Updated 27 March 2015

Why insulin resistance may be more common in men

Researchers say a protein in muscle might the reason why insulin resistance is more common in men.


New research may help explain why obese men are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than obese women.

As people become overweight, their skeletal muscle develops insulin resistance that can lead to type 2 diabetes, the Canadian study authors explained. They discovered that differences in the activity of a protein in this muscle may make men more likely to develop diabetes than women.

Read: Women cope better with insulin resistance

When that protein - called PTEN - is active, it prevents insulin from signalling properly in muscle. This reduces the amount of sugar taken by muscle and increases the risk of diabetes, according to the study published March 17 in the journal Scientific Reports.

"In our study, women's muscle appeared more efficient in neutralizing this protein, and this allows insulin to work better to move sugar from circulation to muscle," lead author Dr. M. Constantine Samaan, an assistant professor of paediatrics at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, said in a university news release.

"This protein is one explanation of why women are relatively protected from type 2 diabetes, despite having more body fat content compared to men at a given weight," added Samaan, a paediatric endocrinologist at the McMaster Children's Hospital.

The finding might one day lead to new treatments to prevent diabetes, according to the researchers.

The study was funded by the Canadian Heart & Stroke Foundation and Hamilton Health Sciences.

Read more:

Could you have pre-diabetes?

Insulin resistance risk factors

Insulin resistance and diabetes

Image: Overweight stomach from Shutterstock


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Dr. May currently works as a fulltime endocrinologist and has been in private practice since 2004. He has a variety of interests, predominantly obesity and diabetes, but also sees patients with osteoporosis, thyroid disorders, men's health disorders, pituitary and adrenal disorders, polycystic ovaries, and disorders of growth. He is a leading member of several obesity and diabetes societies and runs a trial centre for new drugs.

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