Resistance comes in many varieties and forms. Nancy Wake was a New Zealand born Australian who married a wealthy Frenchman and settled in Marseille in 1939, a year before Germany invaded France. Upon their invasion, she and her husband joined the French Resistance Movement. The couple saved thousands of Jews enabling them to escape by crossing the border into Spain. Nancy became one of the most wanted resistance leaders and was labeled “the white mouse” by the Nazis as she escaped capture. She fled for her life to Britain where she trained as a spy and guerilla and parachuted back into France in 1944 to distribute weaponry and help organize the resistance by setting up escape routes and sabotaging German installations. Reportedly, Nancy killed a German guard with a single karate chop to the neck. She was a force to be reckoned with. While her husband was killed in the war, she survived and was awarded several honors for the courageous role she played in the resistance.
Resistance is a word that is also used to refer to dysregulation in body functioning. Insulin resistance is a mechanism underlying a variety of disease processes. What is it and why does it exist?
Insulin is a central hormone involved in the body’s communication system. It is produced in the pancreas and we typically think of it being secreted into the blood in response to rising blood sugar levels. This is not the only stimulus however. For example, certain protein building blocks called amino acids, other hormones, stress, excitement, and even the sight and smell of food can also stimulate insulin release. In reality it is estimated that something like 50 percent of insulin output is what is called basal insulin and is secreted outside of food or blood sugar response over the total 24-hour period.
Insulin resistance is the term that describes the condition in which cells are no longer responding appropriately to insulin.
One of insulin’s roles is to operate in a manner I compare to an Oregonian gas attendant. Here in Oregon, when you need fuel to power your vehicle you drive into a gas station and wait. We have gas attendants to open the tank, insert the gas nozzle and fill ‘er up. While this is a simplistic analogy, it works. Muscle cells and fat cells are dependent on insulin to enable glucose passage into cells where it is used to produce energy. In fact, muscle accounts for about 60–70 percent of whole-body insulin-mediated glucose uptake. Other body tissues, such as the brain, need glucose but are not insulin dependent in the same way as muscle and fat cells.
By moving glucose from blood into cells where it is combusted to produce energy, insulin regulates blood sugar levels, but it has other vital roles. Insulin moderates how the body uses and stores fat. It promotes production of proteins, cell division, and growth. It is a powerful signal that controls or influences other body processes. Diseases like diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, abdominal obesity, non-alcoholic fatty liver, hypertension, certain cancers, sleep apnea, and even Alzheimer’s disease have all been associated with resistance to this very important substance.
Insulin resistance is the term that describes the condition in which cells are no longer responding appropriately to insulin. It is synonymous with impaired insulin sensitivity. The effectiveness of insulin has been lessened. Its ability to accomplish what it had done previously is stifled. The failure of insulin though is not that there is an insufficient amount but that the cells are no longer healthfully interacting with it. The primary defects in insulin action appear to be in the gas tank nozzle—the insulin receptor sites of muscle and fat cells, not because insulin itself has changed.
Blood sugars are normal or close to normal and so you are good to go . . . or so we think.
With type-2 diabetes, insulin resistance predates the development of the disease. If the Oregonian gas attendant is unable to open the gas tank, we have a problem. Eventually the fuel will accumulate in the blood. To compensate for this the pancreas is called upon to produce and release more and more insulin into circulation. Hyperinsulinemia results (high levels of insulin in the blood). Excess levels of insulin in the blood create its own kaleidoscope of dysfunction, but, as long as your pancreas can make enough insulin to overcome your cells’ weak response to insulin, your blood glucose levels will stay in the healthy range or pre-diabetic range. Many find comfort in knowing that at least they don’t have diabetes. Whew! Blood sugars are normal or close to normal and so you are good to go . . . or so we think. Unfortunately, the disease process marches on until the pancreas can no longer keep up with the demand and itself deteriorates with diminishing sensitivity to glucose and high blood sugar levels.
A definition for resistance is “the refusal to accept or comply with something; the attempt to prevent something by action or argument.” While this definition applies to Nancy’s life during the war, it also is a word that refers to dysregulation in body functioning. Could insulin resistance, the underlying mechanism involved in an array of health conditions, be an effort of nature, an act of refusal to comply with conditions, or an attempt to prevent something by action? That is a question I want to understand better and believe God will give understanding. We have the unique perspective that, “Disease is an effort of nature to free the system from conditions that result from a violation of the laws of health. In case of sickness, the cause should be ascertained. Unhealthful conditions should be changed, wrong habits corrected. Then nature is to be assisted in her effort to expel impurities and to re-establish right conditions in the system.”1 Our cooperation is needed in the body’s resistance movement.
1. Ellen G. White, Counsels on Health, p. 90.
Gisela Wilcox, “Insulin and insulin resistance,” The Clinical biochemist Reviews, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1204764/.
Barry Sears, and Mary Perry, “The role of fatty acids in insulin resistance,” Lipids in health and disease, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4587882/.
Risë Rafferty, RDN
Risë is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and has been writing and teaching about health for many years. She loves the health message and takes great pleasure in seeing people thrive by the application of its principles. Her research and down-to-earth manner allow her to offer up the health message in both an intelligent and accessible manner. She and her husband, James Rafferty, have two children.