Insulin sensitivity and diet are heavily linked, since eating a diet high in refined starch and sugar is a major risk factor for insulin resistance. Studies have also shown that changing one's diet to include large amounts of vegetables and fiber and low levels of fat and heavily processed food can reduce the risk or even reverse insulin resistance. Additionally, those who have diabetes are generally treated with an insulin resistance diet.
The primary link between insulin sensitivity and diet involves the relationship between refined carbohydrates and sugars, and blood glucose levels. When one eats large amounts of these foods, the pancreas releases a surge of insulin into the bloodstream to break them down into glucose so that the food can be used by the body. Those who eat too many of these foods produce more and more insulin, and the body eventually cannot break it down properly. This can lead to elevated blood sugar levels, food cravings, and eventually, to diabetes and other related health problems.
Insulin sensitivity and diet are also linked, because those who already have pre-diabetes and full-blown diabetes are generally required to watch their diets carefully to keep blood sugar levels stable and within a healthy range. While there are numerous diets developed by doctors and nutritionists which aim to help diabetics, most of them have several things in common. They generally involve eating very few refined foods and sugars and high amounts of fiber, fresh vegetables, and low glycemic fruits.
The glycemic index is a system which rates foods based on how much or how little they affect blood sugar levels. Low glycemic foods have little effect on blood sugar. These foods may include meats, green vegetables, and certain fruits or whole grains. They tend to stabilize blood glucose levels because they are released slowly into the bloodstream, and are thereby broken down more fully. High glycemic impact foods raise blood sugar levels because they are released into the blood more quickly, and thus, these should be avoided when trying to stabilize blood glucose levels.
Since insulin sensitivity and diet are so closely related, it is important for those with a family history of diabetes to closely monitor food intake and blood sugar. Those who have already been diagnosed with the disease may be able to control or even reverse type-2 diabetes with diet alone, or in combination with medication. Type-1 diabetes patients must also carefully monitor food intake, since they tend to have a high risk of hypoglycemia.