. When blood sugar levels are spiked frequently, insulin production is constantly stimulated, and cells can become less responsive to the effects of insulin. This is the metabolic disruption called insulin resistance.

How does insulin resistance impact weight?

Insulin resistance often leads to weight gain and the inability to lose weight. Elevated insulin levels promote excess blood sugar to be stored as fat, especially around the abdomen. Both insulin and fat (adipose) tissue are proinflammatory, increasing the release of cytokines and other inflammatory markers, which promotes weight gain and makes it more difficult to lose weight. Eventually, insulin resistance can lead to type 2 diabetes mellitus with additional metabolic disruptions.

How to reverse insulin resistance?

Healthy diet

Diet is a significant factor for insulin sensitivity. A diet high in refined carbohydrates and added sugars leads to increased insulin levels, which can cause and worsen insulin resistance. A healthy diet can help reverse insulin resistance by controlling blood sugar and insulin levels.

Prioritizing a healthy diet means whole, nutrient-dense foods, and it should minimize refined carbohydrates, added sugars and other processed foods. Foods high in fiber like whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables can help control blood sugar and decrease insulin levels. Healthy unsaturated fats like those in nuts, avocados and fatty fish can improve insulin sensitivity and reduce inflammation. 

Regular exercise

Regular physical exercise helps improve insulin sensitivity and maintain a healthy weight. Cardiovascular exercise encourages muscles to take up sugar from the blood and use it for energy, which helps improve insulin resistance. Cardiovascular exercise also burns calories, which helps with weight loss and healthy weight maintenance. Strength training improves insulin sensitivity by increasing muscle size and increasing the use of blood sugar by muscles during training. Strength training also increases and maintains lean body mass, which leads to a higher metabolism at rest. Strength training can include bodyweight exercise or weighted exercises.

Weight loss

Weight loss helps reverse insulin resistance in several ways. Losing excess body fat, especially around the abdomen, helps improve sensitivity to insulin and helps reduce inflammation. In turn, weight loss improves blood sugar levels, which lowers insulin levels over time.

GLP-1 receptor agonists and insulin resistance

When lifestyle modifications, diet modifications and regular physical exercise do not result in sufficient weight loss, you may qualify for medication used to treat insulin resistance. Metformin is a medication that improves insulin sensitivity and reduces sugar released from the liver into the bloodstream. It may also decrease appetite and lead to a small weight loss.

GLP-1 receptor agonists like semaglutide also improve insulin sensitivity, regulate insulin release from the pancreas and slow the rate of gastric emptying, promoting fullness and less appetite. Semaglutide treatment leads to good blood sugar control and substantial weight loss up to 15% in some patients.

How to qualify for GLP-1 receptor agonist injections

GLP-1 receptor agonists can be extremely helpful in controlling insulin resistance and producing weight loss. However, they are not appropriate for everyone. Here are a few qualifications that may help determine if semaglutide could be used to treat insulin resistance:

  • Body mass index (BMI): Patients with a BMI ≥ 30 and insulin resistance should be considered for medication treatment, such as semaglutide; those with BMI ≥ 27, insulin resistance, and other obesity-related medical problems may also benefit. 

  • Prior weight loss attempts: GLP-1 receptor agonists (like semaglutide) could be an option when prior weight loss attempts were not successful with diet and exercise changes.

  • Other medical conditions: Patients who have insulin resistance, plus other metabolic syndrome factors, like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes mellitus and fatty liver disease could benefit from treatment with GLP-1 receptor agonist injections.

Insulin resistance can be reversed through lifestyle and medical intervention

Insulin resistance can not only cause weight gain, but it can also make it difficult to lose the weight. However, it is possible to reverse insulin resistance with lifestyle modifications, like following a healthy diet and engaging in regular exercise. If you are unable to lose weight with lifestyle modifications alone, GLP-1 receptor agonists like semaglutide may be a great option to help reverse insulin resistance and promote weight loss. 

Ready to make a change? Speak to one of Agile’s licensed physicians to see if you qualify for our semaglutide program. We offer trusted weight loss solutions from real doctors. At just $349/mo, your medication, visits and labs are all included in the subscription. No added costs or hidden fees. Ever!

See If You Qualify