Skip to main content
Go to homepage

Print Page

Insulin Resistance

What Is Insulin Resistance?

Insulin resistance happens when the body doesn't respond to the hormone insulin as it should, making it hard for glucose to get into cells. Glucose comes from food and is the body's main source of energy. Normally, insulin helps glucose enter the cells.

Insulin resistance can raise a child's risk for type 2 diabetes and other health problems. To help improve the body's response to insulin, doctors recommend that kids and teens:

  • Get to and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Eat a balanced diet rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and lean protein.
  • Exercise regularly.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Insulin Resistance?

People with insulin resistance may have:

Other medical problems linked to insulin resistance and obesity include:

Insulin resistance is most common in people who are overweight and have too much belly fat. Insulin resistance is also linked to some genetic syndromes, conditions that affect hormone levels and stress levels, and some medicines.

Obesity and insulin resistance tends to run in families. Other things that put someone at risk for insulin resistance include:

  • not being physically active
  • a high-carbohydrate diet
  • smoking

How Is Insulin Resistance Diagnosed?

Doctors might think it's insulin resistance if an overweight or obese person has acanthosis nigricans, a family history of diabetes, or heart disease. They may:

Insulin resistance and obesity tend to go hand-in-hand. So doctors might order more tests to look for other weight-related problems, like fatty liver, PCOS, and sleep apnea.

How Is Insulin Resistance Treated?

Insulin resistance is treated with positive lifestyle changes. Weight loss can lead to big improvements in blood sugar, lipids (cholesterol level), and blood pressure. Exercise (and regular physical activity) is especially helpful. In kids who are still growing, slowing the rate of weight gain or keeping a healthy weight also will help.

Families can work with their health care provider, a dietitian, or a weight management program to build healthy habits. These might include:

  • limiting junk food and sugary beverages
  • eating more fruit and vegetables
  • choosing whole grains
  • reducing screen time
  • getting more exercise
  • not smoking

What Else Should I Know?

Sometimes, insulin resistance and other problems don't get better with lifestyle changes alone. Some kids may need medicines that increase insulin sensitivity as well as treatment for other conditions, like high blood pressure. For some teens with insulin resistance and severe obesity, doctors may recommend weight loss surgery.

Reviewed by: Chijioke Ikomi, MD
Date Reviewed: May 10, 2023

Lea este articulo en Español

What next?

Summit Mall Play Area
Answer Key:
Click to expand
There are 10 nurses in the picture.

And we have many more pediatric primary care providers in Northeast Ohio. You can meet some of them here.
Summit Mall Play Area
Answer Key:
Click to expand
The five differences are:
– Phone color
– Coat pocket
– Stethoscope earpiece color
– Stethoscope bell dot
– Clipboard paper color

Need help finding a doctor, choosing a location or getting a general question about Akron Children's answered? Call us or fill out the form and we'll help in any way we can.
Summit Mall Play Area
Answer Key:
Click to expand
The two matching doctors are 9 and 14.

With virtual visits, you can see our pediatric experts from the comfort of home or wherever you are.
Summit Mall Play Area
Answer Key:
Click to expand
The correct path:
The Correct Path
We offer many ways to get pediatric care all over Northeast Ohio. Use this page to find the right kind of care and the most convenient location for you.