Diabetes and Sitting: A Potential Link

Sedentary time may significantly increase type 2 diabetes risk

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) OK, couch potatoes — here's yet another reason to get moving.

A new study from the Netherlands found that the more time spent sitting, the higher the risk of type 2 diabetes. Given the recent rise in sedentary occupations and other activities that require a large amount of screen time, researchers said these findings may have public health implications.

Julianne van der Berg, a PhD candidate at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, led this study of 2,497 participants. Slightly more than half of these participants were men with an average age of 60.

Van der Berg and team looked at the link between sedentary behavior and glucose metabolism. High glucose, more commonly known as high blood sugar, is an indicator for type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body's cells become resistant to insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar.

For this study, Van der Berg and team used a device called an accelerometer to measure participants' activity levels. This device detects posture changes that indicate whether the wearer is standing, sitting, walking or running.

Participants wore their accelerometers 24 hours a day for eight consecutive days. This data was used to calculate the amount of time each participant spent being sedentary.

All participants also underwent a glucose tolerance test (GTT). A GTT involves drinking a very sweet sugar solution and then repeatedly collecting blood samples over the span of several hours. This shows how well the body responds to an overload of sugar.

Study participants fell into one of three categories: normal glucose metabolism, impaired glucose metabolism and type 2 diabetes.

Van de Berg and team found that participants who had diabetes spent an average of 26 more minutes per day engaging in sedentary behavior. For each additional hour of sedentary time, the risk of diabetes increased 22 percent.

This study was published Feb. 2 in the journal Diabetologia.

Funding was provided by multiple sources, including the European Regional Development Fund, Maastricht University, Novo Nordisk Farma and Sanofi-Aventis Netherlands. The last two companies named make medications used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes.

No conflicts of interest were disclosed.

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Review Date: 
February 13, 2016
Last Updated:
February 15, 2016