I have noticed—particularly in the product reviews—that a lot of members have experienced weight gain when beginning insulin therapy. I wondered if this was a coincidence or a real side-effect of insulin. So I asked my friend who is a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) to weigh in on the topic. She was so nice and wrote me the following response.
Does Insulin cause weight gain?
Insulin is certainly a hormone that leads to fat production. That is one of the jobs of insulin. It allows the body to store sugar and lay down fat storage. When a person starts taking insulin, often weight is gained, however, “taking insulin” does not cause a person to gain weight.
Often when a person starts taking insulin, their blood sugars have been out of control for some time. When a person has been running high blood sugars for a long period of time, they are generally dehydrated because when blood sugar is greater than 200 mg/dL the body tries to get rid of the extra sugar in the blood by “peeing it out”. This doesn’t work well, but it is what the body attempts. When a person finally starts taking insulin, the body does not have to pee out sugar anymore, and the body becomes rehydrated and even in many cases “puffy”, or edematous. This is because the body has to get used to having adequate amounts of hydration again. This situation usually lasts around 3 months while the body self regulates post insulin start. The higher the blood sugars and the longer the blood sugars have been high, the more drastic the water weight gain. This is healthy “weight gain” and balances out and becomes normal after a few months. It is NOT fat production, this is just water balance and is healthy. Weight loss caused by high blood sugars is not healthy.
The other thing that happens when a person starts taking insulin is that they may feel liberated. Now if I want a piece of cake and I want my blood sugars to stay in control, I can take a little extra insulin! Liberation is great, and one of the absolute bonuses of taking a shot, but if liberation is taken too far, then certainly weight will be gained because a person is eating more calories now than they used to be eating. At this point, seeing a dietitian and getting a recommendation for appropriate carb and calorie intake would be wise.
Generally speaking, insulin in and of itself does not lead to weight gain. When one starts taking insulin, it would be wise to continue following a healthy eating plan (with occasional celebration days and a treat once in awhile!) as well as an exercise plan. Remember to review your plan with your diabetes educator, and be very careful about taking insulin before you exercise, as exercise makes insulin much more effective.
Next Discussion: Prevention Guide outsmart Diabetes »