High intensity intermittent exercise improves cardiac structure and function and reduces liver fat in patients with type 2 diabetes: a randomised controlled trial

S Cassidy, C Thoma, K Hallsworth, J Parikh, KG Hollingsworth, R Taylor, DG Jakovljevic, MI Trenell

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AIMS/HYPOTHESIS:Cardiac disease remains the leading cause of mortality in type 2 diabetes, yet few strategies to target cardiac dysfunction have been developed. This randomised controlled trial aimed to investigate high intensity intermittent training (HIIT) as a potential therapy to improve cardiac structure and function in type 2 diabetes. The impact of HIIT on liver fat and metabolic control was also investigated. METHODS:Using an online random allocation sequence, 28 patients with type 2 diabetes (metformin and diet controlled) were randomised to 12 weeks of HIIT (n = 14) or standard care (n = 14). Cardiac structure and function were measured by 3.0 T MRI and tagging. Liver fat was determined by 1H-magnetic resonance spectroscopy and glucose control by an OGTT. MRI analysis was performed by an observer blinded to group allocation. All study procedures took place in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. RESULTS:Five patients did not complete the study and were therefore excluded from analysis: this left 12 HIIT and 11 control patients for the intention-to-treat analysis. Compared with controls, HIIT improved cardiac structure (left ventricular wall mass 104 ± 17 g to 116 ± 20 g vs. 107 ± 25 g to 105 ± 25 g, p < 0.05) and systolic function (stroke volume 76 ± 16 ml to 87 ± 19 ml vs. 79 ± 14 ml to 75 ± 15 ml, p < 0.01). Early diastolic filling rates increased (241 ± 84 ml/s to 299 ± 89 ml/s vs. 250 ± 44 ml/s to 251 ± 47 ml/s, p < 0.05) and peak torsion decreased (8.1 ± 1.8° to 6.9 ± 1.6° vs. 7.1 ± 2.2° to 7.6 ± 1.9°, p < 0.05) in the treatment group. Following HIIT, there was a 39% relative reduction in liver fat (p < 0.05) and a reduction in HbA1c (7.1 ± 1.0% [54.5 mmol/mol] to 6.8 ± 0.9% [51.3 mmol/mol] vs. 7.2 ± 0.5% [54.9 mmol/mol] to 7.4 ± 0.7% [57.0 mmol/mol], p < 0.05). Changes in liver fat correlated with changes in HbA1c (r = 0.70, p < 0.000) and 2 h glucose (r = 0.57, p < 0.004). No adverse events were recorded. CONCLUSIONS/INTERPRETATION:This is the first study to demonstrate improvements in cardiac structure and function, along with the greatest reduction in liver fat, to be recorded following an exercise intervention in type 2 diabetes. HIIT should be considered by clinical care teams as a therapy to improve cardiometabolic risk in patients with type 2 diabetes. TRIAL REGISTRATION:www.isrctn.com 78698481 FUNDING: : Medical Research Council.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)56-66
Number of pages2
Issue number1
Early online date9 Sept 2015
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http:// creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use,
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  • Fatty liver
  • Heart diseases
  • Left ventricle
  • MRI
  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus


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