When insulin resistance is left unchecked, numerous organs and body systems can become distressed. One of them is the liver, a critical organ for survival and one directly related to the digestive process. The liver is also programmed to release glucose when insulin is not present, to feed some of the body’s energy requirements. So, when liver cells become insulin resistant the liver thinks blood sugar levels are low, producing more glucose, further elevating already high blood sugar levels, which can result in hyperglycemia.
Additionally, the liver manufactures and stores the excess blood sugar from carbohydrate consumption in the fat cells, with the assistance of insulin. However, some of the excess fat that is generated can remain, building up in the liver, causing increased inflammation and degeneration, further advancing insulin resistance, and eventually scarring its tissues. Over time, this can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which affects 90 million Americans today and is a major risk factor in the development of diabetes. Also, excess triglycerides in the bloodstream SEVERELY increase the chances of LDL cholesterol oxidation, especially with high levels of free radicals produced from poor diet and lifestyle habits. This can damage the arterial walls and eventually lead to a heart attack or stroke. Since the linings of the arteries do not become resistant to insulin, more plaque builds up as insulin increases, elevating the risk for coronary artery disease.
The urinary system will eventually feel the impact as well. Years of consistently high blood glucose levels totally overwork the kidneys, hampering their operation. High blood sugar makes the kidneys work harder than usual, as pressure in the kidney’s tiny vessels increases. This leads to increased inflammation as the kidneys try hard to eliminate excess blood sugar. This eventually causes scarring inside the kidneys filters, impairing their function and perhaps advancing to kidney disease!
The entire endocrine system also becomes disrupted, leading to hormonal imbalances. Inflammation from high levels of blood sugar and insulin increases cortisol secretion, which breaks down valuable fat burning muscle tissue, slowing down the metabolism. In overweight or obese people, fat cells are KNOWN to create an inflammatory response, identified by the presence and buildup of immune cells called cytokines and macrophages. Excessive fat within the cells is also known to increase the production of harmful estrogen metabolites, creating further imbalances and weight gain, while greatly increasing the risk for cancer growth!
Since fat cells are most often the last type of cells to become insulin resistant, the excess blood sugar continues to be converted to triglycerides and stored in the fat cells. So, with continuous poor diet and lack of exercise, weight gains are inevitable until fat cells become completely resistant. Eventually the weight plateaus at 200, 300, 400 pounds, whatever it is, as the fat cells try to protect themselves from the toxic effects of high insulin by becoming completely insulin resistant!
At the same time, the musculoskeletal system also feels the damaging effect of high blood glucose levels. The accumulation of FFA (free fatty acids) in muscle tissue, resulting from poor diet and lifestyle choices of course, decreases the sensitivity of insulin’s action on the cells. Therefore, elevated FFA levels in the blood play a very important role in the development of skeletal muscle insulin resistance. The mitochondrial furnace of these cells is also affected, making lipid oxidation (fat burning) a daunting task. As the fat accumulation increases, so does inflammation and acidic buildup. Insulin resistance intensifies at this point, allowing Type 2 diabetes to set in. Moreover, retaining and building muscle becomes problematic, since insulin also plays a role in amino acid uptake into the muscle cell.
Insulin resistance of muscle, liver and eventually fat cells is typically seen in a common metabolic disorder known as metabolic syndrome. Overweight and obese people with excessive accumulation of abdominal fat, and insulin resistance, greatly increase the risk for metabolic syndrome, also known as insulin resistance syndrome. People with metabolic syndrome are at increased risk for heart disease, stroke, dementia, diabetes type 2, and many forms of cancer.
Another interesting consideration is insulin’s involvement in magnesium storage. Magnesium is required intracellularly for basically all cellular processes having to do with energy production. When your cells become insulin resistant, you can’t store magnesium efficiently, so it’s excreted via the kidneys. Also, being that magnesium is involved in muscle relaxation, increased blood pressure ensues as blood vessels are constricted without this critical mineral. Similarly, magnesium is involved in the use and production of insulin. So, when you’re low in this vital mineral, insulin resistance escalates as more insulin is being produced, and glucose can’t make it into the cells effectively.