Exercise and Diabetes: Avoiding Type 1 Related Muscle Deterioration
Muscle deterioration, and subsequent loss of physical strength, is a possible complication of type 1 diabetes, and one rarely mentioned.
The significance of muscle loss is not just in the erosion of strength. Skeletal muscle is the body’s largest insulin-sensitive organ, so muscle loss affects our ability to utilize insulin, and manage blood sugar. Another name for this is “insulin resistance,” and it contributes to other type 1 diabetes complications such as heart, and kidney disease.
Researchers recently discovered that a depletion of muscle stem cells in the early stages of type 1 diabetes may be responsible for diabetes related muscle loss. Their investigation also indicates that taking steps to boost muscle fitness makes a positive, long-term health difference.
“...by improving muscle health we can reduce blood sugar levels and improve the response to insulin,” said senior research author Thomas Hawke, DeGroote School of Medicine.
Myostatin, Muscle, and Exercise
One means of preventing muscle loss owed to type 1 diabetes is lowering our myostatin levels. Myostatin is a hormone that inhibits muscle growth. The scientists found that blood glucose drops noticeably - even without insulin - when myostatin levels are reduced.
Hawke’s advice for lowering myostatin is “to exercise,” and earlier research supports his recommendation.
A study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise concluded that “myostatin protein levels are regulated by aerobic exercise and, furthermore, that myostatin is in the causal pathway of acquired insulin resistance with physical inactivity.” Here, again, insulin sensitivity is linked to myostatin reduction via exercise—specifically, aerobic activity. Other research, and many fitness experts, also recommend resistance training for reducing myostatin volume.
Balance Is Key
It seems important to note that myostatin is not inherently bad. This hormone serves a purpose, and having too little might lead to bulky muscles that are deficient in strength, according to one study.
However, sedentary type 1 lifestyles are associated with elevated myostatin, muscle depletion, and insulin resistance. Regular exercise, either aerobic workouts or resistance training, can lower myostatin, build muscle, and help the body utilize insulin.