David Edelson, MD, says that even lean, fit athletes can develop insulin resistance but there are ways to help prevent it.
First of all, examine your sleeping habits. Spiegel et al, found that “In laboratory studies of healthy young adults submitted to recurrent partial sleep restriction, marked alterations in glucose metabolism including decreased glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity have been demonstrated.” (Journal of Applied Physiology)
If you find this shocking, the June 2010 Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism published a report titled: “A Single Night of Partial Sleep Deprivation Induces Insulin Resistance in Multiple Metabolic Pathways in Healthy Subjects.” This title was the exact conclusion of the study’s authors, Donga et al.
If your fasting glucose reading is between 100 and 125 mg/dL (which in and of itself does not qualify for a diagnosis of insulin resistance, but it’s something to take notice of), or, you have been diagnosed with IR, perhaps it’s due to disrupted sleep. (A normal fasting glucose is 60-99 mg/dL.)
Insulin resistance in lean people who rigorously exercise can also result, in part, from a genetic predisposition, says Dr. Edelson. He is board certified in internal and bariatric medicine, and one of the top obesity experts in the U.S., and founder and medical director for HealthBridge.
Dr. Edelson explains, “IR is a genetic trait that you either have or do not have.” Insulin resistance is classically triggered by one or more lifestyle factors (e.g., a diet high in processed sugars, starches, high fructose corn syrup, trans fats, low in omega-3s, plus lack of exercise, poor sleep and excess belly fat).
But there’s more. A vitamin D3 deficiency can lead to insulin resistance. The D3 deficiency can be caused by a number of factors, including inadequate dietary intake, lack of sunlight exposure, and inflammatory bowel disease.
Studies support the correlation between inadequate D3 and IR (e.g., Chiu et al, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2004).
How a Lean, Fit Person Can Reverse and Help Prevent Insulin Resistance
Dr. Edelson says that the lean, fit athlete who already has insulin resistance can take the following supplements to reverse the condition, to “more naturally turn back on the insulin receptor site so it will respond better to insulin in the bloodstream,” he says.
- Fish oil. This is a potent tool for reversing, and preventing, insulin resistance. Suggested daily dose for mild to moderate IR: 1,500-2,500 mg. Adding wild Alaskan salmon to the diet will also help.
- Though studies on humans are limited, studies on animals suggest that this spice may be a heavyweight in the reversal of insulin resistance. Sprinkle it on fish, chicken, grass fed beef, wild game, apples, and add a touch to your protein shakes.
- Chromium picolinate (“chrome-pic”). This mineral was reported in Diabetes Education (2004) to be highly effective against IR. The report states: “Chromium picolinate, specifically, has been shown to reduce insulin resistance and to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Supplements containing 200-1,000 mcg chromium as chromium picolinate a day have been found to improve blood glucose control.” The report adds that chrome-pic supplements are safe.
What about claims that supplementation with niacin (vitamin B3) can improve glucose metabolism?
Dr. Edelson explains, “There has been some concern that niacin may actually worsen IR. It has long been known that niacin can raise fasting glucose levels.
“Recent articles seem to indicate that this effect is due to niacin provoking IR. As such it is even possible that niacin supplementation in food items such as breakfast cereals may actually be worsening the obesity crisis.
“A recent article in the World Journal of Gastroenterology points to this effect.”
Additionally, there are other measures that the trim athletic individual with insulin resistance can take.
According to Kristine Gedroic, MD, who specializes in integrative medicine in Morristown, NJ, and whom I interviewed for this article, diet should be re-evaluated, even though the patient may think he or she has a very healthful regimen.
“Many complex carbohydrates are less than ideal,” says Dr. Gedroic. “For those with true IR, I advise only carbohydrates that are cooked in a pan or from nature, i.e., steel cut oats, brown rice, quinoa, millet and potatoes. No flour products of any kind until the insulin resistance reverses.
“Sugar substitutes must also be removed from the diet (though Stevia, which is natural, is acceptable), along with chewing gum, which can activate digestive function artificially.
“After those basic interventions are made, this type of patient often needs a comprehensive endocrine assessment.
“Many times when the pancreas has been stressed producing insulin for whatever reason, the liver, adrenals and possibly thyroid gland may be suboptimal too.”
The key is prevention of insulin resistance, and lean, physically fit people who believe they have a clean diet are not exempt from being aware of this prediabetic condition.