What is Valentina Ferragni doing in an analysis laboratory with a glass of water and sugar in her hand? She explained it herself to her 4 million followers on Instagram: the influencer, younger sister of the more famous Chiara, has returned to undergo a series of tests to find out if she really suffers from insulin resistance, a problem that was diagnosed (perhaps incorrectly) some time ago. But, what’s it about?
«Insulin resistance is not a disease, but an alteration of the metabolism of sugars in the muscle tissue which, in the long run, can favor the onset of diabetes », says Andrea Giaccari, diabetologist at the Gemelli University Hospital Foundation in Rome.
“It is a fairly common condition that affects at least 30% of the population: it is mainly overweight and sedentary lifestyle that cause it. For this reason it is more frequent in menopausal women and the elderlybut it can also be found in young and normal-weight people, who do little physical activity or who inherit a genetic predisposition, due for example to cases of diabetes in the family ».
Insulin resistance does not cause problems
Those who suffer from insulin resistance have no obvious symptoms, but have “spy” signs (such as overweight, “apple-like” physique, acne or excess hair, irregular periods) which may suggest the desirability of checking.
«The most suitable examination is the oral glucose load curvewhich allows you to evaluate the concentration of insulin in the blood before and after drinking a solution made up of water and 75 grams of glucose ”, explains Professor Giaccari.
“The examination, however, is not essential to arrive at the diagnosis: in general, insulin resistance can also be estimated only by evaluating the patient’s general metabolic picture, based on factors such as waist circumference, blood sugar, triglycerides, cholesterol and arterial pressure “.
Thankfully, being insulin resistant it does not mean being condemned to diabetes. “This metabolic condition is reversible and can be corrected by improving lifestyle”, reassures the expert. The watchword is to move: physical activity practiced consistently allows you to re-educate the muscles to use sugars correctly. The good news is that anyone can do it, even the laziest. “You don’t need hours of weights and the gym: just make them more efficient by practicing an aerobic sport for prolonged periods of time, such as brisk walking, running, cycling or swimming»Observes Giaccari.
Insulin resistance, diet should also be reviewed
The results obviously improve if you also follow a correct and balanced diet, low-calorie in case of obesity or overweight. “There are no taboo foods that must be eliminated, not even sweets”, emphasizes the diabetologist. “The only recommendation is to limit simple sugars that cause blood sugar to rise quickly.”
So beware of honey, cooking sugar, jams, fruit juices, but also snacks and sugary drinks. In addition, it is advisable to abound with the fibers of fruit, vegetables, legumes and cereals, which increase satiety and slow down the absorption of sugars. “Another tip is to eat more slowly, to slow down the passage of glucose from the intestine to the bloodstream,” adds the specialist.
The help of drugs
Changing your lifestyle is not always easy: at the beginning of the path, to get into the right gear, it is possible to give a “push” to the metabolism using the metformin, a diabetes drug that helps the muscle metabolize glucose. Otherwise you can try inositol-based supplements: “Even if there is no strong scientific evidence of their usefulness,” recalls Giaccari. “The truth is that to get rid of insulin resistance it is better to rely on a good personal trainer rather than medicine”.
Insulin resistance, sport works: here’s why
Muscle is like a car engine: to work it must fill up with glucose, but if it idles (due to a too sedentary life), it consumes less fuel and even ends up snubbing the “gas station attendant” pump, which is the hormone insulin that promotes the entry of glucose into cells.
The excess sugar thus remains in the blood and forces the pancreas to produce more insulin to be able to dispose of it. It is then accumulated in the adipose tissue, where it is transformed into triglycerides favoring overweight.
To stop this vicious circle, just get back on the road by practicing physical activity: training increases the number of “horsepower” of the engine by enhancing the basal metabolism: this means that trained muscles will be able to burn more calories even in the condition of rest.