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Patients who have indications of insulin resistance (higher-than-normal blood glucose levels that are a precursor to type 2 diabetes) have long been counseled by their doctors to lose weight. Recent research suggests, how­ever, that another approach also may have a positive impact: building muscle.

According to a study of more than 13,000 people published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism in July 2011, those who had the greatest overall muscle mass, regardless of their weight, had a lower incidence of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. The results suggest that weight loss may not be the only way to prevent insulin resistance.

While the exact mechanism behind this link is still being investigated, lead author Preethi Srikanthan, MD, MS, a professor of medicine at UCLA, suggests one possibility for the connection. “Muscle is a sink for the disposal of glucose, and it doesn’t require insulin to do so — unlike most other cells,” she says. The more muscle people build, the more likely they will be able to rid their bodies of harmful excess glucose.

Those experiencing insulin resistance may still be counseled to lose weight, but they now have another tool to fight the problem, says Srikanthan.

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