Pioglitazone improves whole-body aerobic capacity and skeletal muscle energy metabolism in patients with metabolic syndrome

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Low aerobic capacity is a strong and independent predictor of all-cause mortality in patients with metabolic syndrome (MetS). Here, we investigated the effects of pioglitazone treatment on whole-body aerobic capacity and skeletal muscle energy metabolism in MetS patients.

Materials and Methods

A total of 14 male patients with MetS received oral pioglitazone 15 mg/day for 4 months. To assess whole-body aerobic capacity, exercise testing with a bicycle ergometer was carried out before and after pioglitazone treatment. To assess skeletal muscle energy metabolism, intramyocellular lipid in the resting leg and high-energy phosphates in the calf muscle during plantar-flexion exercise were measured using 1proton- and 31phosphorus magnetic resonance spectroscopy, respectively.


Pioglitazone significantly increased peak oxygen uptake (25.1 ± 4.9 mL/kg/min pretreatment vs 27.2 ± 3.9 mL/kg/min post- treatment, P < 0.05) and anaerobic threshold (12.7 ± 1.9 mL/kg/min pretreatment vs 13.6 ± 1.6 mL/kg/min post-treatment, P < 0.05), although daily physical activity was comparable before and after the treatment. Intramyocellular lipid content was significantly reduced after pioglitazone treatment by 26%, indicating improved skeletal muscle fatty acid metabolism. Pioglitazone also significantly decreased the muscle phosphocreatine loss during exercise by 13%, indicating improved skeletal muscle high-energy phosphate metabolism. Notably, the increase in anaerobic threshold; that is, submaximal aerobic capacity, closely correlated with the decrease in intramyocellular lipid content after pioglitazone treatment.


Pioglitazone significantly improved the MetS patients’ whole-body aerobic capacity and skeletal muscle energy metabolism. The beneficial effect of pioglitazone on whole-body aerobic capacity might be at least in part through improved fatty acid metabolism in the skeletal muscle.

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