The key to reducing your risk for developing diabetes may be as simple as building more muscle mass through resistance training. A new study shows higher muscle mass is associated with better insulin sensitivity and a lower risk of pre-diabetes.
"It's not just weight that matters, but what proportion of your weight is muscle mass," according to Arun S. Karlamangla, PhD, MD, an associate professor of medicine in the division of geriatrics at the University of California, Los Angeles, reports WebMD.
Researchers evaluated the data from a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III of 13,644 people and found there was a connection between higher levels of muscle mass and reportedly lower levels of insulin resistance, which is a precursor to developing type 2 diabetes. They adjusted for sex, age, race, and other contributing factors for diabetes, including generalized and central obesity.
The study, which was published in the July issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, discovered that "for each 10 percent increase in skeletal muscle index, there was an 11 percent decrease in insulin resistance and a 12 percent decrease in pre-diabetes."
"While we knew there was a relationship between metabolic disorders and very low muscle mass, we were surprised to find that this relationship was preserved across the range of muscle mass," Dr. Preethi Srikanthan, an assistant professor of medicine in the division of endocrinology at UCLA, said in a news release.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) says pre-diabetes is a "health condition where your blood glucose is higher than normal but not as high as if you had diabetes." Doctors use the same blood test used for testing for diabetes to determine if a patient has pre-diabetes.
Early intervention for those with elevated blood glucose levels includes aerobic exercise, and exercise which focuses on resistance training to increase muscle mass; weight loss, healthy nutrition and lifestyle changes, says the ADA.
"If you start an exercise program, and don't lose weight, you should not give up hope because your fat is getting converted to muscle," says Dr. Karlamangla. "If you lose fat, you gain muscle. So even if the weight is the same, the balance shifts."
Karlamangla said weekly resistance training may also help people with type 2 diabetes better use the insulin that their bodies produce. "It's not too late if you already have type 2."
A recent promising but controversial UK study said, it's possible to reverse type 2 diabetes through diet and portion control. The authors of the study say it's "all about energy balance in the body," reports Digital Journal.
Research has cautioned against sedentary lifestyles for diabetics and those pre-disposed to developing the disease for years. CNN reported last year that one insurance company warned "half of all Americans may be diabetic or or prediabetic by 2020." The prediction by the Centers for Disease Control was equally as disturbing, with the CDC estimating that "one in three Americans would have diabetes by 2050."
Exercise may be the one tool that everyone has the opportunity to utilize daily to lose weight and turn fat into muscle mass. Doctors say "the heavier we are the harder it is for the body to make insulin and keep blood sugar under control."
"When it comes to diabetes risk, fitness trumps fatness. If you are a little heavy but fit you are probably well. If you are heavy and not fit, your risk of diabetes is higher. The ideal is to be both fit and trim," said John Buse, MD, PhD, chief of endocrinology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.