One condition that we are warned is on dramatic rise is type 2 diabetes. This condition, is characterised by raised levels of sugar (glucose) in the bloodstream, and is usually caused by a failure of the body to make adequate amounts of insulin and/or impaired insulin function (insulin resistance). Type 2 diabetes is believed to be very much a lifestyle-related condition, with diet and exercise being two major players in this respect.
As a general rule, I recommend those wanting to reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes to eat a relatively carbohydrate-restricted diet. What this means in practice is a diet low in foods with added sugar as well as low in certain starchy foods that tend to disrupt blood sugar and insulin levels such as potatoes, bread and many breakfast cereals. Regular activity is to recommended for those seeking to protect themselves from type 2 diabetes too.
Traditionally, those with or at risk of developing type 2 diabetes have been encouraged to engage in regular ‘aerobic’ exercise, such as brisk walking, jogging, cycling or swimming. However, in a study published recently in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition the effects of ‘resistance’ exercise was tested with regard to its ability to improve the ability of individuals to handle glucose in the body .
Resistance exercise (such as weight-lifting, press-ups and sit-ups) helps to maintain and build muscle-mass in the body. In this recent study, individuals in their early 60s engaged in 3 resistance exercise sessions per week for 12 weeks. All individuals were instructed to eat a diet that contained protein at levels slightly higher than is traditionally recommended. The programme led to a significant improvement in the individuals’ ability to handle glucose ” something that is generally taken to be a sign of reduced susceptibility to type 2 diabetes.
What this study shows is that a diet reasonably rich in protein, coupled with some resistance exercise may have considerable potential in terms of regulating blood sugar levels, and this has important implications for health in the long term. It is worth bearing in mind that increased muscle mass is believed to help maintain our metabolic rate ” which essentially makes it easier for us to maintain a healthy weight.
While aerobic exercise is traditionally recommended for those seeking to protect themselves from chronic disease, this latest study reminds us of the benefits to be had from resistance exercise too.
1. Iglay HB, et al. Resistance training and dietary protein: effects on glucose tolerance and contents of skeletal muscle insulin signaling proteins in older persons. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;85(4):1005-13.