Background: Obesity is a risk factor for diabetes and its consequences, including accelerated ageing and mortality. The underlying factor could be accumulation of certain lipid moieties, such as ceramides (CER) and diacylgycerol (DAG) within muscle tissue, which are known to promote insulin resistance (IR), induce inflammation and oxidative injury, ultimately altering muscle function.
Aim: First, to study the relationship between body composition and age (independent variables) with skeletal muscle accumulation of lipid species, oxidative injury and strength. Second, to analyze the relationship between muscle tissue metabolites and insulin resistance, inflammation and lymphocyte telomere length, the latter as an indicator of ageing.
Methodology: The sample included 56 healthy sedentary males, scheduled for inguinal hernia surgery, aged 27 to 80 y. Each individual was subject to anthropometric measurements, body composition assessment through radiologic densitometry (DEXA), measurement of handgrip and quadriceps strength, serum biochemical parameters (lipoproteins, creatinine, high sensitivity C reactive protein [hsCRP], fasting and post glucose insulin and glucose concentrations for calculation of IR through the Matsuda and HOMA-IR indexes), and extraction of peripheral leukocytes for measurement of telomere length. During the surgical procedure, a sample of muscle tissue was obtained (anterior abdominal oblique) in order to measure CER and DAG (and sub species according to chain length and saturation) by mass spectrometry, 4 hydroxy-2-nonenal adducts (4-HNE) using electron microscopy immunohistochemistry, and carboxymethyl-lisine (CML) by immunohistochemistry, the latter as indicators of oxidative stress (OS).
Results: Body mass index (BMI) of twenty six individuals was > 25 k/m2, while BMI of 7 was > 30 k/m2. Overweight/obese individuals, did not exhibit differences in skeletal muscle lipid metabolites, however total CER and specific long chain CER sub-species (20 and 22 carbon) increased significantly among individuals with a central fat distribution (n = 14) as well as in glucose intolerant subjects (n =23). A negative association was found between mononuclear leukocyte telomere length and 20 and 22 carbon CER (rho = - 0.4 and -0.5 0 p < 0.05). Muscle strength was not associated with any of the measured muscle metabolites or markers of OS. A multiple regression analysis accepted central abdominal fat and telomere length as significant predictors of CER (R2 = 0.28).
Conclusions: An association was found between accumulation of specific ceramide species in muscle tissue and abdominal obesity, glucose intolerance and shortening of leukocyte telomeres, although not with muscle oxidative injury or dysfunction.