Risk of diabetes is not linked to deprivation

Interventions to boost physical activity among children from low socio-economic (SE) backgrounds may be a waste of time, suggest UK research findings.

The data from the Early Bird diabetes study — a 12-year prospective study involving 300 healthy children from Plymouth in Devon — shows those from poor backgrounds are no more likely to have sedentary lifestyles or develop metabolic complications than those from affluent families.

The study measured weekly activity at four separate time points from five to eight years using accelerometry. BMI was also measured at eight years and metabolic risk calculated using insulin resistance and BP data.

Analysis showed that total physical activity was slightly higher and BMI lower in children from low- rather than high-SE groups. Metabolic risk was unaffected by SE status.

Presenting the data at the Diabetes UK annual professional conference in Glasgow last week, the researchers said  that even if children lack opportunities for structured activity, they are more than able to compensate.

But Dr David Haslam, Hertfordshire GP and chairman of the National Obesity Forum, said current practice should remain.

‘It is dangerous to take one study on its own and make policy decisions on it,’ he said.

Previous findings from the project have proven counterintuitive, such as the finding that children who get a lift to school are more active than walkers.

‘It’s important to have a study that shows these things because it brings things into debate.’

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