by Dr. G Mirken
How Exercise Prevents Diabetes AND Preserves Your Brain
Several studies show that vigorous exercise can help to
prevent and to treat diabetes. A recent study from the University
of Missouri in Columbia helps to explain why (American Journal of
Physiology - Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology,
The vast majority of people who have diabetes do not lack
insulin. Their disease is caused by an inability to respond to
insulin. Since their cells do not respond to insulin, blood sugar
levels rise and damage their cells. By studying blood flowing to
and from the hind legs of obese rats, researchers found that
acute muscle contractions markedly increased the passage of
sugar into skeletal muscles, and markedly increased the flow of
electrons in mitochondria.
Muscle cells have anywhere from six to thousands of tiny
inclusions called mitochondria. Mitochondria convert food to
energy by shuffling electrons from the building blocks of food.
Each movement of electrons supplies more energy. However, in
converting food to energy, some electrons end up attached to
oxygen to produce reactive oxygen species (ROS) that stick to
your DNA and proteins to damage them, preventing insulin from
doing its job of driving sugar into cells and shortening cell life.
When a muscle contracts, it shunts electrons away from oxygen
so that fewer reactive oxygen species are formed.
Furthermore, this same process protects brain function
and helps to prevent strokes, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's
diseases. A study from Semmelweis University in Budapest
shows that the lowering of ROS levels with exercise helps to
prevent loss of mental function (Applied Physiology, Nutrition
and Metabolism, October 2007).
More than 80 percent of diabetics die of heart disease.
If you are at high risk for diabetes or are already diabetic, check
with your doctor and perhaps get a thallium stress test to check
out the condition of your heart. If you pass the test, you should
try to exercise as much as possible.