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Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2004 Jul;36(7):1191-5.

Weight loss and exercise: implications for muscle lipid metabolism and insulin action.

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Department of Exercise and Sport Science, Human Performance Laboratory, The Brody School of Medicine, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC 27858, USA.


Implications for Muscle Lipid Metabolism and An accumulation of intramuscular lipid has been reported with obesity and linked with insulin resistance. The purpose of this paper is to discuss: 1) mechanisms that may be responsible for intramuscular lipid accumulation with obesity, and 2) the effects of common interventions (weight loss or exercise) for obesity on skeletal muscle lipid metabolism and intramuscular lipid content. Data suggest that the skeletal muscle of morbidly obese humans is characterized by the preferential partitioning of lipid toward storage rather than oxidation. This phenotype may, in part, contribute to increased lipid deposition in both muscle and adipose tissue, and promote the development of morbid obesity and insulin resistance. Weight loss intervention decreases intramuscular lipid content, which may contribute to improved insulin action. On the other hand, exercise training improves insulin action and increases fatty acid oxidation in the skeletal muscle of obese/morbidly obese individuals. In summary, the accumulation of intramuscular lipid appears to be detrimental in terms of inducing insulin resistance; however, the accumulation of lipid can be reversed with weight loss. The mechanism(s) by which exercise enhances insulin action remains to be determined.

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