Hyperinsulinemia Is Associated With Type 2 Diabetes

Find out Risks, Signs, Symptoms and Treatment of Hyperinsulinemia

Nurse Drawing Blood
Renphoto/Getty Images

Hyperinsulinemia is defined as high insulin levels in the blood and is a condition associated with type 2 diabetes. In addition, hyperinsulinemia is a factor in insulin resistance, obesity and metabolic syndrome.

What is Insulin?

Insulin is a hormone that has many functions. One function important for diabetes is to transport sugar from the bloodstream into cells to be used for energy. In some people, insulin does not work properly because cell receptors are resistant to it.

This typically occurs when someone is carrying excess weight - fat inhibits insulin from doing its job. This condition is called insulin resistance. Consequently, sugar builds up in the bloodstream. Because the body is unable to use sugar for fuel, the cells become starved and you may feel excessively hungry or thirsty. The body attempts to lower blood sugar levels by releasing even more insulin. As a result, the body ends up with both high blood sugar levels and high insulin levels. 

Risk of Hyperinsulinemia

  • Hypoglycemia, insulin resistance, diabetes, obesity
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Stroke
  • Depression, anxiety, and insomnia

Effects of Hyperinsulinemia

  • High blood sugar levels as diabetes progresses.
  • Poor blood fat levels, particularly high LDL (bad cholesterol), low HDL (good cholesterol), and increased triglycerides
  • High blood pressure
  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Increased appetite with strong cravings for carbohydrates and refined sugar
  • Difficulty losing body fat.

Symptoms of Hyperinsulinemia:

Because hyperinsulinemia is associated with insulin resistance, many people who have it also have large amounts of abdominal fat, otherwise known as visceral fat. In addition, hypoglycemia may be an indicator (particularly in infants born to mothers who have uncontrolled diabetes) to its presence as can high blood fat levels, fatigue, weight gain, difficulty losing weight, and increased carbohydrate cravings.

Treatment of Hyperinsulinemia:

As this condition is a feature of type 2 diabetes, treatment measures are the same. Lifestyle changes, such as healthy eating and exercise, are recommended.

There has been an increase in research into the causes and treatment of hyperinsulinemia as well as its role in the development of type 2 diabetes. Some diabetes drugs increase insulin levels while lowering blood sugar levels. One drug that lowers both blood sugar and insulin levels is metformin. Metformin is a first line agent for treating type 2 diabetes and this is the only drug that is approved by the FDA for diabetes prevention and is used in patients with metabolic syndrome or prediabetes.

Other Interesting Facts About Hyperinsulinemia:

In pregnant women with uncontrolled blood sugar levels, the fetus is exposed to high levels of sugar. In response, the fetal pancreas undergoes changes to produce more insulin. After birth, the baby will continue to experience excess levels of insulin or hyperinsulinemia and will experience a sudden drop in blood sugar levels.

The baby is treated with glucose after delivery and insulin levels usually return to normal within two days.


Franz MS RD LD CDE, Marion J. The Dilemma of Weight Loss in Diabetes. Diabetes Spectrum July 2007 20(3):133-136

Li MD PHD, Chaoyang; Ford MD MPH, Earl; Zhao MD PHD, Guixiang; Mokdad PHD, Ali H. Prevalence of Pre-Diabetes and Its Association with Clutering of Cardiometabolic Risk Factors and Hyperinsulinemia Among U.S. Adolescents. Diabetes Care Feb 2008 3(2):342-347

Insulin Resistance Syndrome. American Family Physician. Accessed: January 12, 2010 http://www.aafp.org/afp/2001/0315/p1159.html

Sigal MD MPH, Ronald; Kenny PHD, Glen; Wasserman PHD, David H; Castaneda-Sceppa MD PHD; White MD, Russell. Physical Activity/Exercise and Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care June 2006 29(6):1433-1438

Shanik MD, Michael H; Xu MD, Yuping; Skrha MD DSC, Jan; Dankner MD MPH, Rachel; Zick PHD, Yehiel; Roth MD, Jesse. Insulin Resistance and Hyperinsulinemia. Diabetes Care Feb 2008 31(2):5262-5268.

Continue Reading