Decoding the Link: Insulin Resistance and Stubborn Belly Fat The image shows a woman pinching her belly fat.

Decoding the Link: Insulin Resistance and Stubborn Belly Fat

June 22. 2023

It is well-known that some health conditions can lead to excess weight and the other way around. Constipation and weight gain are deeply intertwined, and obesity can lead to high blood pressure. But what bout insulin resistance and stubborn belly fat? Is there a link between the two?

If you ever tried to lose body fat or are on a weight loss journey right now, then you know how challenging stubborn fat areas can be. Despite your best efforts, some fat deposits are more difficult to tackle. For instance, losing abdominal fat can be a really challenging task. Abdominal or visceral fat is a tricky area to target. This type of fat can be a risk factor for your health; it can lead you to develop certain chronic conditions. Not just obese individuals develop belly fat; abdominal fat is also common in people who are not overweight. So what is the source of this stubborn abdominal fat distribution? In this article, our weight loss clinic in Chicago will explain what goes behind the curtains regarding belly fat and insulin resistance. Continue reading to learn about this topic and how to overcome the belly fat obstacle.

What is insulin resistance?

Insulin resistance, also known as impaired insulin sensitivity, is a serious health condition in which your body does not respond to insulin as it should. Insulin is a hormone produced by our pancreas. The pancreas is located in the back of your abdomen, and its primary functions include helping with digestion and regulating blood sugar levels. The pancreas usually releases insulin each time we have a meal, and blood sugar levels start to rise. Your body needs energy to function, and it obtains it from glucose; glucose comes from the food you eat. Insulin secreted by the pancreas acts as a key that opens our organ’s cell doors and allows the glucose in our blood to enter the cells. Once this happens, blood glucose levels drop and go back to normal, and the pancreas ceases to produce insulin until your next meal. The liver can also secrete insulin when needed; for example, in between meals or when fasting.

Insulin resistance occurs over time; it happens when your body cells become resistant to insulin. This results in glucose not being able to enter the cells and your body not absorbing nutrients. Since glucose can not enter the cells, blood sugar levels rise. In response to this, the pancreas releases more and more insulin to decrease blood glucose levels and give the cells the energy they need.

What causes this condition?

Scientists still have much to discover about this condition and its development. So far, they have found different factors that can contribute to insulin resistance. One of the leading causes of insulin resistance is an increased amount of trans fatty acids in the bloodstream. Also called triglycerides, trans fatty acids are a type of cholesterol. When we have a meal, our bodies turn all the food not used as a source of energy into triglycerides. These fats prevent glucose from entering the cells. Why do people have high levels of triglycerides? The biggest reason is because they eat the wrong types of foods. Genetic conditions can also increase a person’s predisposition to develop high cholesterol, but it mainly happens due to nutritional choices.

Excess body fat, particularly visceral fat (belly and around your organs), is another primary reason for insulin resistance. Other risk factors include an excess body mass index (obesity), physical inactivity, poor sleep, genetics, and some medications. Staying active makes your body more receptive to insulin; a lack of physical activity can cause the opposite effect. Steroids, high blood pressure medicines, and other medications can lead your body to develop impaired insulin sensitivity.

How is insulin resistance diagnosed?

Insulin resistance often comes without any symptoms, so most times, people don’t know they have it. Your doctor will recommend a test if you have risk factors for this condition, such as high blood pressure, obesity, a sedentary life, or a history of insulin resistance in your family. There is no specific test to diagnose insulin sensitivity. A healthcare provider will do a fasting plasma glucose or blood serum levels test or other tests that are also used to diagnose pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes. If the results are above the average blood sugar level, then you likely have insulin resistance.

Dangers of insulin resistance

Impaired insulin sensitivity is a dangerous condition that can put your health at risk. When a body becomes insulin resistant, its cells no longer respond to the insulin hormones. Cells from our liver, fats, and muscles ignore the signals from insulin to open up and absorb glucose from the bloodstream. In the beginning, the pancreas has the ability to keep up by producing more insulin. But as the cells become more resistant, the pancreas efforts will begin to weaken. That will result in a buildup of glucose in the blood. With time, regular high blood glucose levels can lead to hyperglycemia.

Insulin resistance also tends to lead to pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes mellitus. Our bodies have developed a disciplined and efficient system to produce and use insulin. Impaired insulin sensitivity breaks down that careful system. Eventually, your pancreas’ ability to produce insulin will decrease. That will lead to high blood sugar levels; when such levels are higher than 125, an individual is considered diabetic. People with type 2 diabetes mellitus require medication to manage insulin and glucose. Some of the most effective diabetes medications can also help manage obesity. One famous example would be Ozempic weight loss.

Diabetes caused by insulin resistance can sometimes lead to other health risks such as kidney disease, weakened immune system, metabolic syndrome, inflammation, never damage, and vision problems, among others.

How to treat or reverse insulin resistance

After you were diagnosed with this condition, your first question probably is whether there are medications to treat insulin resistance. As of today, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t approved any drug for the treatment of insulin resistance. This condition is mainly treated with nutritional changes, exercise, and adopting healthy lifestyle habits. However, some common diabetes medications are sometimes prescribed “off-label” to improve insulin sensitivity. Mounjaro and Ozempic are type 2 diabetes drugs that may help reduce insulin resistance. How long does Ozempic take to work? That depends on each patient and their particular situation. Typically, Ozempic will start lowering your blood glucose levels by week two. But it takes up to 8 weeks for this drug to develop its full effect.

The first thing your healthcare provider will recommend is diet changes. Improving your nutritional diet will help lower insulin levels; the trick is to consume foods that don’t increase insulin production even more. Try opting for complex carbohydrate foods, such as whole wheat, oats, whole grain foods, brown rice, and quinoa. Go for lean proteins; those foods include chicken, lean cuts of red meat, fish, beans, and nuts. Keep in mind that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables will also help.

As there are foods to include in your diet, there are also foods to cross off your shopping list. We advise you to stay away from food high in simple carbs. Sugar is the greatest source of simple carbs and diabetes’ number one enemy. Sodas, juices, sweat teas, and anything with added sugar can increase this condition. White bread, refined grains, and white rice are also bad for insulin resistance patients. When fighting this condition with medication, there are Mounjaro foods to avoid to tackle insulin sensitivity and help the drug work more efficiently.

What is abdominal fat?

There are two types of body fat: subcutaneous and visceral fat. Subcutaneous fat, the most common type of fat, is the visible one, and you can feel it if you poke your stomach. On the other hand, you can’t feel visceral fat; that is why we call it hidden fat. That is the fat located deep beneath your abdominal fat, and it’s wrapped around your organs.

Also known as active fat, abdominal fat plays a role in our bodies. A certain amount of this fat is necessary to protect our organs. However, too much abdominal body fat tissue can put our health at risk, causing diabetes, heart disease, or strokes. The abdominal fat distribution also makes one’s belly stick out. Weight loss medications, such as Phentermine for weight loss, are commonly used to target this problem area.

What causes visceral fat?

Genetics and lifestyle factors regulate how much visceral fat your body collects. Genetics tends to be the number one factor in determining your body shape and how much belly fat your body stores. But other circumstances also play a role, such as your diet and how much you exercise. An unhealthy diet, rich in bad carbs (sugar) and fatty foods, and an inactive lifestyle are the perfect combination for abdominal fat distribution.

The link between belly fat and insulin resistance

With the information above, you may have already deciphered there is a deep connection between insulin resistance and belly fat. Carrying high amounts of abdominal fat is associated with insulin resistance development, which can also lead to type 2 diabetes mellitus. This type of fat plays a role in the endocrine system by telling your body when to use or store energy (glucose). Besides that, visceral fat secrets a molecule called retinol-binding protein 4 (RBP4). This protein is mainly produced by the liver. But when you have a high amount of body fat tissue, abdominal fat can secrete this molecule too. At high levels, RBP4 is related to inflammation and fat insulin resistance.

But this process also works the other way around. Insulin resistance could be the one causing your excess belly fat. In many cases, especially in individuals who are not overweight, the abdominal fat buildup is caused by an insulin resistance condition. When a person is insulin resistant, their body cells don’t respond to insulin as they should. Therefore, the pancreas continues to produce more and more insulin. One of the many issues this condition presents is that high levels of insulin tell the body to store fat in excess, particularly in the abdomen area. Insulin sensitivity can also cause metabolic syndrome, which is characterized by promoting abdominal obesity.

4 ways to get rid of stubborn belly fat

There are many ways to battle weight gain produced by insulin resistance. Of course, the most efficient methods involve diet and exercise; you should include those two features in any weight loss journey. In case you wonder why am I not losing weight on Ozempic or Mounjaro? The most common answer is due to the lack of a healthy meal plan and regular physical activity. These are four ways to say goodbye to stubborn belly fat:

  • Diet: it all starts with you. By making healthier food choices, you will quickly start seeing changes in your body. A proper diet will improve insulin resistance and help you tackle belly fat.
  • Cut down on alcohol: you probably heard of beer belly. Alcohol can contribute to abdominal fat. When you drink alcohol, your liver prioritizes the breakdown of this substance over other sources of fuel. That leads to increased fat storage. Besides, Ozempic or Mounjaro and alcohol don’t pair well.
  • Exercise: nothing like a good sweat to burn stored fat. Find an activity you enjoy and can perform regularly. The best is to engage in cardio and strength training activities.
  • Use weight loss supplements: if you need extra aid, you can resort to supplements. Fat burners and probiotics for belly fat are highly effective in tackling this problem area.

Final thoughts

There is a deep link and correlation between insulin resistance and belly fat. Abdominal fat can seem like not a big issue, but the reasons to get rid of belly fat go beyond physical appearance. Insulin sensitivity and abdominal fat can present a dangerous risk to your overall health. Treating these conditions is vital to living your best life and remaining healthy. Do you need assistance fighting belly fat? Schedule a call with our dedicated team. We will find the perfect solution to help you lose excess weight and improve your health.

Nurse Walton


Nurse Walton

Born and raised in Chicago, IL, Chanay received her Practical Nurse licensure and went to work in clinical specialties such as Home Health, Assisted Living, Long-Term Care and Dialysis Centers. Through this work, she realized the importance of diet, nutrition and weight loss among her patients. This led her to open A Better Weigh, Inc. Medical Weight Loss Center in 2009.

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