Public Health Nutrition

Research Article

Interaction of physical activity and diet: implications for insulin-glucose dynamics

Jean-Jacques Grimma1 c1

a1 University Hospital (CHUV), BH19 Department of Internal Medicine Endocrinology, Diabetology and Metabolism, Lausanne, Switzerland CH-1001.


In Western countries 25–35% of the population have insulin resistance syndrome characteristics.

The defects most likely to explain the insulin resistance of the insulin resistance syndrome include: 1) the glucose transport system of skeletal muscle (GLUT-4) and its different signalling proteins and enzymes; 2) glucose phosphorylation by hexokinase; 3) glycogen synthase activity and 4) competition between glucose and fatty acid oxidation (glucose-fatty acid cycle).

High carbohydrate/low fat diets deteriorate insulin sensitivity on the short term. Howewer, on the long term, high fat/low carbohydrate diets have a lower satiating power, induce low leptin levels and eventually lead to higher energy consumption, obesity and more insulin resistance. Moderately high-carbohydrate (45–55% of the daily calories)/low-fat diets seem to be a good choice with regard to the prevention of diabetes and cardiovascular risk factors as far as the carbohydrates are rich in fibers.

Long-term interventions with regular exercise programs show a 1/3 decrease in the appearance of overt diabetes in glucose intolerant subjects. Furthermore, diet and exercise interventions "normalise" the mortality rate of patients with impared glucose tolerance.

Therefore, moderately high carbohydrate/low fat diets are most likely to prevent obesity and type 2 diabetes. Triglycerides should be monitored and, in some cases, a part of the carbohydrates could be replaced by fat rich in monounsaturated fatty acids. However, total caloric intake is of utmost importance, as weight gain is the major determinant for the onset of insulin resistance and glucose intolerance.

Regular (when possible daily) exercise, decreases cardiovascular risk. With regard to insulin resistance, resistance training seems to offer some advantages over aerobic endurance activities.

(Accepted July 11 1999)


c1 Corresponding author: Email: