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What is insulin?

Insulin is a biomarker that can tell you how well your body’s insulin response is working. It is a hormone released by your pancreas in response to elevated levels of glucose in your blood, usually after a meal. It tells cells to take up glucose to be used later as an energy source. Between meals, when glucose levels are low, the amount of insulin in your blood is expected to be low as well.

What is insulin resistance?

Insulin resistance occurs when your cells need more and more insulin over time to absorb glucose from the bloodstream. Eventually this reaches a point when the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin to react to glucose levels. One-third of Americans have insulin resistance, also known as prediabetes¹.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease characterized by a faulty insulin response, either due to your pancreas not making enough insulin or your cells being unable to respond to the insulin that is made. These factors can cause blood glucose levels to stay elevated for long periods of time after a meal, eventually resulting in damage to the eyes, kidneys, nerves, circulatory system, and other organs throughout the body. 

When should I measure my insulin levels?

It is recommended to get an insulin test if you have low blood glucose, if you have diabetes and need to track your production of insulin, or to determine if you have insulin resistance.

Your healthcare professional might recommend an insulin test if you are more likely to develop insulin resistance or diabetes. Risk factors include obesity, being over the age of 45, having a familial history of diabetes, having high blood pressure or abnormal cholesterol levels, and if you’ve had gestational diabetes, heart disease, or a stroke².

What is a normal insulin level?

Insulin levels measured 2–3 hours after consuming 100 mg of glucose indicate:

  • Normal: <60 mIU/L*
  • Borderline: 60–99 mIU/L
  • Insulin resistant: >100 mIU/L

*Insulin levels are measured in milli-international units per litre, or mIU/L.

What does a high level of insulin mean?

When insulin levels are greater than 100 mIU/L 2–3 hours after consuming 100 mg of glucose, you are insulin resistant and have a higher risk of developing diabetes.

How can I improve my insulin levels? 

You can possibly decrease insulin resistance by losing weight, eating fewer carbohydrates and sugars, exercising, and getting enough sleep. Even if a test of your blood sugar levels is normal, measuring your insulin levels is an important way to find out if you have insulin resistance.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Diabetes: The surprising truth about prediabetes.” July 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/features/truth-about-prediabetes.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Ffeatures%2Fdiabetesprevention%2Findex.html
  2. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Insulin resistance & prediabetes. Available from: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/what-is-diabetes/prediabetes-insulin-resistance#insulinresistance
Last updated:
September 23, 2021

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