Lift weights, lower blood sugar: white muscle helps glucose levels

Putting on a little muscle could actually help diabetics lower their blood sugar, according to a new study from the Life Sciences Institute at the University of Michigan.

Red muscle develops from exercises of endurance training, like long-distance running, while white muscles is built up by short, intense workouts that require strong bursts of energy, like weightlifting. Researchers once believed that the shift from red to white muscle made the body less responsive to insulin, but the new research shows that this may be far from true — and that white muscle can actually help control blood sugar, even in obese individuals.

Researchers isolate protein BAF60c

By analyzing the proteins only associated with white muscles, researchers isolated BAF60c, a protein that is responsible for gene expression. After increasing BAF60c in the skeletal muscle of mice, results showed the rodents had significant loss in their endurance levels while running on treadmills, indicating a decrease in red muscle and an increase in white muscle mass.

Taking things a step further, scientists induced obesity in the mice, but those with the BAF60c transgene were better able to maintain healthy blood sugar levels — suggesting that white muscle plays a more important role in glucose management than previously thought.

"The results are a bit of a surprise to many people," Jiandie Lin, PhD, an associate professor at the University of Michigan Medical School, said in a press release. "It really points to the complexity in thinking about muscle metabolism and diabetes."

Implications for treatment

Resistance training — building muscle through weightlifting, exercise bands or body weight — increases white muscle mass and can help to lower blood glucose, while other studies have also shown that interval training can be beneficial for lowering blood sugar. If the BAF60c protein is found to be helpful in optimizing metabolic function, researchers say, new drug developments might ensue using this method.

"We know that this molecular pathway also works in human cells. The real challenge is to find a way to target these factors," Lin said.

Findings of the study are published online in Nature Medicine.

Source: Science Daily

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