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Weight Lifting Can Help Control Blood Sugar Levels

Update Date: Apr 08, 2013 02:58 PM EDT

Exercise and daily physical activities have been constantly encouraged for their health benefits, and based on a new study, a specific kind of exercise has been linked to possibly helping people stave off type II diabetes. According to researchers from the Life Sciences Institutes at the University of Michigan, weight lifting might have more advantages than just toning and defining muscles for physical appearance and strength. Lifting weights leads to the whitening of skeletal muscles, which was recently reported to be able to help people keep their blood sugar levels in check.

Previous research concluded that the whitening of skeletal muscles could lead to health complications in diabetic people. However, this new research refuted that finding with more evidence that resistance training can in fact help people control their glucose levels. The study, headed by Jiandie Lin, a faculty member with the Life Sciences Institute and an associate professor at the University's medical school, looked into the relationship between the different types of muscles and their effects on the body's metabolism. The researchers stated that of the two types of muscles, red and white, which are developed through different types of exercise, people tend to have a good mixture of both. Diabetic people, however, tend to have more white skeletal muscle than red.

White muscles in particular develop from resistance training that involves the use of heavy weights, while red muscles develop from cardio-training, like running. Due to the understanding that diabetic people tend to experience the whitening of their muscles, the researchers wanted to observe why the red-to-white shift occurred. The research team looked into particular proteins that were only found in white skeletal muscles and noticed that a protein known as BAF60c could be directly linked to increasing the presence of white muscles.

Based from this finding, the research team tested the protein on mouse models and found that mice with an increased level of BAF60c could not run as efficiently as mice without higher concentrations of the protein. The team then studied the effects of the protein on obesity since the protein appeared to make cardio-tasks harder. After inducing obesity in the BAF60c mice, they found that strangely enough, these mice were better able to control their blood sugar levels, which lowered their risk in developing type II diabetes.

The research, although still limited in mouse models, opens up more research into the role of white muscles and type II diabetes. If research shows that lifting weights can help control blood sugar levels, a new kind of treatment might be created for diabetics.

The study was published in Nature Medicine.

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