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Insulin sensitivity in physically fit and unfit children of parents with Type 2 diabetes


Hyun chul Lee MD, Division of Endocrinology, Department for Internal Medicine, Yonsei University College of Medicine, 134 Shinchondong, Sudaemungu, Seoul 120-752, Korea. E-mail:


Aims  First-degree relatives of patients with Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) are often reported to be insulin resistant. We wanted to identify early metabolic abnormalities in this condition, and determine whether they are altered by regular physical training.

Methods  We measured insulin sensitivity using the euglycaemic glucose clamp technique and insulin response to oral glucose in 10 unfit (did not participate in routine physical exercise) offspring of T2DM parents and 10 unfit control subjects, and compared them with six fit (routinely swam for 3 h/day 5 days/week) offspring of T2DM parents and six fit controls with no family history of T2DM.

Results  Unfit offspring had a higher plasma glucose response than the other three groups. The mean area under the glucose curve was also significantly higher in unfit offspring than in the other three groups (12.6 ± 0.6 vs. 10.4 ± 0.4, 9.6 ± 0.5, and 9.5 ± 0.7 mmol/l per hour for the unfit controls, fit offspring and fit controls, respectively; P < 0.05). The corresponding insulin response of unfit offspring was significantly higher at 60 min in the oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) that that of fit offspring or fit controls. In addition, the mean area under the insulin curve was significantly greater in unfit offspring than in either fit offspring or fit controls (868 ± 172 vs. 294 ± 71, 287 ± 43 mmol/l per hour, respectively; P < 0.05). Moreover, the glucose disposal rate (GDR), measured using a euglycaemic clamp, was significantly lower in unfit and fit offspring than in unfit and fit controls (5.6 ± 0.3 vs. 8.6 ± 0.3 mg/kg per minute; P < 0.01 and 9.3 ± 0.9 vs. 12.1 ± 0.8 mg/kg per minute, respectively; P < 0.015), whereas the GDR was similar in unfit controls and fit offspring (8.6 ± 0.4 vs. 9.3 ± 0.9 mg/kg per minute; P > 0.05).

Conclusion  These results support the concept that early metabolic abnormalities, as reflected by a decreased GDR (insulin sensitivity) in the offspring of T2DM patients, may be improved by increased physical fitness.