Approximately 40% of Americans between 18–44 years old have insulin resistance. Insulin resistance can have long-term consequences. Although several supplements are available on the market, their effects are not well-established. Vitamin C, probiotics, zinc, vitamin D, polyphenols, and magnesium have shown some promising results. Read on to find out more details about insulin resistance and dietary supplements.
Insulin resistance can lead to metabolic disorders such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.
Dietary supplements such as vitamin C, vitamin D, probiotics, and magnesium have shown promising results in preliminary studies.
Lifestyle interventions, such as exercise, may be necessary for reversing insulin resistance.
Consult your care team to understand the right lifestyle interventions for you.
Insulin resistance and its signs
Insulin resistance has become common. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) estimates that 40% of Americans between ages 18–44 years are insulin resistant. When blood sugar increases after food intake, the pancreas releases insulin. Insulin stimulates cells in the liver, muscles, and adipose tissue to store glucose from the blood. Insulin resistance means cells generate an impaired response to insulin release. Effectively, the pancreas needs to release more insulin.
The long-term consequences of insulin resistance are a concern. Insulin resistance results in the accumulation of excessive body fat. Since there is no consensus about the lab testing for insulin resistance, patients become aware of insulin resistance when clinical signs and symptoms appear. These signs and symptoms are:
- Increased waist circumference
- Elevated triglyceride levels
- Elevated blood pressure
- Elevated blood glucose levels
Insulin resistance is associated with several metabolic disorders, such as hyperglycemia, type 2 diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome, cardiovascular diseases, and nonalcoholic fatty liver diseases.
People are looking for an effective way to manage insulin resistance. Are there any dietary supplements that can help in preventing insulin resistance? Is there a way to reverse insulin resistance?
Supplements that may reduce insulin resistance
Although several supplements are available over the counter to reverse insulin resistance, their effectiveness has not been established.
Vitamin C helps maintain blood glucose levels. It is also effective in maintaining both fasting and post-meal blood sugar levels. When taken for more than 12 weeks, vitamin C supplements help in maintaining hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) levels. However, research has shown that these effects are similar to placebo pills. Hence, vitamin C is not routinely prescribed to manage insulin resistance.
The HOMA-IR (Homeostatic Model Assessment for Insulin Resistance) is a surrogate marker to test insulin resistance. Vitamin D supplements helped in lowering fasting insulin and lowering HOMA-IR readings. However, studies have shown that the effects of vitamin D supplements are comparable to placebo pills.
Research studies have shown that probiotic supplements are useful in reducing fasting blood glucose levels and HbA1C levels in people with diabetes. The most used bacterial strains are Lactobacillus (L. acidophilus, L. casei, L. reuteri) and Bifidobacterium (B. bifidum, B. longum). Probiotics reduce gut dysbiosis i.e., restore the balance of gut bacteria to reduce symptoms such as obesity. Probiotic therapy is necessary for six weeks before conclusive results can be obtained.
Research studies have indicated that magnesium supplements help to reduce fasting insulin, fasting blood glucose levels, and Hb1Ac levels, but there are not many studies. More animal and human research is necessary to draw further conclusions.
In addition to these supplements, vitamin E, chromium, zinc, St. John’s Wort, and niacin are often considered effective dietary supplements for diabetes. However, the scientific evidence does not support these claims. Furthermore, research about the safety of dietary supplements, their dosage, and duration of use is slim.
Talk to your doctor before you take any dietary supplements for insulin resistance.
Reversing insulin resistance with lifestyle changes
Since dietary supplements are ineffective, the care teams and patients need to manage insulin resistance differently. Insulin resistance can be reversed by making lifestyle changes. Most clinicians would recommend dietary interventions and exercise.
Nutrition and insulin resistance
Calorie restriction is one of the most effective ways to reverse insulin resistance. Clinicians may suggest different ways to achieve calorie restriction depending on the symptoms and history of the patient. For instance, patients may achieve calorie restriction from a low-carb diet, intermittent fasting, or the Mediterranean diet. Dietitians can educate and support their patients to monitor personalized programs.
Exercise and insulin
Another way to reverse insulin resistance is to get more physically active. A sedentary lifestyle is one of the risk factors for insulin resistance.
Exercise helps increase the insulin sensitivity of muscles. Exercise also helps in burning extra calories and maintaining optimal weight. Depending on their overall health, patients may start with light exercises such as walking or chair exercises. Interval training, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), and sprint interval training (SIT), can be effective, although some adaptations may be necessary based on the patient’s fitness levels.
The last word
Along with diet and exercise, medical intervention becomes necessary in some cases. For instance, doctors may advise prescription drugs such as metformin for managing blood glucose levels. Occasionally, surgery to regulate food intake (e.g., gastric sleeve, gastric bypass) may become necessary. To avoid these invasive treatments, it is crucial to diagnose insulin resistance early on and treat it effectively.
Insulin resistance can lead to metabolic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. Research has shown dietary supplements containing vitamin C, vitamin D, probiotics, and magnesium have promising results but with low certainty. Doctors recommend managing insulin resistance through lifestyle interventions. In some cases, medical or surgical intervention may be necessary. Consult your doctor before you include dietary supplements for insulin resistance in your care plan.