Diabetes Self-Management Articles

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Insulin Sensitizers in Brief

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Many things will increase insulin sensitivity, and most can be accomplished through lifestyle changes. Here are some insulin sensitizers to consider:

  • Regular aerobic and resistance exercise
  • Increase in muscle mass
  • Loss of body fat, particularly intra-abdominal (or visceral) fat, extra fat stored in the liver, and possibly excess fat in muscles
  • Improved blood glucose control and avoidance of highs and lows
  • Reduced levels of circulating fats in blood, including triglycerides and free fatty acids
  • Reduction in low-level, systemic inflammation, which can be accomplished through physical activity and eating foods rich in antioxidants, such as darkly colored fruits and vegetables
  • More effective action of leptin, a hormone released by fat cells, causing reduced food intake. This can be accomplished through increased physical activity and loss of excess body fat.
  • Reduction in mental and physical stressors, such as anxiety, depression, or illness
  • Decrease in circulating levels of cortisol, a hormone released in response to all forms of stress
  • In men, increased testosterone levels, which can be accomplished through increased activity levels
  • Increased intake of dietary fiber; decreased consumption of saturated and trans fat and highly refined foods with high glycemic index values
  • Daily consumption of a healthy breakfast
  • Lower caffeine intake. Clinical trials examining the effects of caffeine (but not coffee) have shown that ingesting the amount of caffeine in about three cups of coffee lowers insulin sensitivity. However, coffee itself contains compounds that may offset this effect. For those who like coffee, the best approach may be to drink decaf, since it contains the “offsetting” compounds without the caffeine.
  • Adequate sleep (seven to eight hours a night for most adults)
  • Effective treatment of sleep apnea
  • Use of insulin-sensitizing medicines such as pioglitazone (Actos) or rosiglitazone (Avandia)



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