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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2004 Mar;96(3):911-6. Epub 2003 Oct 31.

Electrical stimulation of human lower extremities enhances energy consumption, carbohydrate oxidation, and whole body glucose uptake.

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Laboratory of Applied Physiology, Graduate School of Human and Environmental Studies, Kyoto University, Japan.


Our laboratory has recently demonstrated that low-frequency electrical stimulation (ES) of quadriceps muscles alone significantly enhanced glucose disposal rate (GDR) during euglycemic clamp (Hamada T, Sasaki H, Hayashi T, Moritani T, and Nakao K. J Appl Physiol 94: 2107-2112, 2003). The present study is further follow-up to examine the acute metabolic effects of ES to lower extremities compared with voluntary cycle exercise (VE) at identical intensity. In eight male subjects lying in the supine position, both lower leg (tibialis anterior and triceps surae) and thigh (quadriceps and hamstrings) muscles were sequentially stimulated to cocontract in an isometric manner at 20 Hz with a 1-s on-off duty cycle for 20 min. Despite small elevation of oxygen uptake by 7.3 +/- 0.3 ml x kg(-1) x min(-1) during ES, the blood lactate concentration was significantly increased by 3.2 +/- 0.3 mmol/l in initial period (5 min) after the onset of the ES (P < 0.01), whereas VE showed no such changes at identical oxygen uptake (7.5 +/- 0.3 ml x kg(-1) x min(-1)). ES also induced enhanced whole body carbohydrate oxidation as shown by the significantly higher respiratory gas exchange ratio than with VE (P < 0.01). These data indicated increased anaerobic glycolysis by ES. Furthermore, whole body glucose uptake determined by GDR during euglycemic clamp demonstrated a significant increase during and after the cessation of ES for at least 90 min (P < 0.01). This post-ES effect was significantly greater than that of the post-VE period (P < 0.01). These results suggest that ES can substantially enhance energy consumption, carbohydrate oxidation, and whole body glucose uptake at low intensity of exercise. Percutaneous ES may become a therapeutic utility to enhance glucose metabolism in humans.

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