Why Insulin Resistance May Be More Common in Men

Researchers say a protein in muscle might be culprit behind type 2 diabetes gender gap

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, March 23, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- New research may help explain why obese men are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than obese women.

As people become overweight, their skeletal muscle develops insulin resistance that can lead to type 2 diabetes, the Canadian study authors explained. They discovered that differences in the activity of a protein in this muscle may make men more likely to develop diabetes than women.

When that protein -- called PTEN -- is active, it prevents insulin from signaling properly in muscle. This reduces the amount of sugar taken by muscle and increases the risk of diabetes, according to the study published March 17 in the journal Scientific Reports.

"In our study, women's muscle appeared more efficient in neutralizing this protein, and this allows insulin to work better to move sugar from circulation to muscle," lead author Dr. M. Constantine Samaan, an assistant professor of pediatrics at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, said in a university news release.

"This protein is one explanation of why women are relatively protected from type 2 diabetes, despite having more body fat content compared to men at a given weight," added Samaan, a pediatric endocrinologist at the McMaster Children's Hospital.

The finding might one day lead to new treatments to prevent diabetes, according to the researchers.

The study was funded by the Canadian Heart & Stroke Foundation and Hamilton Health Sciences.