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Can Insulin Resistance Alone Cause High Blood Sugar?

Can Insulin Resistance Alone Cause High Blood Sugar?

The answer is a bit nuanced, so let's break it down for easier understanding.

In a study featured in Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism (Cell Press), we learn how insulin resistance impacts our blood sugar levels. Contrary to what we might expect, blood sugar levels don't immediately shoot up when insulin resistance sets in and reaches its worst stage.

Research has shown that it takes about 10 to 15 years after the onset of insulin resistance for our blood sugar levels to start rising. This might leave you wondering: isn't insulin resistance the root cause of Type 2 diabetes?

The answer becomes clearer when we consider a diagram on It offers an excellent explanation of why insulin resistance on its own isn't the sole culprit behind high blood sugar levels. The rise in blood sugar is primarily triggered when our pancreatic β cells can no longer cope with insulin resistance.

During those 10 to 15 years following the emergence of insulin resistance, our pancreatic β cells work overtime, producing extra insulin to counteract the effects of insulin resistance. This state of affairs is referred to as hyperinsulinemia. It helps our bodies maintain a normal blood sugar level. However, this intense workload causes our pancreatic β cells to deteriorate more rapidly than usual, eventually rendering them incapable of producing enough insulin to manage the issue.

So, can insulin resistance alone be blamed for high blood sugar levels? The short answer is no. Impaired pancreatic β cell function is a crucial factor in this equation.

While insulin resistance doesn't directly lead to elevated blood sugar by itself, it does kickstart the development of Type 2 diabetes, inflicts permanent harm on pancreatic β cells, and paves the way for severe medical complications.

That's why it's essential to delve into how insulin resistance develops, its impact on our metabolism, and, more importantly, how we can take steps to prevent it.

We will talk about these issues next time.


Reversing pancreatic β-cell dedifferentiation in the treatment of type 2 diabetes. Exp Mol Med 55, 1652–1658 (2023).

Beta-cell failure in type 2 diabetes: mechanisms, markers, and clinical implications, Postgraduate Medicine, 132:8, 676-686 (2020), DOI: 10.1080/00325481.2020.1771047

Mild Suppression of Hyperinsulinemia to Treat Obesity and Insulin Resistance. 29:6, 389-399 (2018).

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