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Health Condition

Insulin Resistance Syndrome

The right diet is the key to managing many diseases and to improving general quality of life. For this condition, scientific research has found benefit in the following healthy eating tips.

  • High-Protein Diet

    Although more research is needed, diets high in protein may benefit people with IRS.
    High-Protein Diet
    ×

    Very little research has investigated the effect of increasing dietary protein intake on insulin resistance in people with or without IRS. One controlled study found that people with some features of IRS lost more weight on a high protein diet than on a high-carbohydrate diet, although both diets produced similar improvements in a measurement of insulin sensitivity.30 Preliminary and controlled trials in people without IRS have also shown that substituting protein for carbohydrate in a low-fat diet can improve blood lipids (cholesterol, triglycerides and HDL) towards reduced heart disease risk.31,32 More research is needed on the effects of high protein diets in people with IRS.

  • Low-Glycemic-Index Diet

    Choosing carbohydrates with a low glycemic index (foods that don’t cause a spike in blood sugar) and foods that are high in fiber may improve insulin sensitivity.
    Low-Glycemic-Index Diet
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    High-carbohydrate diets have also been shown to improve insulin sensitivity; the reason for this may partly be that weight loss often occurs on this type of diet,33 or that these diets are low in fats, such as saturated fat, that worsen insulin sensitivity.34,35 The type of carbohydrate consumed may influence the effect of a high-carbohydrate diet on insulin sensitivity. Animal research suggests that very high intake of fructose or sucrose worsens insulin sensitivity, but human studies have been inconsistent.36,37Glycemic index” refers to the blood sugar-raising effect of a food, and there is preliminary evidence from some,38,39,40 though not all,41 human research, that consumption of low glycemic index foods improves insulin sensitivity. Effects on glycemic index may be one reason dietary fiber is associated with better insulin sensitivity.42 As with dietary fat intake, it makes sense for people with IRS to choose carbohydrates according to their effects on heart disease risk. Therefore a diet low in refined carbohydrates and high in fiber appears most prudent.43

  • Low-Fat

    Avoiding fats from meat, dairy, and processed foods high in hydrogenated oils while allowing fish, olive oil and other monounsaturated fat sources makes sense for people with IRS.
    Low-Fat
    ×

    The effect of dietary fat on insulin resistance seems to depend on the type of fat eaten. Preliminary studies in animals and humans suggest that insulin resistance is worsened with increased use of saturated fat and improved with increased unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids from fish, while the role of other unsaturated fats is less clear.44 However, recent research has reported that diets high in monounsaturated fat improve insulin sensitivity in both healthy people and people with diabetes.45 A diet low in saturated fat, but which allows both fish and monounsaturated fat makes sense for people with IRS, because such a diet is associated with protection from heart disease. Recently, a low-fat diet allowing fish was shown to decrease insulin resistance in people with IRS.46

    In two controlled studies,47,46 a combined program of a weight-loss diet lower in fat and higher in fish, along with exercise three times per week, improved several measures of insulin resistance, blood triglycerides and cholesterol, and blood pressure in a group of people with IRS.

  • Eating Healthy

    In one study, a diet low in fried foods and sausages and high in vegetables, fruits, fish, and complex carbohydrates such as whole grains was shown to protect against many aspects of IRS.
    Eating Healthy
    ×

    Some authorities recommend people with IRS avoid high-carbohydrate diets, and some recommend a diet lower in carbohydrate than current public health guidelines suggest. The rationale is that high carbohydrate intake stimulates increased insulin levels, which can lead to high triglycerides, low HDL, and other adverse changes in the levels of blood fats that contribute to heart disease risk.48 Other authorities disagree, however, because they believe a lower carbohydrate diet will result in higher calorie intake from fat, leading to more difficulties with overweight, insulin resistance, and heart disease risk.49 A recent preliminary study suggested that a healthy, balanced diet low in fried foods and sausages, and high in vegetables, fruits, fish, and complex carbohydrates, such as whole grain rice and pasta, was associated with protection from many aspects of IRS.50

References

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3. Yip J, Facchini FS, Reaven GM. Resistance to insulin-mediated glucose disposal as a predictor of cardiovascular disease. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 1998;83:2773-6.

4. Pyorala M, Miettinen H, Halonen P, et al. Insulin resistance syndrome predicts the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke in healthy middle-aged men: the 22-year follow-up results of the Helsinki Policemen Study. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol 2000;20:538-44.

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10. Vuksan V, Sievenpiper JL, Owen R, et al. Beneficial effects of viscous dietary fiber from Konjac-mannan in subjects with the insulin resistance syndrome: results of a controlled metabolic trial. Diabetes Care 2000;23:9-14.

11. Landin K, Holm G, Tengborn L, Smith U. Guar gum improves insulin sensitivity, blood lipids, blood pressure, and fibrinolysis in healthy men. Am J Clin Nutr 1992;56:1061-5.

12. Cavallo-Perin P, Bruno A, Nuccio P, et al. Dietary guar gum supplementation does not modify insulin resistance in gross obesity. Acta Diabetol Lat 1985;22:139-142.

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18. Vuksan V, Sievenpiper JL, Owen R, et al. Beneficial effects of viscous dietary fiber from Konjac-mannan in subjects with the insulin resistance syndrome: results of a controlled metabolic trial. Diabetes Care 2000;23:9-14.

19. Landin K, Holm G, Tengborn L, Smith U. Guar gum improves insulin sensitivity, blood lipids, blood pressure, and fibrinolysis in healthy men. Am J Clin Nutr 1992;56:1061-5.

20. Cavallo-Perin P, Bruno A, Nuccio P, et al. Dietary guar gum supplementation does not modify insulin resistance in gross obesity. Acta Diabetol Lat 1985;22:139-142.

21. Sanchez M, de la Sierra A, Coca A, Oral calcium supplementation reduces intraplatelet free calcium concentration and insulin resistance in essential hypertensive patients. Hypertension 1997;29:531-6.

22. Singh RB, Niaz MA, Rastogi SS, et al. Effect of hydrosoluble coenzyme Q10 on blood pressures and insulin resistance in hypertensive patients with coronary artery disease. J Hum Hypertens 1999;13:203-8.

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24. Humphries S, Kushner H, Falkner B. Low dietary magnesium is associated with insulin resistance in a sample of young, nondiabetic Black Americans. Am J Hypertens 1999;12:747-56.

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31. Wolfe BM. Potential role of raising dietary protein intake for reducing risk of atherosclerosis. Can J Cardiol 1995;11:127G-131G.

32. Wolfe BM, Piche LA. Replacement of carbohydrate by protein in a conventional-fat diet reduces cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations in healthy normolipidemic subjects. Clin Invest Med 1999;22:140-8.

33. Purnell JQ, Brunzell JD. The central role of dietary fat, not carbohydrate, in the insulin resistance syndrome. Curr Opin Lipidol 1997;8:17-22 [review].

34. Marshall JA, Bessesen DH, Hamman RF. High saturated fat and low starch and fibre are associated with hyperinsulinaemia in a non-diabetic population: the San Luis Valley Diabetes Study. Diabetologia 1997;40:430-8.

35. Feskens EJ, Loeber JG, Kromhout D. Diet and physical activity as determinants of hyperinsulinemia: the Zutphen Elderly Study. Am J Epidemiol 1994 15;140:350-60.

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37. Daly ME, Vale C, Walker M, et al. Acute effects on insulin sensitivity and diurnal metabolic profiles of a high-sucrose compared with a high-starch diet. Am J Clin Nutr 1998;67:1186-96.

38. Wolever TM. Dietary carbohydrates and insulin action in humans. Br J Nutr 2000;83:S97-S102 [review].

39. Mathers JC, Daly ME. Dietary carbohydrates and insulin sensitivity. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care 1998;1:553-7 [review].

40. Frost G, Leeds A, Trew G, et al. Insulin sensitivity in women at risk of coronary heart disease and the effect of a low glycemic diet. Metabolism 1998;47:1245-51.

41. Kiens B, Richter EA. Types of carbohydrate in an ordinary diet affect insulin action and muscle substrates in humans. Am J Clin Nutr 1996;63:47-53.

42. Jenkins DJ, Axelsen M, Kendall CW, et al. Dietary fibre, lente carbohydrates and the insulin-resistant diseases. Br J Nutr 2000;83:S157-S163 [review].

43. Barnard RJ, Wen SJ. Exercise and diet in the prevention and control of the metabolic syndrome. Sports Med 1994;18:218-28 [review].

44. Storlien LH, Kriketos AD, Calvert GD, et al. Fatty acids, triglycerides and syndromes of insulin resistance. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids 1997;57:379-85 [review].

45. Riccardi G, Rivellese AA. Dietary treatment of the metabolic syndrome—the optimal diet. Br J Nutr 2000;83:S143-S148 [review].

46. Torjesen PA, Birkeland KI, Anderssen SA, et al. Lifestyle changes may reverse development of the insulin resistance syndrome. The Oslo Diet and Exercise Study: a randomized trial. Diabetes Care 1997;20:26-31.

47. Anderssen SA, Hjermann I, Urdal P, et al. Improved carbohydrate metabolism after physical training and dietary intervention in individuals with the “atherothrombogenic syndrome.” Oslo Diet and Exercise Study (ODES). A randomized trial. J Intern Med 1996;240:203-9.

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50. Williams DE, Prevost AT, Whichelow MJ, et al. A cross-sectional study of dietary patterns with glucose intolerance and other features of the metabolic syndrome. Br J Nutr 2000;83:257-66.

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52. Frayn KN. Visceral fat and insulin resistance—causative or correlative? Br J Nutr 2000;83:S71-7 [review].

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54. Okosun IS, Liao Y, Rotimi CN, et al. Abdominal adiposity and clustering of multiple metabolic syndrome in white, black and hispanic americans. Ann Epidemiol 2000;10:263-70.

55. Ross R, Dagnone D, Jones PJ, et al. Reduction in obesity and related comorbid conditions after diet-induced weight loss or exercise-induced weight loss in men. A randomized, controlled trial. Ann Intern Med 2000;133:92-103.

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57. Torjesen PA, Birkeland KI, Anderssen SA, et al. Lifestyle changes may reverse development of the insulin resistance syndrome. The Oslo Diet and Exercise Study: a randomized trial. Diabetes Care 1997;20:26-31.

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67. Kiechl S, Willeit J, Poewe W, et al. Insulin sensitivity and regular alcohol consumption: large, prospective, cross sectional population study Bruneck study. BMJ 1996;313:1040-4.

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The information presented by Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2019.

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