Effects of Changes in Adiposity and Physical Activity on Preadolescent Insulin Resistance: The Australian LOOK Longitudinal Study

Richard Telford, Ross Cunningham, Rohan Telford, Jennifer Kerrigan, Peter Hickman, Julia Potter, W Abhayaratna

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In a previous longitudinal analysis of our cohort as 8 to 10 year-olds, insulin resistance (IR) increased with age, but was not modified by changes in percent body fat (%BF), and was only responsive to changes in physical activity (PA) in boys. We aimed to determine whether these responses persisted as the children approached adolescence.

In this prospective cohort study, 256 boys and 278 girls were assessed at ages 8, 10 and 12 years for fasting blood glucose and insulin, %BF (dual energy X-ray absorptiometry); PA (7-day pedometers), fitness (multistage run); and pubertal development (Tanner stage).

From age 8 to 12 years, the median homeostatic model of IR (HOMA-IR) doubled in boys and increased 250% in girls. By age 12, 23% of boys and 31% of girls had elevated IR, as indicated by HOMA-IR greater than 3. Longitudinal relationships, with important adjustments for covariates body weight, PA, %BF, Tanner score and socioeconomic status showed that, on average, for every 1 unit reduction of %BF, HOMA-IR was lowered by 2.2% (95% CI 0.04–4) in girls and 1.6% (95% CI 0–3.2) in boys. Furthermore, in boys but not girls, HOMA-IR was decreased by 3.5% (95%CI 0.5–6.5) if PA was increased by 2100 steps/day.

Evidence that a quarter of our apparently healthy 12 year-old Australians possessed elevated IR suggests that community-based education and prevention strategies may be warranted. Responsiveness of IR to changes in %BF in both sexes during late preadolescence and to changes in PA in the boys provides a specific basis for targeting elevated IR. That body weight was a strong covariate of IR, independent of %BF, points to the importance of adjusting for weight in correctly assessing these relationships in growing children
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-6
Number of pages4
JournalPLoS One
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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