April 2013

Risk of Lower Muscle Strength Linked to Type 2 Diabetes

Exercise programs may be needed to help maintain muscle strength and functional capacity in older type 2 diabetics, a study reports.

Type 2 is the more common type of diabetes, in which the body does not make or use insulin properly. Without enough insulin, sugar stays in the blood and may lead to long-term complications that affect almost every part of the body. The disease may result in blindness, heart and blood vessel disease, stroke, kidney failure, amputations, and nerve damage.

Muscle strength refers to the amount of physical force an individual can exert at one time. This can be determined by how much weight a person can lift using certain muscles. Individuals in poor shape have an increased risk of developing many life-threatening health conditions including heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, and cancer. Regular exercise may help improve posture because it strengthens the muscles needed for good posture. Regular exercise in the elderly may help prevent fall injuries by strengthening the muscles and improving balance.

Previous research suggests that the development of type 2 diabetes may be linked to a faster decline in muscle mass and strength. In the current study, the scientists evaluated functional capacity in a group of 60 diabetic men and healthy controls with an average age of 71 years. They tested participants' fitness with muscle mass assessments, strength exercises, and reaction time performance.

The results suggested that leg muscle mass and skeletal muscle mass were significantly lower in older men with type 2 diabetes, compared to control subjects with normal blood sugar. Leg extension strength was also significantly lower among the diabetics, as was functional performance and handgrip strength. However, significant differences in muscle fiber size and reaction time were lacking between the two groups.

The research team concluded that exercise programs may need to focus on older type 2 diabetics to help them maintain their muscle mass and strength. More studies are needed before firm conclusions can be made.

In addition to exercise, a number of integrative therapies may help improve exercise performance in type 2 diabetics. There is strong scientific evidence supporting the use of caffeine and creatine for enhancing athletic performance. Whey protein is backed by good scientific evidence for its role in enhancing both muscle mass and strength. Vitamin D has been studied for its effects in preventing falls in the elderly, and it is supported by good evidence for this purpose.

For more information about type 2 diabetes, please visit Natural Standard's Medical Conditions database.


  1. Leenders M, Verdijk LB, van der Hoeven L, et al. Patients With Type 2 Diabetes Show a Greater Decline in Muscle Mass, Muscle Strength, and Functional Capacity With Aging. J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2013 Mar 25. pii: S1525-8610(13)00096-0. doi: 10.1016/j.jamda.2013.02.006. [Epub ahead of print] 
  2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. 

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