Canadian researchers think focusing on improving the strength and health of muscles in those with type 1 diabetes could produce better health outcomes.
Muscle deterioration is a complication for those who have type 1 diabetes, and one that is often overlooked by doctors and patients.
The decline of the body’s largest insulin-sensitive orga, the skeletal muscle, can affect the regulation of blood sugar and insulin response.
Professor Thomas Hawke, an associate professor of pathology and molecular medicine at the Michael G DeGroote School of Medicine, said: “Through research with both mice and humans, we’ve shown that type 1 diabetes negatively impacts muscle, and by improving muscle health we can reduce blood sugar levels and improve the response to insulin.”
Insulin resistance, which develops in those with type 1 diabetes, can contribute to more severe complications such as kidney failure and cardiovascular disease.
The research team from McMaster University in Canada think that identifying the loss of muscle stem cells early on could help prevent deterioration later on.
Their findings show that reducing a natural secreted hormone that represses muscle growth, called myostati, blood sugar levels dropped significantly even without insulin and the muscles were much more insulin sensitive.
Professor Hawke added: “Our findings provide solid evidence that type 1 diabetes negatively affects muscle and that correcting these changes would improve our physical abilities and our whole body metabolism, ultimately increasing the healthy lifespan of those suffering from this chronic disease.
“While my advice would be to exercise, our work may provide therapeutic options for those who may be unable to, or unable to at intensities needed to see therapeutic benefit.”
Professor Hawke said several pharmaceutical companies are still trialling new inhibitor drugs which have been shown to be “highly effective” in reducing myostatin.
People with type 1 diabetes should be able to prevent or minimize muscle loss by achieving good control of blood glucose levels.

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