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Am J Physiol. 1996 Jun;270(6 Pt 2):R1332-9.

Interrelationships between muscle morphology, insulin action, and adiposity.

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  • 1Department of Endocrinology, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.


There is evidence that insulin resistance and obesity are associated with relative increases in the proportion of glycolytic type IIb muscle fibers and decreases in the proportion of oxidative type I fibers. Futhermore, insulin resistance and obesity are associated with the fatty acid (FA) profile of structural membrane lipids. The present study was undertaken to define interrelationships between muscle fiber type and oxidative capacity, muscle membrane FA composition, and insulin action and obesity. Muscle morphology, insulin action, and body fat content were measured in 48 male nondiabetic Pima Indians. Percent body fat (pFAT, determined by hydrodensitometry) correlated negatively with percentage of type I fibers (r = -0.44, P = 0.002) and positively with percentage of type IIb fibers (r = 0.40, P = 0.005). Consistent with this finding, pFAT was also significantly related to oxidative capacity of muscle, as assessed by NADH staining (r = -0.47, P = 0.0007) and citrate synthase (CS) activity (r = -0.43, P = 0.008). Insulin action was correlated with oxidative capacity (CS; r = 0.41, P = 0.01) and weakly correlated with percentage of type IIb fibers (r = -0.29, P = 0.05). In addition, relationships were shown between muscle fiber type and FA composition (e.g., percentage of type I fibers related to n-3 FA; r = 0.37, P = 0.01). Thus leaness and insulin sensitivity are associated with increased oxidative capacity and unsaturation of membranes in skeletal muscle. Present studies support the hypothesis that muscle oxidative capacity and fiber type may play a genetically determined or an environmentally modified role in development of obesity and insulin resistance.

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