Physical training increases skeletal muscle insulin sensitivity. Since training also causes functional and structural changes in the myocardium, we compared glucose uptake rates in the heart and skeletal muscles of trained and untrained individuals. Seven male endurance athletes (VO2max 72 +/- 2 ml/kg/min) and seven sedentary subjects matched for characteristics other than VO2max (43 +/- 2 ml/kg/min) were studied. Whole body glucose uptake was determined with a 2-h euglycemic hyperinsulinemic clamp, and regional glucose uptake in femoral and arm muscles, and myocardium using 18F-fluoro-2-deoxy-D-glucose and positron emission tomography. Glucose uptake in the athletes was increased by 68% in whole body (P < 0.0001), by 99% in the femoral muscles (P < 0.01), and by 62% in arm muscles (P = 0.06), but it was decreased by 33% in the heart muscle (P < 0.05) as compared with the sedentary subjects. The total glucose uptake rate in the heart was similar in the athletes and control subjects. Left ventricular mass in the athletes was 79% greater (P < 0.001) and the meridional wall stress smaller (P < 0.001) as estimated by echocardiography. VO2max correlated directly with left ventricular mass (r = 0.87, P < 0.001) and inversely with left ventricular wall stress (r = -0.86, P < 0.001). Myocardial glucose uptake correlated directly with the rate-pressure product (r = 0.75, P < 0.02) and inversely with left ventricular mass (r = -0.60, P < 0.05) or with the whole body glucose disposal (r = -0.68, P < 0.01). Thus, in athletes, (a) insulin-stimulated glucose uptake is enhanced in the whole body and skeletal muscles, (b) whereas myocardial glucose uptake per muscle mass is reduced possibly due to decreased wall stress and energy requirements or the use of alternative fuels, or both.
P Nuutila, M J Knuuti, O J Heinonen, U Ruotsalainen, M Teräs, J Bergman, O Solin, H Yki-Järvinen, L M Voipio-Pulkki, U Wegelius