How exercise prevents diabetes: more than just weight control

A fascinating study from Maastricht University in the Netherlands shows that exercise helps to prevent and treat diabetes by increasing the number of enzymes that transport fat from fat cells to muscle cells where it can be used for energy by the muscles. Before insulin can do its job of removing sugar from the bloodstream and putting it into cells where it can be burned for energy, it must first attach on special hooks called insulin receptors on the surface of cells. Fat stored in cells internalizes receptors so insulin loses its attachment sites and is unable to its job. Exercise causes muscle cells to markedly increase their production of certain fat transported proteins that remove fat from fat and muscle cells. So less fat is available to block insulin receptors and blood sugar levels drop. Journal reference

Another study, from University of California at Berkeley, followed 36,000 male runners for almost a decade. Those who ran five or more miles per week were half as likely to develop diabetes as those who ran fewer than five miles per week (Diabetes Care, November 2007). Furthermore, researchers at the University of Western Australia showed that an eight-week exercise program markedly increased diabetics' ability to respond to insulin, even if they did not lose any fat. Journal reference

Anyone who wants to prevent diabetes should make exercise a priority. Because of the extremely high rate of heart disease in diabetics, all diabetics should have their hearts checked by a cardiologist. If they can pass a thalium stress test, they should be in some kind of supervised exercise program. More


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