Having high blood insulin levels, also called hyperinsulinemia, is a risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Regulation of insulin levels is complex and has many influences. Following a healthy lifestyle that includes good nutrition practices, regular exercise and weight management is important for controlling your insulin levels. Some prescription medications may also lower your diabetes risk.
High Blood Insulin Levels
Your pancreas secretes the hormone insulin in response to eating. Insulin plays important roles in carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism and storage of the excess calories you eat. Being overweight commonly causes a condition called insulin resistance -- or reduced tissue sensitivity to the effects of insulin. Increased fat in the blood and abdominal region often occur with insulin resistance. Your pancreas produces and releases more insulin to overcome reduced tissue sensitivity, resulting in high blood levels of the hormone. Insulin resistance may progress to development of type 2 diabetes.
Follow Recommended Dietary Guidelines
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' dietary guidelines suggest eating more dark green vegetables and fiber-rich, whole-grain foods and consuming less alcohol and foods containing trans fats and added sugars. The relationship between adhering to these guidelines and blood insulin levels was evaluated in a report published in the April 2007 issue of "Diabetes Care." More than 3,000 men and women without diabetes were included in the study. Strict adherence to U.S. dietary guidelines was associated with lower fasting insulin levels and estimates of insulin resistance in women. The study results also suggest that decreasing waist circumference may be more important for lowering blood insulin levels and insulin resistance in men than in women. A study published in the June 2012 issue of "Obesity" found that reducing visceral fat -- fat associated with the abdominal organs -- through a healthy diet and lifestyle program lowered fasting insulin levels in overweight men.
Increase Physical Activity and Low Glycemic Foods
Physical exercise can increase the effectiveness of insulin to stimulate glucose transport into muscle tissue, and thus it may lower your body’s insulin requirements. The glycemic index is a measure of a food’s tendency to raise blood glucose levels. Eating lower glycemic index foods, such as whole grains instead of refined grains, may also lower your body’s insulin requirements. The effects of combining increased physical activity with either a low or high glycemic index diet for 12 weeks on hyperinsulinemia in 22 older, obese adults with prediabetes were examined in a study published in the December 2010 issue of "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition." Despite weight loss in both glycemic index groups, blood insulin levels after a meal were reduced only in the group eating a low glycemic index diet.
Insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia can predispose you to prediabetes. In addition to weight loss through dietary changes and increased physical activity, the American Diabetes Association recommends the medication metformin (Glucophage, Glumetza) for some people -- particularly those who are obese -- to delay progression of prediabetes to type 2 diabetes. A study published in the February 7, 2002, issue of "The New England Journal of Medicine" found that using metformin delayed the onset of diabetes in younger, heavier people but was less effective in people 45 and older.
- National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse: Insulin Resistance and Prediabetes
- Textbook of Medical Physiology, Eleventh Edition; Arthur C. Guyton, M.D. and John E. Hall, Ph.D.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Dietary Guidelines for Americans
- Diabetes Care: The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and Insulin Resistance in the Framingham Offspring Cohort
- Obesity: Visceral and Not Subcutaneous Abdominal Adiposity Reduction Drives the Benefits of a 1-Year Lifestyle Modification Program
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: A Low–Glycemic Index Diet Combined With Exercise Reduces Insulin Resistance, Postprandial Hyperinsulinemia, and Glucose-Dependent Insulinotropic Polypeptide Responses in Obese, Prediabetic Humans
- Diabetes Care: Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes -- 2014
- The New England Journal of Medicine: Reduction in the Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes With Lifestyle Intervention or Metformin
- National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse: Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP)