Skip to content

Does insulin make you fat?

If there’s one question we get asked on South Africans with Diabetes often, it’s: Does insulin make you fat? Here, we give you the straight answer.

Understanding insulin

Insulin is the most potent and effective treatment for elevated blood glucose levels. Everyone with Type 1 diabetes needs insulin to stay alive, and millions of people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes also need insulin to control their blood glucose levels. But even insulin is not without any side effects. One of the most common concerns from our Facebook community who use insulin is that it tends to cause weight gain.

Does insulin make you fat?

So if you’ve been experiencing unwanted weight gain and struggling to find the root cause, you may be surprised to learn that your insulin could partially be to blame. But it depends on a number of factors, says Dr Claudine Lee, diabetologist:

  • Your age, sex, and height
  • The insulin amount released with each meal and the level of insulin resistance
  • Your genetic make-up, family history, and ethnicity
  • Your diet and exercise habits

But how does insulin make you fat?

When a person takes insulin as a treatment for diabetes, they may gain weight. This is because their body begins absorbing glucose again and converting any excess into fat.

If treatment does not manage diabetes well, and blood glucose levels are too high, then weight gain can occur. The cells may be getting more glucose than they need, and the excess glucose is accumulating and being stored as fat.

Also, a person who takes insulin for diabetes may be gaining weight if they eat more due to concerns about developing hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar.

Never stop taking insulin because of weight gain. Take all of your medications as prescribed and never stop taking your insulin as a way to lose weight.

Tips to avoid gaining weight if you are on insulin:

1. Track your calorie intake

To build a successful diet, you need to take into account several key factors, most importantly the total amount of calories and also the source of calories. Here’s how you can calculate how much you should be eating to reach your goals with better blood sugar mangement and fat loss. These tips will help you calculate the amounts you require per day of not only calories but protein, fat, and carbs.

2. Choose low-glycemic index foods

Foods with a low glycemic index (GI) should be an important part of your meal plan. Lower GI foods promote a slow, steady increase in blood glucose levels. This can contribute to more stable blood glucose control.

3. Exercise regularly

Another way to lose weight is by exercising regularly. If you feel weak or tired, consult your doctor before engaging in any exercise programme. The type of exercise you do really depends on your condition. Even though aerobics are a great choice, several activities can be done at home, including strength training and kickboxing.

So does insulin make you fat? Not on its own, no. But if it’s combined with extra snacking, less exercise, and the wrong kind of food, it may lead to weight gain.

Do you have any other questions for our expert team? Ask us here!

What to read next?

What is TEEL? A simple way to manage your diabetes: The goal with TEEL is to lay a foundation so that we all speak the same language.

Take your diabetes medication: All the expert medication tips you need to stop diarrhea and make injecting easier.

Eat healthy for diabetes: The one article you need to read about diabetes and diet.

Exercise, a little every day:The ultimate guide to diabetic exercise, including how to make it fun!

What to read next
Join South Africans with Diabetes on Facebook

Join our diabetes community

Be First to Comment

What do you think?

Sweet Life is a registered NPO/PBO (220-984) with a single goal: to improve diabetes in South Africa. We are funded by sponsorships and donations from aligned companies and organisations who believe in our work. We only share information that we believe benefits our community. While some of this information is linked to specific brands, it is not an official endorsement of that brand. We believe in empowering people with diabetes to make the best decisions they can, to live a healthy, happy life with diabetes.