06:31am Wednesday 19 February 2020

Type 1 Diabetics Have a Fat-Burning Advantage

DENVER – Researchers may have discovered a new advantage for Type 1 diabetics, according to research presented today at the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) 58th Annual Meeting and 2nd World Congress on Exercise is Medicine®. New research suggests that diabetics may burn more fat than non-diabetics during exercise.

A research team from the University of Montana studied fat and carbohydrate oxidation rates in 29 individuals with Type 1 diabetes. Study participants – 19 females and ten males – were tested for aerobic capacity and metabolic data during stationary cycle or treadmill tests to exhaustion. Researchers recruited an age- and gender-matched group of non-diabetics from the community to serve as the control.

For all participants, metabolic data was recorded every two minutes during exercise. Blood glucose was recorded pre-exercise (20- and five-minutes prior) and post-exercise (five- and 20-minutes after). Carbohydrate and fat oxidation were calculated at 50, 60, 70 and 80 percent of aerobic capacity.

“For the first time, we set out to explicitly compare fuel utilization in Type 1 diabetics and healthy adults,” said Charles Dumke, Ph.D., FACSM, lead author of this study. “While we know diabetics’ elevated blood sugar and insulin administration affects fuel utilization, we have not studied this in healthy adults until now.”

Results suggest that, at the same relative intensity, Type 1 diabetics oxidize more fat and less carbohydrate than non-diabetics. Prior to, and throughout exercise, diabetics had higher blood sugar levels and slower carbohydrate burning than their non-diabetic counterparts; however, diabetics did have the advantage in fat burning. Fat oxidation was consistently higher in the diabetic group.

All subjects avoided strenuous exercise for 24 hours and fasted for two hours prior to testing.

“The results are significant in that despite elevated blood sugar values, Type 1 diabetics appear to oxidize fat at greater rates,” said Dumke. “This is perhaps to compensate for their lack of endogenous insulin production. Insulin is a powerful hormone in the control of fuel utilization. Since Type 1 diabetics rely on exogenous insulin administration, they also control their muscles’ fuel selection during exercise. Our pre-test instructions of a two-hour fast likely resulted in lower basal levels of insulin in the Type 1 diabetics.”


The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 45,000 international, national and regional members and certified professionals are dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine.

The conclusions outlined in this news release are those of the researchers only and should not be construed as an official statement of the American College of Sports Medicine. Research highlighted in this news release has been presented at a professional meeting but has not been peer-reviewed.

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