What does it mean to be sensitive to insulin?

Patty Bonsignore


Being “sensitive” to insulin means that the cells respond normally to insulin when they come in contact with it. In other words, when insulin brings glucose to the cell to be transported inside the cell, it can do so without any problems -- there is no “resistance.” When the body is not sensitive to insulin, the mechanisms that allow glucose to move from the blood stream into the cell are not working correctly, which is what we call “insulin resistance.” Insulin resistance results in more of the glucose remaining in the blood stream and causes high blood glucose. In order to explain this, we often use the example of a key. Think of insulin as a key trying to open a door. When the key fits well and is working correctly the door opens without any difficulty, but if it is misshapen or rusty, it cannot fit into the lock and the door will not open. The key fitting well is an example of the cell being sensitive to the insulin, the key not fitting well is what we call “insulin resistance.” There is a lot of research being conducted to try and determine why this happens. It is not completely understood why some people are resistant to their own insulin and others are not. But we do know that eating less fat, losing weight and exercising more can help cells become more sensitive to insulin.

2 replies

lacat87 2012-04-29 14:40:19 -0500 Report

Thank you Patty for answering my question and clearing it up for me. I'm a Type 1 diabetic by way of pancreas removal with transplanted good remaining islet cells into my liver. Surgery was more than 2 years ago in Charleston, SC. Very new surgery in this part of the country. I was #25 on the list of patients to have this. Happy to be alive. Done for several episodes of panccreatitis that might have lead to pancreas cancer if not treated. I've been told by my Endo. and her team that I'm insulin sensitive.