What factors control the insulin sensitivity of a person?

Kelly Traver
Internal Medicine

There are five main factors that control the insulin sensitivity:

  1. Genes: You can't change your genes. If you have a family history of type 2 diabetes, you probably aren't starting out with the most sensitive of insulin receptors in the first place. That means it is especially important that you do everything you can to influence the sensitivity of your insulin receptors.
  2. Aging: This also affects your insulin receptors; the older we get, the less sticky our insulin receptors tend to be.
  3. Obesity: The more fat you have on your body, the more your fat cells secrete chemicals that directly sabotage your muscle cells' ability to use insulin, causing your insulin level to rise, promoting further fat deposition. Losing excess weight lower both your insulin level and your blood sugar level. This allows you to lose weight more easily in the future, should you need to.
  4. Regular exercise: Exercise improves the sensitivity of the insulin receptors. It stimulates the release of growth factors, one of which is insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), that help your insulin attach to the insulin receptors and that stimulate the production of even more insulin receptors. So, doing more exercise will lower both your insulin level and blood sugar level, bringing them closer to normal.
  5. A diet of high-fiber, unprocessed complex carbohydrates combined with protein: Avoid processed, refined low-fiber carbohydrates. Your insulin receptors work best if you keep your blood sugar level steady and within acceptable range. To do this, you need to avoid processed foods that have been broken down so much that your body digests them too easily, because this allows your body to absorb sugar too rapidly. To keep your blood sugar level steady, your carbohydrates should come from high-fiber whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. These foods are more difficult to break down and, therefore, they are absorbed in a slower, more gradual fashion. Eating a little protein and fat at each meal will also keep your blood sugar from rising and dropping too quickly because your body will experience a more gradual, lasting elevation in blood sugar.

Continue Learning about Digestive Health

60 Minutes to a Healthier Colon
60 Minutes to a Healthier Colon
One in three adults will get colon polyps, but the odds drop to one in four if you do this for just 1 hour each week: exercise. Any activity will do....
Read More
Where do polyps occur?
MountainView HospitalMountainView Hospital
Polyps can be many places in the body, but they're the most common in the colon and rectum. Gastric ...
More Answers
4 Ways Your Gut Affects Your Health
4 Ways Your Gut Affects Your Health4 Ways Your Gut Affects Your Health4 Ways Your Gut Affects Your Health4 Ways Your Gut Affects Your Health
Your gut is responsible for more than digestion; it can reveal illness, too.
Start Slideshow
The Red Flags Behind Digestive Trouble
The Red Flags Behind Digestive Trouble

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.