It is common knowledge that exercise and physical fitness improve one’s health; however, a study released by UCLA on July 28, 2011 found that more muscle mass — and not just less body fat — is critical to lowering one’s risk for type 2 diabetes. Researchers from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA found a correlation between greater muscle mass, relative to body size, and a substantially decreased risk of developing the metabolic changes that lead to diabetes. In 2009, the researchers published a study suggesting that the ratio of waist size to hip size (an indirect measure of abdominal fat, relative to gluteal musculature) is a better predictor of premature death in older adults than either body mass index (BMI) or waist circumference. They then examined a condition called sarcopenic obesity, in which there is a low level of total body muscle mass (sarcopenia) combined with a high BMI (obesity), theorizing that the presence of this condition would correlate with higher insulin resistance and diabetes risk. The following year, they tested this hypothesis by examining data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III (NHANES III); the data were culled from health information collected between 1988 and 1994 on 17,000 people aged 20 and older: a large number of people of various ages. They found that sarcopenia was associated with increased insulin resistance in both non-obese and obese individuals, and also with higher levels of blood glucose in obese individuals.
For the current study, they again used NHAHES III data, this time on 13,644 adults who were not pregnant and had a BMI of at least 16.5, to see how this correlation applied to individuals representing the entire spectrum of muscle mass levels, rather than only those with sarcopenia. Specifically, they wanted to determine if there was a correlation between higher levels of muscle mass and lower levels of insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes. After controlling for age, race and ethnicity, gender, generalized obesity (high BMI), and central obesity (large waist), they found that for each 10% increase in the skeletal muscle index (SMI; the ratio of muscle mass to total body weight) there was a corresponding 11% reduction in insulin resistance and a 12% reduction in pre-diabetes, a condition characterized by higher-than-normal levels of glucose in the blood.
Take Home Message:
This study points to one more reason to exercise and rid oneself of surplus body fat.
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