Last modified on March 1st, 2023
Type 2 diabetes is one of the most common medical problems in the United States. As of 2018, more than 10.5% of the United States population had a diabetes diagnosis, with the vast majority being Type 2 diabetes.
Doctors have known for decades that insulin resistance is a major risk factor for developing Type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance is also very common: about one-third of adults in the United States have insulin resistance or a related condition called prediabetes.
Treating and reversing insulin resistance is one of the best ways to improve your blood sugar and overall health.
What is Insulin Resistance?
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas. Under normal circumstances, your body is very responsive to insulin.
When a cell in your body encounters insulin, it is supposed to respond by lowering your blood sugar. Insulin-responsive cells are everywhere in your body, but mainly in the liver, muscle, and fat.
However, if you are insulin resistant, the cells in your body no longer respond as readily to insulin.
This means that your blood sugar levels stay high, because the cells in your body are no longer taking in your blood sugar as they are supposed to.
As a result, your pancreas works harder to make even more insulin to try to signal your body’s cells to lower your blood sugar. Further, excess insulin often results in weight gain, which exacerbates the problem. Over time, this can lead to medical problems including:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Metabolic syndrome
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Increased fat
- High uric acid levels
- Increased inflammation
- Blood vessel problems
- Higher likelihood of blood clots
If I Have Insulin Resistance, Does That Mean I Have Diabetes?
Insulin resistance is not the same thing as diabetes. Instead, it is a risk factor for diabetes. Just because you have the risk factor does not mean that you will always develop the condition.
However, your risk of Type 2 diabetes increases with insulin resistance. Your pancreas responds to insulin resistance by trying to make more insulin. However, over the span of 10 to 15 years, your pancreas becomes less able to keep up with the extra insulin production. This leads to high blood sugar levels and, often, a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis.
For this reason, if you have Type 2 diabetes, you often have insulin resistance as well.
How Do I Treat Insulin Resistance?
Insulin resistance can be treated in several different ways, including:
- Dietary changes: Eating a low-calorie diet and decreasing your intake of sodium, fat, and carbohydrate intake can help to treat and reverse insulin resistance
- Physical activity: Exercise can both help burn calories and make your muscle cells more sensitive to insulin
- Weight loss: Losing even 7% body weight can cut your risk of Type 2 diabetes by 58%
- Medications: Although no prescription medications are approved by the FDA to treat insulin resistance, doctors will often use diabetes medications such as metformin to treat the condition, as experts believe it can make cells more sensitive to insulin
- Supplements: The supplement with the most data for treating insulin resistance and diabetes is alpha lipoic acid. Generally, an alpha lipoic acid dose of 200 to 400 mg daily is recommended for healthy people, with 600 mg daily being the maximum effective dose.
What is Alpha Lipoic Acid?
Alpha lipoic acid is a chemical naturally made by the body. It is created by the mitochondria, the cellular powerhouse that creates energy for the body. It is also found in foods, including:
However, although it is found in foods, alpha lipoic acid is best absorbed on an empty stomach. As a result, it is commonly taken as an over-the-counter supplement. Experts are still studying its effects on various medical conditions. Currently, it is widely used for diabetes and diabetic nerve pain.
Researchers think that it may help fight insulin resistance when taken both in the short term as well as the long term. Studies suggest that alpha lipoic acid increases the level of two chemicals involved in the body’s insulin signaling pathway, PI 3-kinase and protein kinase B.
Researchers think that alpha lipoic acid may make these chemicals more stable. In turn, insulin is more easily able to signal these cells to lower blood sugar, meaning insulin resistance is improved.
Many studies have been done on alpha lipoic acid and insulin resistance, including:
- A clinical trial where a one-time dose of alpha lipoic acid improved insulin resistance by 50% compared to placebo
- A clinical trial where four weeks of alpha lipoic acid therapy improved insulin resistance by 25% compared to placebo
- A meta-analysis of alpha lipoic acid trials that found that use of the supplement was linked to lower blood sugar and insulin levels and improve insulin resistance
What Effect Does Alpha Lipoic Acid Have on the Body?
Doctors think that alpha lipoic acid supplements play several different roles to support overall health, including:
- Antioxidant effects: As an antioxidant, alpha lipoic acid helps to scavenge free radicals that would otherwise damage cells in the body. Further, alpha lipoic acid appears to help the body create its own antioxidants
- Chelating effects: Evidence suggests that alpha lipoic acid may bind metal ions that could damage cells
- Cell signaling: Alpha lipoic acid can change the way that cells communicate with each other. Experts think this is likely the main way it may help fight insulin resistance.
Is Alpha Lipoic Acid Safe to Use?
Several studies, including the ALADIN, SYDNEY and ORPIL clinical trials, have investigated the safety of alpha lipoic acid. The supplement has been used up to a high total daily dose of 2400 mg in those trials with no side effects when compared to a placebo. In addition, the supplement has been used internationally, including in Germany, for decades.
That said, because the supplement can lower your blood sugar levels, you should use it cautiously if you are already taking medication to control your blood sugar.
The Best Supplements for Insulin Resistance
Some of the best alpha lipoic acid supplements are available on Amazon.com. We have provided a description of our top choices and a link to them on Amazon.com.
Always make sure to check with your doctor before taking a supplement that can lower your blood sugar. This is especially true if you are already taking a medication to treat diabetes.
- Certified Good Manufacturing Processes
- Packaged in the United States
NOW Supplements alpha lipoic acid comes in vegetable-based capsules that offer 250 mg each of the supplement. The recommended serving is one capsule once daily.
The item is free of animal products and is therefore suitable for vegans and vegetarians. It does not contain genetically modified ingredients and carries a non-GMO label. In addition, it carries a GMP label, meaning that it meets the FDA’s current Good Manufacturing Processes. Other ingredients include rice flour, vegetable polysaccharide, magnesium stearate and silica.
Although the product itself is free of wheat, gluten, soy, milk, egg, fish, shellfish and tree nuts, the facility in which it is made processes other products that may contain these ingredients.
Pure Encapsulations alpha lipoic acid supplement comes as 200 mg capsules, with a recommended serving size of one capsule one to four times daily.
The product is free of wheat, gluten, eggs, peanuts, magnesium stearate, hydrogenated fats, soy, dairy, shellfish, artificial sweeteners and artificial colors.
As such, the manufacturer has labeled it both hypoallergenic and vegan-friendly. The product is non-GMO, meaning that it contains no genetically modified ingredients. Other ingredients include plant-based cellulose, water and ascorbyl palmitate, an antioxidant and preservative.
It can be upsetting to learn that you have insulin resistance or an associated medical condition like diabetes. Fortunately, treatments including diet, exercise, weight loss, medications, and in certain cases supplements can be used to help treat these conditions and support your overall health.
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