The athlete’s paradox, insulin resistance and diabetes

Muscle fat compartments and turnover as a determinant of insulin sensitivity

Dana Dawson (lead researcher)

Aberdeen, University of

Start date: 05 August 2016 (Duration 2 years)

Dr Dana Dawson and her team at the University of Aberdeen are investigating the ‘athlete’s paradox’: why both obese people with diabetes and trained athletes have higher levels of lipids (fat) in their muscles, but with differing impacts on their health.

Insulin resistance is a huge problem in Western societies and underlies the development of type 2 diabetes. Increased lipid (fat) in muscle cells contributes to insulin resistance. But whereas this is true for people with diabetes, athletes with high muscle cell lipid remain insulin sensitive.

But lipid levels are not the whole story. Athletes can use lipids for fuel much faster than people who are obese or have diabetes. To explain this difference, we need to understand more about the relationship between these lipids, metabolism and insulin resistance.

In this project, Dr Dawson will find out if altering these lipids can improve insulin resistance. She will study insulin sensitivity changes during exercise in athletes, obese people and people with diabetes. The researchers will find out if the change in insulin sensitivity depends on the speed at which the lipids are used up for fuel, and on the proportion of saturated or unsaturated lipids that are stored in the muscle. They will develop a new, non-invasive magnetic resonance imaging technique to measure how quickly the lipids are used in skeletal muscle without having to do biopsies to get samples of them.

This research will reveal more about the link between muscle lipid storage and the body’s response to insulin, and if altering the balance of these lipids could improve the health of people at greater risk of diabetes.

Project details

Grant amount £234,109
Grant type Project Grant
Start Date 05 August 2016
Duration 2 years
Reference PG/15/88/31780
Status In progress

< back to search results