Diabetes caused by long COVID potentially prevented by exercise

Diabetes caused by long COVID
© iStock/BeritK

Experts suggest that exercising may be a promising treatment for preventing diabetes caused by long COVID, also helping to reduce the risk of depression.

Conducted by a team at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, the study identified that exercise might effectively treat diabetes caused by long COVID, a prominent condition caused by the disease. Currently, there are no medically proven treatments to remedy long COVID.

However, new research has shown that exercise may break the severe cycle of inflammation caused by COVID that can result in the development of diabetes and depression months after an individual recovers from the initial virus.

Candida Rebello, PhD, a research scientist at Pennington Biomedical Research Center, said: “We know that Long COVID causes depression, and we know that it can increase blood glucose levels to the point where people develop diabetic ketoacidosis, a potentially life-threatening condition common among people with type 1 diabetes.

“Exercise can help. Exercise takes care of the inflammation that leads to elevated blood glucose and the development and progression of diabetes and clinical depression.”

The study, titled ‘“Exercise as a Moderator of Persistent Neuroendocrine Symptoms of COVID-19’, is published in the journal Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews. The project was supported by award number 1K99AG065419-02 from the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health and from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health.

Symptoms of long COVID

It is currently unknown how many people are impacted by long COVID, with estimates ranging from between 15% to 80% of people infected with the disease, which means based on those statistics, as many as one million people in Louisiana alone are affected by long COVID.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists a range of potentially debilitating symptoms of the condition, including depression, brain fog, muscle pain, and fatigue that can persist for months after a patient recovers from the initial COVID infection. Perhaps the most severe symptom is diabetes caused by long COVID, a condition that can cause an array of deadly complications.

“For example, a person may not get very sick from COVID-19, but six months later, long after the cough or fever is gone, they develop diabetes,” Dr Rebello said.

The benefits of exercise

The study conducted by Dr Rebello and her team indicates that implementing exercise could provide an alternative and effective strategy for mitigating diabetes caused by long COVID.

Dr Rebello commented: “You don’t have to run a mile or even walk a mile at a brisk pace. Walking slowly is also exercising.  Ideally, you would do a 30-minute session of exercise. But if you can only do 15 minutes at a time, try to do two 15-minute sessions. If you can only walk 15 minutes once a day, do that. The important thing is to try. It doesn’t matter where you begin.  You can gradually build-up to the recommended level of exercise.”

“We know that physical activity is a key component to a healthy life.  This research shows that exercise can be used to break the chain reaction of inflammation that leads to high blood sugar levels, and then to the development or progression of type 2 diabetes,” said Pennington Biomedical Executive Director John Kirwan, PhD, who is also a co-author of the paper.


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