The incidence of type 2 diabetes increases with age so this aging population will also result in an increased incidence of the disease globally.
One of the main reasons for the increased prevalence of type 2 diabetes with age is the development of insulin resistance, or an inability for the body to respond to insulin, and this is often caused by reduced physical activity as we age.
However, the precise mechanisms by which physical inactivity facilitates the development of insulin resistance have remained a mystery.
Now researchers have discovered enzymes involved in physical activity, which enhances insulin responsiveness and in turn promotes metabolic health. This mechanism has the potential to be targeted by drugs to protect against aging.
Researchers reveal that reductions in skeletal muscle reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation during aging is instrumental in the development of insulin resistance.
“Exercise-induced ROS drives adaptive responses that are integral to the health-promoting effects of exercise,” Professor Tiganis said.
In a paper published in the journal, Science Advances, they have shown how an enzyme called NOX-4 is essential for exercise-induced ROS and the adaptive responses that drive metabolic health.
In mice, researchers found that NOX4 is increased in skeletal muscle after exercise and that this then leads to increased ROS which elicits adaptive responses that protect mice from the development of insulin resistance, which otherwise occurs with aging or diet induced-obesity.
This study has shown that skeletal muscle NOX 4 abundance is decreased with aging and that this leads to a reduction in insulin sensitivity in animal models.
Triggering the activation of the adaptive mechanisms orchestrated by NOX4 with drugs, might enhance key aspects of aging, including the development of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
One of these compounds is found naturally in cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli or cauliflower, though the amount needed for anti-aging effects might be more than many would be willing to consume.