Reduce Insulin Resistance – Signs, Diet and Treatment

Written by Ahmed Zayed | Last updated on August 4, 2023

The rising prevalence of diabetes in our culture is an alarming indicator that insulin resistance is a silent killer. 

Starting with the basics, we’ll explain why insulin resistance is such a major issue once we define it. Consider the consequences for your health if your cells decided to turn on the rest of your body, resulting in elevated blood sugar, weight gain, and a host of other issues.

Read on to learn more about the causes, clinical presentations, and far-reaching effects of insulin resistance

Table Of Contents

What is Insulin Resistance?

What is insulin resistance

When cells lose their sensitivity to insulin, blood sugar levels rise. This phenomenon is called Insulin resistance. High rates of metabolic issues and type-2 diabetes are associated with this condition.

Importance of Insulin and Insulin Resistance

The pancreas secretes insulin, a hormone necessary for normal cellular energy balance and regulation of blood sugar levels. It facilitates glucose uptake by cells, which is essential for their normal functioning. But when cells stop responding to insulin, it sets off a chain of health problems.

When insulin resistance disrupts the balance, it leads to metabolic problems, inflammation, and high blood sugar. There is an increased risk of developing obesity-related conditions such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. [1]

Understanding insulin resistance is critical for maintaining general health since it is the key to preventing and treating many chronic diseases via lifestyle changes, medication, and specialized therapies.

Risk Factors and Prevalence of Insulin Resistance

Insulin resistance is described by a decreased sensitivity to insulin. This condition has several risk factors. Predisposing factors include genetic predisposition, inactivity, poor diet (especially large intakes of added sugars and saturated fats), and obesity.

Hormonal disorders, including polycystic ovarian syndrome, advancing age, and certain medical conditions like hypertension and dyslipidemia all increase an already high risk.

The prevalence of insulin resistance is quickly increasing, with estimates placing the number of affected Americans between 30 and 40 percent [2]. This disturbing trend highlights the need for education, screening, and preventative measures to reduce this health risk.

Exploring Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are a kind of polyunsaturated fat that have beneficial effects on inflammation, cardiovascular health, and cognitive function.

Understanding the Different types of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

To fully comprehend the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, one must be familiar with the many forms they exist in.

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) is an omega-3 fatty acid that helps keep hearts healthy, keeps brains operating effectively, and reduces inflammation. The cardiovascular system, mental wellness, and inflammatory illnesses are just some of the areas where research suggests it may enhance health. [3]

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is also found in fatty fish, is a very important part of how a baby's brain grows and works. It keeps your eyes and brain healthy and has even been linked to a better ability to learn and remember.

Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is found in a lot of plant foods, such as flaxseeds and walnuts. Even though ALA has some health benefits on its own, its real value comes from the fact that it is a building block for EPA and DHA, which are much more important. ALA is good for your heart, reduces inflammation, and adds to your overall health.

Since EPA and DHA are good for your health, the best way to get them is from animal products.

Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Some of the most well known sources include

  1. Fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines)

  2. Fish oil supplements

  3. Algae-based supplements

  4. Flaxseeds and chia seeds

  5. Walnuts

  6. Fortified foods (eggs, dairy, bread)

Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Insulin Sensitivity

The Relationship between Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Insulin Sensitivity

Researchers have looked into how omega-3 fatty acids affect how insulin works in the body.

Omega-3s have been linked to making insulin work better, which is important for keeping blood sugar levels in a safe range. They could make insulin work better, make cells take in more glucose, and make insulin resistance less severe. [4]

Omega-3s have been shown to lower signs of inflammation, which is important because inflammation makes insulin resistance worse. 

They may also make insulin work better by controlling how lipids are used and preventing fat from building up in areas like the liver and muscles.

Adding omega-3-rich foods or vitamins to a healthy diet may help improve insulin sensitivity and metabolic health.

Mechanism through which Omega-3 Fatty Acid improves Insulin Sensitivity

Although many possible mechanisms have been proposed, they have not yet been confirmed.

By changing the chemical structure and flexibility of cell membranes, omega-3s may make insulin receptors work better and improve communication within cells.

Impaired insulin signaling may be avoided if inflammatory pathways are blocked to limit persistent low-grade inflammation.

Omega-3s may improve lipid regulation and insulin sensitivity because they lower triglyceride levels and raise HDL (the "good") cholesterol. 

Also, omega-3s may change how insulin works and how glucose is used by changing how genes are expressed.

Even though we don't know exactly how omega-3 fatty acids may make insulin more sensitive, we do know that this happens through more than one route.

Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on Glucose Metabolism and Insulin Signaling

Omega-3 fatty acids may improve insulin sensitivity by raising both cellular glucose absorption and insulin-mediated glucose excretion. By changing how these enzymes work, omega-3s may make insulin resistance less severe.

They may also make insulin work better by changing how insulin sends signals through pathways like PI3K/Akt. Omega-3s may also control the production of genes that are involved in how glucose is used and how sensitive the body is to insulin. 

Because of these factors, omega-3 fatty acids may improve how glucose is used and how insulin tells cells what to do. [5]

Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) and Insulin Resistance

EPA’s role in improving Insulin Sensitivity

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), an omega-3 fatty acid, has been linked to enhanced insulin sensitivity. EPA has been shown to make the body more sensitive to insulin, which makes it better able to use glucose. 

It has the potential to aid in glucose management and reduce the incidence of insulin resistance. Individuals may benefit from increased insulin sensitivity and metabolic health by increasing their consumption of EPA-rich foods or taking EPA supplements.

Mechanism by which EPA reduces Insulin Resistance

Because EPA can control cellular signaling pathways like the PI3K/Akt pathway, it may make cells more sensitive to insulin.

Proteins that are involved in the breakdown of glucose, lipids, and inflammation may also have their translation and function changed. This may help reduce insulin resistance even more.

Insulin resistance is linked to low-grade persistent inflammation. The anti-inflammatory effects of EPA can help with this. EPA may also affect gene expression and genomic changes that have to do with insulin sensitivity.

Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) and Insulin Resistance

DHA’s potential benefits for insulin sensitivity

DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), an omega-3 fatty acid, may help with insulin sensitivity. Better insulin signals and glucose uptake by cells could help the body use glucose better to make energy.

DHA's anti-inflammatory benefits could help reduce long-term inflammation that can lead to insulin resistance.

 Also, DHA has been linked to a better way of handling fats in the body, which could help insulin sensitivity. Consuming DHA-rich foods may help insulin sensitivity and metabolic health.

Investigating the impact of DHA on insulin signaling pathways

It has been suggested that docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) may influence insulin signaling pathways.

It is possible that DHA makes it easier for the body to absorb glucose by increasing the phosphorylation of insulin receptors and turning on downstream signaling pathways. [6]

Both the production and function of enzymes that help break down sugar and fat are altered.

These results show that DHA may have a positive effect on how insulin signals work, leading to better insulin sensitivity and control of blood sugar levels.

Incorporating Omega-3 Fatty Acids into Your Diet

Dietary Sources of EPA and DHA

Dietary sources of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA include:

Fatty Fish - Salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout, herring, and tuna are examples of fatty fish.

Shell Fish - Oysters, clams, and squid are all types of shellfish.

Algae - Some nutritional supplements and fortified meals are made from algae.

Fish Oil - Supplements with high doses of EPA and DHA may be found in fish oil.

Fortified Foods - Some juices, milk, yoghurt, and nutrition bars, as well as fortified egg and dairy products.

High-quality ingredients and careful planning may make all the difference. For specific recommendations, consult a doctor.

Recommended intake of Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Managing Insulin Resistance

Omega-3 fatty acids, which can be found in fatty fish, fish oil products, and foods that have been enhanced, may help control insulin intolerance.

It is advised that you have two servings of fatty fish each week, but you should check with your doctor for individual recommendations. Since there is no set RDA, different people will have different needs.

Balancing Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids for Optimal Health

Getting the right amount of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in your diet is essential for good health.

Even though both are important, omega-6 fatty acids, which are more common in the typical Western diet, may make inflammation worse if omega-3s aren't there to balance them out.

To find a healthy mix, eat more omega-3-rich foods like fatty fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts and fewer omega-6 sources like vegetable oils and processed foods.

Professional medical assistance should be adapted to each person's needs.

Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplements for Insulin Resistance

Overview of Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplements

It is common to take omega-3 fatty acid supplements, which typically include the essential fatty acids EPA and DHA.

Fish oil is a vitamin that comes in pill or liquid form and is made from the fat of fish like salmon and mackerel.

Krill oil is a product made from the oil of krill, which is a type of small shellfish that lives in the ocean.

Algae oil can be used by both vegans and vegetarians. It can be taken as a pill or as a drink.

Cod liver oil comes in pill or liquid form and is sold.

Flaxseed oil is a plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids. It usually comes in the form of a liquid or softgel.

Due to the high amount of omega-3s they have, they are often used to improve heart health, improve mental performance, and reduce inflammation. It's important to choose a high-quality supplement from a trusted manufacturer, take the suggested amount, and talk to your doctor.

Choosing the Right Supplement for Managing Insulin Resistance

A high percentage of EPA and DHA in an omega-3 fatty acid supplement may help with insulin resistance. Fish oil, krill oil, and algae oils are all good sources of EPA and DHA-rich supplements.

When picking the right supplement for your needs, it's important to think about things like safety and longevity and to talk to a medical professional.

Best Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplements

Consider these points while searching for a high-quality supplement:

  • High quality and purity

  • The amount of EPA and DHA

  • Source and Long-Term Strength

  • Dosage and Form

  • Outside Verification

Here are some well-known and trustworthy sources to get omega-3 supplements:

  1. Nordic Naturals

  2. Nutrigold

  3. Life Extension

  4. Carlson Labs

  5. Viva Naturals

  6. Garden of Life

  7. NOW Foods

  8. Wiley's Finest

  9. Pharmax

  10. Barlean's

These companies are known for making high-quality products with lots of EPA and DHA and for being committed to fair production practices and testing by a third party.

But it's best to consult a doctor or a certified dietician who can make suggestions based on your unique situation and health goals.

Lifestyle Factors and Insulin Resistance

Lifestyle factors have a significant impact on insulin resistance. Exercise is important because it makes the body more sensitive to insulin and better able to use glucose.

A diet high in whole grains, fruits, veggies, lean foods, and healthy fats can help insulin balance and help people stay at a healthy weight. Some ways to deal with stress, like yoga, awareness, and getting enough sleep, have been linked to better insulin sensitivity.

Insulin resistance and the health problems it can cause can be avoided by not smoking and not drinking too much, among other harmful habits.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to see improvements in insulin sensitivity with omega-3 supplementation?

While omega-3 fatty acid supplementation has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, this benefit may take some time to manifest. 

Some studies have shown gains in as little as a few weeks, but it may take many months of taking supplements regularly to see big changes.

Responses can vary based on factors like amount, insulin sensitivity at the start, and general living factors. 

Are there any side effects of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation?

Most people who take omega-3 fatty acid supplements don't have any side-effects.

People who take blood-thinning drugs may have a slightly higher chance of bleeding, and some people may feel mild stomach upset or get a fishy taste in their mouths. 

If that is the case, consult your doctor about the right amount and ask any questions or concerns about your health.

Can omega-3 fatty acids be used as a standalone treatment for insulin resistance?

Omega-3 fatty acids are not enough to treat insulin resistance on their own. Insulin resistance is usually treated with a healthy diet, regular exercise, weight control, and, if necessary, other treatments like medicine or insulin therapy. 

They may be useful in regulating insulin sensitivity. As part of a more complete health care plan, taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements may be helpful.

Are there any dietary restrictions when consuming omega-3 fatty acids for insulin resistance?

No changes to the diet are necessary when using omega-3 fatty acids to treat insulin resistance. 

But it's important to choose meals that are well-balanced and help keep insulin under control in the body as a whole.

Focus on eating a diet full of whole grains, fruits, veggies, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Limit your intake of processed meals, sugary snacks, and fatty meats.

What foods cause insulin resistance?

Insulin resistance can be caused by eating foods high in added sugars, refined carbs (like white bread and white rice), sugary drinks, processed snacks, and consuming too much fat. Insulin resistance, inflammation, and weight gain may all result from eating them.

Moderation and portion control are essential.


Insulin resistance is a metabolic condition related to the development of type 2 diabetes and its complications.

There is a lot more impact on one's way of life from one's genetics or health problems. Insulin resistance can be minimized by working out regularly, keeping your weight in check, and eating well.

Eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fatty fish or fish oil supplements, may help manage insulin sensitivity. 

However, omega-3 supplements shouldn't replace conventional treatment. To successfully lower insulin resistance and improve general health, you may need to make changes to your food and lifestyle, and you may also need to take medicine.

It's important to consult healthcare experts to get the necessary care.


[1] Wilcox, G. (n.d.). Insulin and Insulin Resistance. PubMed Central (PMC). Retrieved from

[2] Seidell, J. C. (2007, March 9). Obesity, insulin resistance and diabetes — a worldwide epidemic | British Journal of Nutrition | Cambridge Core. Cambridge Core. Retrieved from

[3] Health Benefits of n-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids: Eicosapentaenoic Acid and Docosahexaenoic Acid. (2012, February 20). Health Benefits of N-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids: Eicosapentaenoic Acid and Docosahexaenoic Acid - ScienceDirect.

[4] Stella, A. B., Cappellari, G. G., Barazzoni, R., & Zanetti, M. (2018, January 11). Update on the Impact of Omega 3 Fatty Acids on Inflammation, Insulin Resistance and Sarcopenia: A Review. MDPI.

[5] Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid and insulin sensitivity: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. (2011, September 29). Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid and Insulin Sensitivity: A Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials - ScienceDirect.

[6] Mechanisms of enhanced insulin secretion and sensitivity with n-3 unsaturated fatty acids. (2015, February 26). Mechanisms of Enhanced Insulin Secretion and Sensitivity With N-3 Unsaturated Fatty Acids - ScienceDirect.

About the author 

Dr Ahmed Zayed is a medical resident specializing in plastic surgery with years of experience in the field. He is also a writer for top-rated websites including Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, ConsumerHealthDigest, and Huffington Post

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