Building muscle can lower your insulin resistance risk, which in turn lowers your chances of developing pre-diabetes, and ultimately protecting you from ever suffering from diabetes type 2, researchers from the University of California in Los Angeles revealed in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. Insulin resistance is a major precursor for diabetes type 2.

As the obesity epidemic grows globally, diabetes prevalence is expected to continue to grow. Diabetes type 2 is a major cause of cardiovascular death, the authors explained. People with insulin resistance are much more susceptible to raised blood sugar levels, a major factor in the development of diabetes.

Scientists have known for a while that low muscle mass raises the risk of insulin resistance. However, no study had tried to find out whether increased muscle, regardless of obesity levels, might improve blood glucose control.

Senior author, Preethi Srikanthan, MD, said:

“Our findings represent a departure from the usual focus of clinicians, and their patients, on just losing weight to improve metabolic health. Instead, this research suggests a role for maintaining fitness and building muscle. This is a welcome message for many overweight patients who experience difficulty in achieving weight loss, as any effort to get moving and keep fit should be seen as laudable and contributing to metabolic change.”

Dr. Srikanthan and team set out to determine whether skeletal muscle mass might be linked to insulin resistance and blood glucose metabolism disorders. They gathered data on 13,644 people from what they described as a nationally representative sample.

All the individuals they evaluated were aged 20+ years, none of them were pregnant, and they all weighed over 35 kg.

They found that higher muscle mass, relative to the individual’s body size, was closely linked to superior insulin sensitivity and a lower risk of developing pre-diabetes or full diabetes type 2.

Srikanthan concluded:

“Our research shows that beyond monitoring changes in waist circumference or BMI, we should also be monitoring muscle mass. Further research is needed to determine the nature and duration of exercise interventions required to improve insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism in at-risk individuals.”

“Relative Muscle Mass Is Inversely Associated with Insulin Resistance and Prediabetes. Findings from The Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey”
Preethi Srikanthan and Arun S. Karlamangla
The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism July 21, 2011 jc.2011-0435

Written by Christian Nordqvist