Exercise May Not Lower Diabetes Risk Equally in All Patients

Exercise was tied to lower type 2 diabetes risk, but association was weakest in those with high genetic risk

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Exercise has many beneficial effects on health. One of those benefits is as a reduced risk for type 2 diabetes. But exercise may not reduce that risk by the same amount for everyone.

A research team at the University of Arizona in Tucson recently studied how exercise affected type 2 diabetes risk in different groups.

They found that, although exercise lowered risk in almost all patients, it didn't lower it equally across the board. People with a high genetic risk for diabetes saw fewer benefits from exercise — and this was more pronounced in women than men.

Type 2 diabetes is marked by resistance to insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar. Researchers have long believed that exercise could reduce patients' risk of this chronic disease.

Drawing data from a past study, Yann Klimentidis, PhD, and colleagues studied how exercise affected patients' risk for type 2 diabetes. Of the patients in the past study, 821 had type 2 diabetes. All were white men and women between 45 and 64 years old.

The study authors assigned each patient genetic risk scores (GRS). These measured 65 genetic variants associated with a raised risk type 2 diabetes — known as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). People with these SNPs face a raised risk of type 2 diabetes.

One GRS looked at all 65 SNPs, while others looked at specific risks for diabetes, such as insulin resistance, fasting insulin and glucose levels.

Those who had high GRSs saw the fewest protective benefits from exercise, the authors found. They also noted that, overall, women did not gain as many benefits from exercise as men.

The study authors concluded that exercise did protect against type 2 diabetes overall, but this effect was weakest in women and those at high genetic risk. Genetic risk appeared to trump protective measures.

The study authors noted that the group of patients they studied was not diverse in age or race and the patients self-reported much of the data. The authors called for more research.

This study was published online Sept. 29 in Diabetologia.

The National Institutes of Health funded the study. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
September 29, 2014
Last Updated:
October 8, 2014