Think of insulin as a drawbridge. It regularly lowers itself to let cars in. But when there is too much traffic and congestion, it can reduce the frequency of the drawbridge rising and dropping, or even make it stop altogether.
This can cause a huge traffic backlog, more accidents, missed engagements, and very angry, inconvenienced drivers!
This is analogous to insulin resistance. However, instead of just missing Thanksgiving dinner, the consequences for insulin resistance can be prediabetes, type-2 diabetes itself, obesity, and other serious health complications.
Therefore, it’s important to understand what happens when insulin resistance occurs and how the keto diet can mitigate the negative effects.
What Is Insulin and Insulin Resistance?
We often hear the word ‘insulin’ used in reference to diabetes. To break it down, insulin is a hormone the pancreas makes that helps glucose in your blood enter cells in muscles, fat, and the liver.
Glucose is a natural sugar found in blood and our main source of energy. When glucose (a.k.a blood sugar) levels rise after you eat, your pancreas releases insulin into the blood and lowers the blood glucose to keep it in the normal range.
Your body’s natural responses to insulin are necessary to stay at a healthy equilibrium. Muscle, fat, and liver cells can’t absorb glucose easily from the bloodstream.
Therefore, the body needs higher levels of insulin to help glucose enter cells. The beta cells in your pancreas try to keep up for increased demand for insulin by producing more.
Insulin resistance is when the beta cells can’t keep up with the body’s increased need for insulin due to too much glucose. When the body can’t produce enough insulin, excess glucose builds up in the bloodstream and affects your health and well-being.
How the Keto Diet Can Help
In a nutshell, the keto diet equips your body with the right nutrients to give your body more energy.
To break it down scientifically, a high-fat diet can lead to insulin resistance and a failure to maintain healthy insulin levels. But scientists have found that a high-fat diet that is low in carbohydrates can be used to control symptoms of type-2 diabetes and aid in weight loss.1
Following the keto diet will increase the number of ketones in your body through carb restriction. The ketones will give your body’s cells energy instead of more glucose.
This is ketosis, which increases fat burning. As we discussed in a previous post, this will remove much of the body’s need to produce insulin and reduce overall blood sugar.2
The Causes of Insulin Resistance
Researchers believe that excess weight and lack of physical activity are strong factors in insulin resistance.
1. Excess weight and lack of exercise
Extra weight, or too much fat in the abdomen, is one of the major causes of insulin resistance. Fat tissue is not only used for energy storage. It makes hormones and other substances that can lead to lasting inflammation in the body.
This inflammation can play a role in insulin resistance, which can result in diabetes and can play a part in fatty liver disease.
Exercise helps you keep your glucose levels in balance. Obviously, inactivity prevents this. Research shows that for people at high risk for diabetes, losing 5 to 7 percent of their starting weight will help reduce their chance of developing the disease.
For someone who weighs 200 pounds, that is 10 to 14 pounds. Exercise is critical if you want to reverse insulin resistance and prediabetes.3
What Are the Symptoms of Insulin Resistance?
The scary thing is that many times, insulin resistance and prediabetes don’t have obvious symptoms. Sometimes, skin growths known as skin tags can appear, or the skin can turn dark on the armpits or on the back and side of the neck.
Prediabetes symptoms include increased thirst, increased urination, blurred vision, or fatigue. If you have doubts, it’s time to visit a doctor.4
There aren’t commonly used tests for insulin resistance, but there are for prediabetes. Doctors most frequently use the A1C test to show your average blood glucose over three months. If the tests for A1C show levels from 5.7 to 6.4, that indicates prediabetes.
An oral glucose test (OGTT) is a more sensitive test that can identify how your body handles glucose after a meal and can pick up on prediabetes symptoms the A1C overlooked. This is a useful tool for screening for gestational diabetes as well. If the OGTT test results show levels from 140 to 199 mg/DL, that shows prediabetes5.
Evidence That Keto Can Help
To reiterate, the ketogenic diet equips your body with fat-burning ketones instead of additional glucose. In a New England School of Medicine Journal article, researchers compared three different diets for a study on the most effective weight loss methods.
The study was done over two years and involved 447 middle-aged people. The diets were:
- A low-fat, restricted calorie diet. The participants consumed low-fat grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes, and had to limit eating sweets and high-fat snacks.
- The moderate-fat, restricted-calorie Mediterranean diet. This meant a diet rich in vegetables and low in red meat and replacing beef and lamb with poultry and fish.
- The low carbohydrate, non-restricted calorie diet. Subjects were encouraged to try vegetarian sources of fat and protein and avoid trans fats.
After two years, while all groups lost weight, the Mediterranean and low carbohydrate diet did best. This survey suggests that lowering carb intake can be more beneficial than going with a low-fat meal plan6.
Extra Tips to Keep up with Keto
By now, you know tips to get into ketosis quickly. Here are some additional tips to help you stick with it and not fall off the wagon:
- Substitute your favorite meals with low-carb ingredients. Swap out regular noodles for zoodles, use coconut flour (or other keto substitutes) in cooking, and make tortillas made out of cauliflower crust.
- Focus on healthy fats. Indulge in the good kind of fats, like avocado, salmon, flaxseed, and coconut oil. Commit to eating fish at least once a week.
- Turn to tasty teas and healthy juices to ramp up your energy. Green juice, matcha tea, and special herbal teas with ingredients such as holy basil for an energy boost.
- Partner up. You don’t have to do this alone. The keto diet is red-hot right now, and you should try to find a buddy who will be willing to follow the diet with you (and drag you to your workouts).
- There are also plenty of online support communities that specifically focus on keto and allow for an outlet to vent or make suggestions.
Following the keto diet will help you stabilize your blood sugar, reduce inconsistent spikes in insulin, and help you maintain a healthy weight.
 Boden, Guenther, et al. “Effect of a low-carbohydrate diet on appetite, blood glucose levels, and insulin resistance in obese patients with type 2 diabetes.” Annals of internal medicine142.6 (2005): 403-411.
 “Insulin Resistance and Prediabetes.” NIH-National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. May 2018.
 Michael Dansinger, MD. “What is Prediabetes?” WebMD Medical Reference. February 09, 2017.
 “Diagnosing Diabetes and Learning About Prediabetes”.
 Dr. Iris Shai and contributing authors. “Weight Loss With a Low Carbohydrate, Mediterranean, or Low-Fat Diet.” New England Journal School of Medicine, July 17th, 2008.