Science

Exercise restores insulin sensitivity in the brain

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The research opens up new therapeutic possibilities to reduce the risk factors for obesity and diabetes in the future

November 8, 2022. 11:31 a.m.

A study has shown that as little as eight weeks of exercise can help restore the brain’s insulin sensitivity in severely overweight adults, opening up new therapeutic possibilities for reducing risk factors for obesity and diabetes later in life, according to a study conducted by the DZD, the Tübingen University Hospital and the Helmholtz of Munich (Germany), and which has been published in ‘JCI Insight’.

As the researchers point out, if the brain stops responding correctly to the hormone insulin (insulin resistance), this also has a negative effect on the body’s metabolism and on the regulation of eating behavior.

Fourteen women and seven men between the ages of 21 and 59 with a body mass index between 27.5 and 45.5 participated in the study. Functional magnetic resonance imaging was used (MRI) to determine insulin sensitivity in the brain before and after eight weeks of monitored resistance training.

The result is that the exercise program improved insulin action in the brain to the level of a person at a healthy weight. “The intervention of exercise increased insulin-stimulated activity in brain regions that are responsible, among other things, for the perception of hunger and satiety and for the interplay of motivation, reward, emotion and exercise behavior,” said Dr. Stephanie Kullmann, a scientist at the DZD. insulin sensitivity in the brain had positive effects on metabolism, feelings of hunger decreased, and unhealthy visceral fat was reduced.

“The study suggests that insulin resistance in the brain may be reversible and could be a viable therapeutic target to restore central nervous system regulation of metabolism and body weight and counteract the adverse effects of obesity“, pointed out Professor Martin Heni, last author of the study. To test whether improving brain sensitivity to insulin in people at high risk of type 2 diabetes actually has beneficial effects on metabolism and cognition, new controlled intervention studies.

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