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Combining exercise with medication to prevent type 2

Project summary

Being overweight or obese can lead to a high risk of type 2 diabetes. Professor Wagenmakers wants to develop a lifestyle intervention for people at high risk of type 2, combining regular exercise with a blood fat-lowering prescription drug. He hopes this will be a successful strategy for preventing or delaying type 2 diabetes in people at high risk.

Background to research

High levels of fat in the blood is linked to type 2 diabetes, and fat can accumulate in muscles. In lean people, carrying out exercise burns the fat stored in muscles, in order to generate energy. In people who are overweight, obese or inactive, muscle fat isn’t burned for energy in the same way. This is important because if the muscles are full of fat, it makes it difficult for the muscle cells to take up glucose from the blood after a meal.

Professor Wagenmakers has previously shown that a fat-burning medication, called Acipimox, can help obese people to burn their muscle fat while cycling.

Now, he hopes to see the same fat-burning results in obese people while they’re walking. His aim is to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes in people at very high risk using this combined lifestyle approach.

Research aims

Professor Wagenmakers’ PhD student will recruit people at high risk of type 2 diabetes into this study. They’ll then compare the effects of Acipimox against a placebo (dummy) drug. They want to find out whether Acipimox can lower muscle fat levels after 45 minutes of steady walking.

All participants will then start a 12 week supervised exercise programme involving walking three times a week. Half will take Acipimox before walking, and the other half will take a placebo tablet.

After 12 weeks, the research team will measure the ability of the participants’ muscles to take up sugar from the blood. This will establish if the exercise programme is more effective at lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes when it’s combined with Acipimox, or not.

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

If successful, the research will show that a fat-burning drug can maximise the health benefits of manageable, regular exercise in people at high risk of type 2 diabetes. In the future, this could help to reduce the number of people who develop type 2 diabetes.

This project has been adopted by:
Laura Watts and Paula Thompson in memory of Raphael Peter Parkinson

Organisations: The Pilkington Charities Fund
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