NIH awards $3 million for FSU diabetes prevention study

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded a $3 million grant to a Florida State University research team to study how resistance training may help prevent older women struggling with obesity from developing type 2 diabetes.


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Project co-lead Robert Hickner, a professor of Nutrition and Integrative Physiology, spoke of the untapped potential of resistance training: 

“Although there are clear health-related benefits of physical activity, little is known about how resistance exercise, as opposed to endurance exercise, can reduce the risk of metabolic disorders, particularly in women.” 

In 2018, approximately 14.9 million women in the U.S. ages 18 and older had diabetes, and an additional 47.1 million women had prediabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 90-95% of cases are type 2 diabetes. People with diabetes are more at risk for severe illness from COVID-19 as well, according to the CDC.

The study is a collaboration between FSU College of Health and Human Sciences, the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana, and the University of Arkansas. Researchers will monitor a group of participants as they attend resistance training sessions at FSU’s Functional Movement Clinic.

The study will focus on strength building exercises such as planks, arm and leg raises, and heel step downs to target all of the major muscle groups. Researchers estimate participants will burn about 300 calories per session. 

An excess of body fat can cause insulin resistance, a main cause of type 2 diabetes, according to FSU. Co-lead Michael Ormsbee said that although endurance exercise — which involves more aerobic activities like running and swimming — can help control body fat, resistance exercises can increase body fat metabolism and improve body composition. 

“The issue is that very few studies have been completed to directly compare endurance to resistance exercise when energy expenditure is equated between the types of training. In addition, due to many changes that occur with menopause and as a result of type 2 diabetes, there is a huge need to understand the most impactful form of exercise to recommend.”

The NIH awards approximately $32 billion a year for research projects that enhance life and reduce illness and disability.