Gaining Muscle Mass--Not Just Losing Weight--May Lower Risk of Diabetes

A new study has found that increasing muscle mass may also help lower the risk of the metabolic disease.

While many doctors push their pre-diabetic patients to lose weight, a new study has found that increasing muscle mass may also help lower the risk of the metabolic disease. Losing excess fat can help reverse Type 2 diabetes risk factors like insulin resistance and high blood-sugar levels, but putting on muscle comes as good news for patients who are overweight and have trouble losing weight.

Patients with pre-diabetes, a condition that results in higher-than-normal blood sugar but does not qualify as diabetes, often have difficulty slimming down. Fortunately for these individuals, the lead researcher in this new study, Dr. Preethi Srikanthan, stated that the results of the experiment held positive effects for them.

“Our findings suggest that beyond focusing on losing weight to improve metabolic health, there may be a role for maintaining fitness and building muscle mass,” Srikanthan, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, David Geffen School of Medicine, stated. "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.”

Srikanthan and colleagues based their study on data on 13,644 adults who participated in the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) III between 1988 and 1994. Looking at the participants' skeletal muscle index (SMI), a ratio of muscle mass to total body weight, researchers found an association between increasing SMI and a reduction in certain diabetes risk factors: for each 10% increase in SMI, there was an 11% decrease in insulin resistance and a 12% decrease in pre-diabetes.

The findings of Srikanthan’s study are in line with what is already known about the metabolic effects of muscle and fat. “Extra fat has bad effects, but more muscle has good effects. These data are also consistent with data we see on exercise, that it helps decrease diabetes risk, and that a lack of exercise and weight gain increase risk,” Daniel Rubin, an assistant professor of medicine at Temple University School of Medicine, said in a statement.

Around the Web

Gains in Muscle Mass, Not Just Weight Loss, May Help Lower Diabetes Risk [TIME]

Beef up your muscles, reduce your diabetes risk [UCLA Newsroom]