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Big Tummies Invite Diabetes/Resistance Exercise Thwarts It

We all saw the news that twice as many Americans have diabetes as Brits; our big tummies seem to be the culprit. But most of us probably missed the good news that came out at the same time on resistance training.

Despite a comparable standard of living, the rate of diabetes among American men is 16 percent compared to 11 percent for British men. U.S. women have a rate of 14 percent compared with 7 percent for British women. 

The one risk factor that’s different is waist size. Our men have waists more than one inch larger than Brits, while our women have waists almost 2 inches larger. 

Americans have more central fat mass, which is more strongly associated with disease risk. “Our data suggested that in each BMI category a greater proportion of Americans were at increased disease risk and that waist circumference played the key role,” the researchers wrote.

“There are several potential mechanisms, including different rates of physical activity…, diet differences, or a more [stressful] environment in America, all associated with central adiposity and type 2 diabetes,” they continued.

It’s well known that belly fat is more dynamic in producing changes that lead to diabetes, hypertension, and other metabolic problems; see Belly Fat May Be Deadly; How to Get Rid of It http://www.cbass.com/Deepfatdeadly.htm  

Clearly, we need to eat more wisely and be more physically active. The second study suggests that resistance exercise should be an important part of the exercise mix.

Resistance Band Training Reduces Need for Insulin

Resistance exercise lowers the need for insulin in gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes is characterized by an impaired ability to metabolize carbohydrate during pregnancy. It is usually caused by insulin resistance. The condition disappears after delivery, but often comes back at a later date.

“Because skeletal muscles represent the main site of insulin resistance observed during pregnancy ...obstetricians and gynecologists recommend exercise as an effective and safe…treatment,” Brazilian researchers wrote in their report.

Aerobic exercise has been shown to be effective in reducing the need for insulin, but little is known about the effectiveness of resistance exercise (RE).  

These researchers evaluated the effect of training with elastic resistance bands on insulin requirements and glycemic control in 64 patients with gestational diabetes. Elastic bands were chosen because they are inexpensive (approximately $8) and widely accessible.  

The researchers predicted that RE would reduce the number of women who require insulin and would improve blood sugar control. That was the result.

Patients were equally divided into an exercise group (RE) and a control group (CG). The control group was not asked to exercise. The amount of insulin initially required was essentially the same in both groups. The resistance band program was circuit training for the main muscle groups of the body three times a week. Resistance was increased--length of the resistance bands was shortened--as necessary to keep the exertion level “somewhat hard.” The program continued until birth of the child.

The resistance training group significantly reduced their need for insulin; only 7 women (21.9%) continued to require insulin, compared to 18 (56.3%) in the control group. Similarly, the percentage of time spent in the desired blood glucose range was significantly higher in the exercise group; 63% in the RE group and 41% in the CG.

“The resistance exercise program was effective in reducing the number of patients…who required insulin and in improving [blood glucose] control,” the study concluded.

Lead researcher Marcelo C. de Barros, MSc, from the University of Sao Paulo School of Medicine in Brazil, and his colleagues called for further studies comparing resistance exercise (RE) and aerobic exercise and whether the adoption of both types of exercise would confer additional benefits. While they did not attempt to explain the underlying mechanism, they said additional studies should analyze “whether the molecular mechanisms underlying the disease are modified by RE and whether RE is able to prevent the occurrence of [gestational diabetes] as observed for aerobic exercise.”

Again, exercise—resistance and aerobic—works.

See also Short, Hard Intervals Improve Insulin Action http://www.cbass.com/IntervalsBloodSugar.htm   

(Both studies we’ve been discussing were published online on October 1, 2010, the study comparing U.S. and Brit diabetes rates in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, and the resistance training study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.)

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