Regular Moderate Exercise Ups GLP-1 Response in Overweight Men

Marlene Busko  

December 19, 2019

In a Danish cohort of overweight individuals with a mean age of 66, men — but not women — who were moderately physically active for 30 minutes per day had a better glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) response in an oral glucose tolerance test than their less-active counterparts.  

These findings suggest that "daily activity, even at a relatively low intensity and for a short amount of time, such as brisk walking, gardening, and playing with grandchildren," could, via this effect on GLP-1 secretion, "improve appetite and blood glucose regulation," lead author Charlotte Janus, a PhD student at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, said in a press release issued by the Society for Endocrinology. Janus was supported by a research grant from the Danish Diabetes Academy funded by the Novo Nordisk Foundation.

The research — based on a cohort of 1326 adults (53% men) from the ADDITION-PRO study at high risk of type 2 diabetes — was published December 1 in Endocrine Connections.

"Greater GLP-1 hormone levels decrease both hunger sensation and blood sugar and may therefore decrease the risk of both obesity and type 2 diabetes," said senior author Signe S. Torekov, PhD, also from the University of Copenhagen.

The gender differences may be "due to physiological differences and generally lower activity levels for women in this study," Torekov speculated. "It may also indicate that a certain minimum level of physical activity is required" to have a positive effect on GLP-1 levels. Thus, more study is needed.

Previous Findings Conflicting

GLP-1 is an incretin hormone that is released after eating and decreases blood glucose levels by enhancing insulin secretion; it also inhibits appetite, increases satiety, and slows gastric emptying, the authors write.

However, there have been conflicting reports about how physical activity may affect GLP-1 secretion in overweight individuals at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

To investigate this, the authors analyzed data from 703 men and 623 women in the Danish ADDITION-PRO cohort, who had a mean body mass index of 27 kg/m2.

Participants wore a heart rate and movement sensor for 7 days, took part in a submaximal 8-minute step test, and had blood samples taken before and during an oral glucose tolerance test.  

Researchers classified physical activity intensity as sedentary, light, moderate-to-vigorous, and vigorous, which corresponded to < 1.5; 1.5 to 3; > 3 to < 6; and > 6 metabolic equivalent tasks (METS), respectively.

On average, men spent 32 minutes/day and women spent 22 minutes/day doing moderate physical activity.

And more men than women (44% vs 39%) met the recommended target of at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day.

More than 98% of participants spent some time performing moderate physical activity, but almost none did any vigorous physical activity.

On average, men had higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness (30.8 vs 28.7 O2/kg/min), determined in a step test.

In men, every added hour of moderate physical activity was associated with a 19.5% lower fasting GLP-1 level and a 15.8% to 20% greater response in GLP-1 levels in the oral glucose tolerance test.

Researchers stress, however, that their results are based on a cross-sectional study that shows only associations between physical activity and GLP-1 levels, and not direct causality. They plan to confirm these findings by investigating the direct effects of moderate-intensity activity on GLP-1 secretion.

Endocr Connect. Published December 1, 2019. Full Text

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