Insulin could help seniors grow muscle, study finds

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A double dose of insulin could help spur muscle growth in the elderly, a new study finds.

Recent studies have found that the insulin the body produces while eating plays a role in the prevention of muscle loss between meals and at nighttime, and that that function is impaired with age. Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston have discovered that boosting those insulin levels in elderly patients can restore that function and increase muscle growth. Fourteen elderly volunteers with perfect glucose tolerance (i.e. no diabetes) were evaluated to determine the response of their muscles to normal blood levels of insulin and the elevated levels.

Researchers found that, when insulin levels were doubled, it caused capillaries–tiny blood vessels—to expand, bringing more oxygen and nutrients to the muscles, spurring growth. They hope to turn this research into new therapies whereby the blood vessels are dilated using drugs that will mimic this insulin response. The report appears in the Sept issue of the journal Diabetologia.