That’s despite your body-mass index, age, diet, level of physical activity or blood glucose levels.
Yet it’s affected by lifestyle factors under your control.
Most amazingly, it turns out the bodybuilding community already knows of follistatin – and many weightlifters actually take it to raise their blood levels.
They seem to be unaware of the recent Swedish study showing high levels of follistatin predict diabetes up to nineteen years before onset of actual diabetes.
And the researchers seem to be unaware athletes are deliberately raising their levels of follistatin to build muscle mass. Apparently, no bodybuilders participated in their study.
How do follistatin supplements affect their risk for diabetes?
What is Follistatin
It’s a glycoprotein because it’s made up of both protein and sugar molecules. It’s also referred to as a peptide.
It’s also known as activin-binding protein. Activin is a paracrine hormone. Both activin and follistatin are involved in your body’s inflammatory responses to injury and infection.
What does that mean?
The hormone activin plays a strong role in cellular growth and reproduction. By inhibiting activin, follistatin helps regulate cellular reproduction.
What’s attracted the attention of the bodybuilding community is that it’s an antagonist of myostatin. Myostatin inhibits excessive muscle growth. Of course, bodybuilders WANT more muscle growth. Therefore, they love follistatin because it (allegedly) stops myostatin from inhibiting muscle growth.
Follistatin goes up naturally in response to damage to muscles.
Of course, intense exercise builds stronger muscles by tearing muscle tissues. Your body responds by repairing the torn muscles, only a little bigger and stronger than they were before.
In 2021, Lund University in Sweden Released the Results of a Large Study on Follistatin
The study was published in Nature Communications.
These researchers followed 5318 people, some in Sweden, and some in Finland, for 4 to 19 years.
According to the study, people who later developed diabetes had high levels of follistatin circulating in their blood up to 19 years (the longest any of the study subjects were followed) before it actually showed up in clinical tests.
To learn more about what affects blood levels of follistatin, the researchers performed a genome-wide association study on over 5,000 people. They found circulating levels of follistatin are regulated genetically by the glucokinase regulatory protein (GCKR).
It’s widely accepted diabetes is highly associated with an unhealthy diet, low levels of exercise and excess weight. But it also appears certain genetic populations are more at risk than others. The study’s findings on GCKR may help explain that.
But genetics is never destiny, or the world wouldn’t be facing the huge – and growing – epidemic of diabetes that is fast becoming such a medical problem around the globe. (Diabetes is a fast-growing disease in the United States, but cases are rising at an even faster rate in both China and India.)
The study explains the diabetes-producing process of follistatin.
The main source of follistatin is your liver.
Follistatin promotes the breakdown of fat from adipose tissue (body fat).
That sounds like a good thing. Taking fat out of your adipose tissue is what millions of Americans are trying desperately to do with diets, exercise, supplements, and gimmicks.
However, this process leads to the accumulation of fat in your liver. That leads to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and then to diabetes.
According to the study, follistatin levels do fluctuate according to your consumption of food and your exercise – and to pregnancy.
However, sustained high levels of follistatin lead to the accumulation of fat in your liver, leading to diabetes.
Many of us want to remove fat from our rear ends, but the liver is not a good alternative place to store it. Let’s lose it entirely.
The author of the study told one website, eating balanced and healthy meals and getting regular exercise were still important to reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes.
So, are Follistatin Supplements a Diabetes Risk for Bodybuilders?
Apparently, nobody has studied this yet.
Many bodybuilders are taking follistatin supplements because it inhibits myostatin, so it’s promoted to bodybuilders as a supplement that will help them build more muscle.
Many of the studies suggesting follistatin enhances muscle growth, however, were done with mice.
Currently, there aren’t enough studies on healthy people to back up this claim.
But that’s not stopping many bodybuilders from taking follistatin supplements.
Some bodybuilders promoting follistatin also claim it prevents loss of muscle mass.
A few studies on people with muscular dystrophy and older subjects with age-related loss of muscle mass indicate it may delay the loss of muscle mass.
However, there’s not enough research to say that definitely.
Follistatin may help with male pattern baldness and reproductive health. (Seminal fluid is full of follistatin – making me wonder whether anybody is researching that.)
Cancer Risks – and Benefits
Research shows follistatin is associated with some cancers – but seems to protect against others.
Why? Obviously, that makes no sense. We need a lot more research.
If you’re a bodybuilder or other athlete, build muscle the old-fashioned way – by working out.
Muscle tissue does promote healthy metabolism, so that should help protect you from diabetes unless you stop working out and gain lots of fat.
Although follistatin appears far less risky than steroids, why take any chances?
If you insist on taking a follistatin supplement for muscle gain, try cycling it. Maybe one month on, one month off. According to the researchers, the risk comes from having chronically elevated follistatin levels.
If you just want to lower your follistatin to lower your risk of diabetes, healthy eating and exercise are clearly safest, though not necessarily easy.