Type 2 Diabetes

12 Red Flags You May Have Insulin Resistance

July 10, 2024

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Written by Dara Birnboim, MS. Reviewed by Diana Licalzi, MS, RD, CDCES

Today, we're exploring a crucial health topic affecting millions worldwide: insulin resistance. If you've been feeling fatigued, gaining weight, or struggling with sugar cravings, you may want to keep reading.


What is Insulin Resistance?

Insulin resistance is a metabolic condition where the body's cells become less responsive to the hormone insulin, which regulates blood sugar levels. When cells fail to respond effectively to insulin, the pancreas produces more of it to help glucose enter cells. Over time, this can lead to elevated blood sugar levels, increased fat storage, and a higher risk of developing many metabolic disorders. Insulin resistance is often associated with obesity, physical inactivity, and genetic factors.

Is Insulin Resistance a Problem?

Now, why is insulin resistance a cause for concern? These persistent levels of elevated blood glucose can lead to prediabetes and type two diabetes.

Additionally, insulin resistance is closely linked to several other health issues, including cardiovascular problems, kidney disease, and even an increased risk of certain cancers. Understanding these consequences underscores the importance of recognizing and addressing insulin resistance early on


Common Signs and Symptoms

1. Frequent Hunger

Red flag #1: Frequent hunger.  Are you constantly hungry, even after eating a meal? This might be a sign of insulin resistance because if your body cannot respond properly to insulin, this can leave you feeling unsatisfied and actually craving more food. Evidence suggests that this might be due to the close relationship between insulin and ghrelin, the body’s hunger hormone.  This is also because, with impaired insulin function, our glucose remains in the bloodstream instead of being taken up by cells for energy, leaving you feeling hungrier than usual.


Mechanism connecting insulin resistance and hunger hormones


2. Skin Tags

Recent studies suggest a link between skin tags and impaired glucose tolerance. The connection appears to be rooted in hyperinsulinemia, which means the body is producing excess insulin. Because insulin has growth-promoting effects, it can ultimately lead to skin tag development. Clinically, these pigmented, painless growths often occur in skin folds and can be removed. However, their removal is only a band-aid solution to their potential association with underlying metabolic conditions


3. Weight Gain, Especially Around the Midsection

Number 3: abdominal fat. If you've noticed extra inches around your waistline despite maintaining a healthy lifestyle, it might be time to consider the possibility of insulin resistance. Although your genetics ultimately control where you deposit your fat, if you store more of your fat in your midsection, this usually means you have excess fat around your organs, too. When excess adipose cells accumulate around organs, like the liver or pancreas, they can then release things like free fatty acids and inflammatory signals, which can ultimately interfere with how insulin works, thus contributing to insulin resistance and eventually diabetes [1]. 


4. High Blood Pressure

Elevated blood pressure is another red flag as insulin resistance is closely linked to hypertension. In fact, evidence has shown that around half of individuals who have high blood pressure also have insulin resistance AND up to 80% of people who have already developed type 2 diabetes also have high blood pressure [2]. 

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NHLBI), high blood pressure for adults is defined as 140 mm Hg or greater systolic pressure and 90 mm Hg or greater diastolic pressure


5. High Triglycerides 

Keep an eye on your lipid profile. If your triglyceride levels are consistently high, which is considered over 150 mg/dL this could be another warning sign of insulin resistance.


6. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) in Women

Insulin resistance is a common factor in the development of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), which can lead to irregular periods, fertility issues, and other hormonal imbalances. In fact, more than half of women with PCOS develop type 2 diabetes by age 40. 


7.  Frequent Urination

Moving on to red flag #7: frequent trips to the bathroom. Increased urination, especially during the night, could be a sign of insulin resistance. Normally, the kidneys filter the blood to remove waste products and excess substances, including sugar. When blood sugar levels are high due to insulin resistance, the kidneys must work harder to remove the excess sugar from the bloodstream. As the kidneys work harder to eliminate excess sugar, more urine is produced, resulting in frequent urination.


8. Brain Fog and Trouble Concentrating

If you've been experiencing brain fog, difficulty concentrating, or even memory issues, insulin resistance might be a factor. The brain relies on stable blood sugar levels, and disruptions due to insulin resistance can impact cognitive function.


9. Slow Wound Healing

Red flag #9: slow wound healing. If you've noticed cuts and bruises taking longer than usual to heal, it could be due to impaired insulin function. Evidence shows that increased blood sugar levels due to insulin resistance can hinder the body's natural healing processes. Leukocyte activity, in particular, which are the cells responsible for protecting the body from infection, takes a hit in high-glucose environments caused by insulin resistance.


10. Erectile Dysfunction in Men

If you are experiencing insulin resistance as a result of high blood sugar for a prolonged period of time, this can actually cause damage to many nerves and blood vessels, including in the penis, which can result in erectile dysfunction.


11. Chronic Inflammation

Insulin resistance is associated with chronic inflammation, which can manifest as joint pain, muscle aches, or other inflammatory conditions. If you're dealing with unexplained pain, this might also be indicative of insulin resistance.


12. Family History

Last but not least, family history. If you have close relatives with type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance, this could put you at risk for insulin resistance as well. 


Insulin Resistance and Type Two Diabetes are NOT Life Sentences

If you identify with several of these signs, it's crucial to consult with a healthcare professional. Early detection and lifestyle changes can make a significant difference in managing insulin resistance. It's essential to understand that insulin resistance is not a life sentence. Just as it is caused by lifestyle factors, it can be reversed by positive lifestyle habits such as a good diet filled with plants and whole foods as well as regular exercise. If you or a loved one want to check your insulin resistance, we are here to help. Register for our free workshop (limited time only) or join our meal plan membership to regain control of your blood sugar. 



1. https://dmsjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1758-5996-6-49

warning signs of insulin resistance
warning signs of insulin resistance

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