Here’s yet another reason to hoist those heavy weights. Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, suggest that minimal muscle mass is associated with increased diabetes risk. The authors of the recent study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (2011; doi: 10.1210/jc.2011–0435), wanted to learn whether average and above-average levels of muscle mass might be associated with improved glucose regulation. They analyzed the data of 13,644 subjects in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III. After adjusting for details such as age and ethnicity, the researchers found that subjects presenting with greater muscle mass were less likely to have diabetes risk factors. Specifically, each 10% increase in skeletal muscle mass resulted in an 11% relative reduction in risk of insulin resistance. Each 10% increase was also associated with a 12% reduction in risk of prediabetes or overt diabetes.

The study authors concluded, “Across the full range, higher muscle mass (relative to body size) is associated with better insulin sensitivity and lower risk of [developing transitional/pre- or overt diabetes] . . . Further research is needed to examine the effect of appropriate exercise interventions designed to increase muscle mass on incidence of diabetes.”