Elevated Insulin Levels

Elevated Insulin Levels: Overview

Chronic exposure to refined carbohydrates and simple sugars can cause elevated levels of insulin, which drives glucose levels down.  This can result in hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).  Over time, tissues may become less sensitive to insulin and as a result glucose cannot enter the cells as easily.  This means more glucose in the bloodstream and a greater tendency to convert it into fat instead of energy.  Elevated insulin levels (hyperinsulinemia) cause the body to have difficulty breaking down fat also.

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Signs and Symptoms

Indications of hyperinsulinemia include weight gain (especially around the waist, producing the apple shape, not the pear shape), increased blood pressure and cholesterol.

Testing for elevated insulin levels can be an important step toward better health, and the prevention of diabetes and chronic disease processes later in life.

Signs, symptoms & indicators of Elevated Insulin Levels:

Lab Values - Common

Symptoms - Hair

Early male pattern baldness

Although early baldness on the top of the head may be a non-modifiable risk factor for heart disease, it may serve as a useful clinical marker to identify men at increased risk of insulin problems and cardiac risk who would benefit from more detailed screening and lifestyle, dietary, nutritional and other interventive therapies. [Lancet September 30, 2000; 356: pp.1165-1166]

Conditions that suggest Elevated Insulin Levels:


Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

A majority of patients with PCOS have insulin resistance and/or are obese.  There is a lot of evidence that high levels of insulin contribute to increased androgen production, which worsens the symptoms of PCOS.

Researchers found that 75% of women studied with PCOS were hyperinsulinemic. [Fertil Steril 2000;73(1): pp.150-6, J Clin Endocrinol Metab 1999;84(6): pp.1897-9]

Lab Values


Gout / Hyperuricemia

Preliminary research suggests that insulin resistance may play a role in the development of gout.  Gout is strongly associated with the consequences of insulin resistance i.e. obesity, hypertension, hyperlipidemia and diabetes.

Organ Health

Diabetes Type II

Hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance are both factors that increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.  Hyperinsulinemia often predates diabetes by several years.

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Risk factors for Elevated Insulin Levels:


Very early puberty onset

Girls with premature puberty have been found to have elevated insulin and DHEA-S levels.  This contributes to the weight gain usually seen in advanced PCOS.


Lack of Sleep

A study found that people who do not get enough sleep on a regular basis may become less sensitive to insulin which, over time, can raise the risk of obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.  Chronic sleep deprivation (under 6.5 hours per night) had the same effect on insulin resistance as aging.



One of cortisol's undesirable effects is that it contributes to insulin resistance by decreasing the rate of glucose uptake, probably by blocking the insulin receptor. [J Clin endocrinol Metab 54 (1982): pp.131-8]


Syndrome X / Metabolic Syndrome

Syndrome X (Metabolic Syndrome) is the variable combination of obesity (usually central in distribution), insulin resistance with elevated insulin levels, high blood cholesterol and hypertension.  Metabolic Syndrome causes Hyperinsulinemia. [Eckel RH, Grundy SM, Zimmet PZ (2005) The metabolic syndrome. Lancet 365: pp. 1415-1428]

Symptoms - Metabolic

Recommendations for Elevated Insulin Levels:

Botanical / Herbal


Cinnamon with each meal helps keep insulin and blood sugar levels under control.  The typical 12 to 34 teaspoon dose contains a phytochemical called methyl hydroxy chalcone polymer (MHCP) which improves cellular glucose utilization and increases the sensitivity of insulin receptors in laboratory studies.  Personal testimonies indicate that this effect is seen in humans, but further study is required to confirm this.


Milk/Dairy Products

A higher consumption of dairy products was associated with a reduced risk of insulin resistance (Syndrome X) in a study of 3,157 young adults followed for a 10 year period. [JAMA 2002;287(16): pp.2081-9]




DIM has been reported to enhance insulin sensitivity and encourage abdominal fat loss.



Chromium picolinate supplementation at 1,000mcg per day over a 13-week period combined with exercise decreased total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and insulin levels in a recent small study of both males and females. [J Nutr Biochem, 1998;9: pp.471-5]


DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)

DHA at 1.8gm per day improved insulin sensitivity while having no effect on insulin secretion, in a pilot study of 12 overweight adults 45-70 years old. [Experimental Biology, April 20-24, 2002, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; abstract]

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