Effects of menopause and high-intensity training on insulin sensitivity and muscle metabolism

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To investigate peripheral insulin sensitivity and skeletal muscle glucose metabolism in premenopausal and postmenopausal women, and evaluate whether exercise training benefits are maintained after menopause.


Sedentary, healthy, normal-weight, late premenopausal (n = 21), and early postmenopausal (n = 20) women were included in a 3-month high-intensity exercise training intervention. Body composition was assessed by magnetic resonance imaging and dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry, whole body glucose disposal rate (GDR) by hyperinsulinemic euglycemic clamp (40 mU/m2/min), and femoral muscle glucose uptake by positron emission tomography/computed tomography, using the glucose analog fluorodeoxyglucose, expressed as estimated metabolic rate (eMR). Insulin signaling was investigated in muscle biopsies.


Age difference between groups was 4.5 years, and no difference was observed in body composition. Training increased lean body mass (estimate [95% confidence interval] 0.5 [0.2-0.9] kg, P < 0.01) and thigh muscle mass (0.2 [−0.1 to 0.6] kg, P < 0.01), and decreased fat percentage (1.0 [0.5-1.5]%, P < 0.01) similarly in the two groups. The postmenopausal women had lower eMR in vastus lateralis muscle than the premenopausal women (−14.0 [−26.0 to −2.0] μmol/min/kg, P = 0.02), and tended to have lower eMR in femoral muscles (−11.2 [−22.7 to 0.4] μmol/min/kg, P = 0.06), and also GDR (−59.3 [−124.8 to 6.3] mg/min, P = 0.08), but increased similarly in both groups with training (eMR vastus lateralis muscle: 27.8 [19.6-36.0] μmol/min/kg, P < 0.01; eMR femoral muscle: 20.0 [13.1-26.7] μmol/min/kg, P < 0.01, respectively; GDR: 43.6 [10.4-76.9] mg/min, P = 0.01). Potential mechanisms underlying the training-induced increases in insulin sensitivity included increased expression of hexokinase (19.2 [5.0-24.7] AU, P = 0.02) and glycogen synthase (32.4 [15.0-49.8] AU, P < 0.01), and also increased insulin activation of Akt2 (20.6 [3.4-29.0], P = 0.03) and dephosphorylation of glycogen synthase (−41.8 [−82.9 to −0.7], P = 0.05).


Insulin sensitivity was reduced in early postmenopausal women. However, postmenopausal women increased peripheral insulin sensitivity, skeletal muscle insulin-stimulated glucose uptake, and skeletal muscle mass to the same extent as premenopausal women after 3 months of high-intensity exercise training.

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