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Cold therapy—a potential new approach to treat type 2 diabetes mellitus?

In a new study, published in Nature Medicine, exposing patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) to cold conditions improved insulin sensitivity. The patients (n = 8) were acclimatized to a cold environment (14–15 °C) over a 10-day period. This treatment led to an 43% increase in peripheral insulin sensitivity. Although cold exposure can enhance brown adipose tissue (BAT) thermogenesis and might improve insulin sensitivity, the team found that glucose uptake was actually enhanced in skeletal muscle, with BAT activity remaining low. The investigators found that glucose transporter GLUT4 accumulated on the cell membranes of skeletal muscle during cold acclimatization. This effect was independent of insulin signalling and suggests a new mechanism by which cold acclimatization might improve the metabolic health of patients with T2DM.


  1. Hanssen, M. J. W. et al. Short-term cold acclimation improves insulin sensitivity in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Nat. Med. 10.1038/nm.3891

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Cold therapy—a potential new approach to treat type 2 diabetes mellitus?. Nat Rev Endocrinol 11, 506 (2015).

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