Contrasting longitudinal and cross-sectional relationships between insulin resistance and percentage of body fat, fitness, and physical activity in children-the LOOK study

Richard D Telford, Ross B Cunningham, Jonathan E Shaw, David W Dunstan, Antony R A Lafferty, Graham J Reynolds, Peter E Hickman, Emma Southcott, Julia M Potter, Paul Waring, Rohan M Telford
Pediatric Diabetes 2009, 10 (8): 500-7

BACKGROUND: Knowledge of individual changes in insulin resistance (IR) and longitudinal relationships of IR with lifestyle-associated factors are of important practical significance, but little longitudinal data exist in asymptomatic children. We aimed to determine (a) changes in the homeostatic model of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) over a 2-yr period and (b) comparisons of longitudinal and cross-sectional relationships between HOMA-IR and lifestyle-related risk factors.

METHODS: Our subjects, 241 boys and 257 girls, were assessed at age 8.1 yr (SD 0.35) and again 2 yr later for fasting blood glucose and insulin, dual X-ray absorptiometry-assessed percentage of body fat (%BF), pedometer-assessed physical activity (PA), and cardio-respiratory fitness (CRF) by multistage running test.

RESULTS: HOMA-IR was initially 9% greater in girls than boys and 27% greater 2 yr later. There was no evidence of longitudinal relationships between HOMA-IR and %BF in boys or girls, despite significant cross-sectional relationships (p < 0.001). In boys, there was evidence of a longitudinal relationship between HOMA-IR and both PA (p < 0.001) and CRF (p = 0.05). In girls, we found a cross-sectional relationship between HOMA-IR and CRF (p < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS: HOMA-IR increases between 8 and 10 yr of age and to a greater extent in girls. Longitudinal, unlike cross-sectional, relationships do not support the premise that body fat has any impact on HOMA-IR during this period or that PA or CRF changes affect HOMA-IR in girls. These data draw attention to difficulties in interpreting observational studies in young children.

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