Lifting weights may help protect against type 2 diabetes by keeping blood glucose levels under control, according to research published online in the journal Nature Medicine .
It was previously thought that that so-called white muscle, which develops in response to weight lifting and resistance training, encourages insulin resistance – a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
However, a new mouse-based study by scientists from the Life Sciences Institute at the University of Michigan shows that white muscle can in fact help control blood glucose .
Using mouse treadmills, they compared the endurance of mice with increased levels of a protein called BAF60c – thought to drive the formation of white muscle – to a control group of normal mice. They found that the BAF60c transgenic mice could run powerfully for short distances but tired more quickly than the control group.
They then induced obesity in both groups of mice by feeding them a high-fat diet, and found that mice with BAF60c transgene were much better at controlling blood glucose.
“The results are a bit of a surprise to many people,” lead researcher Jiandie Lin said. “It really points to the complexity in thinking about muscle metabolism and diabetes .”
Li, an associate professor at the U-M Medical School, explained that mammals have a mixture of red and white muscle. Red muscle exists in people who engage in endurance training like marathon or distance running, while white muscle is more present in people who require short, explosive bursts of energy, such as weightlifters and sprinters.
Lin explained that if future studies in humans determine that the BAF60c pathway is indeed responsible for promoting white muscle formation and in turn optimising metabolic function, the finding could lead to potential drug targets for obesity and metabolic disease .

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