Strong associations between screen time and insulin resistance in children

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Reducing screen time may help reduce type 2 diabetes risk factors in children.

Previous studies have shown increased screen time is prospectively associated with adiposity and type 2 diabetes in adults. Now findings from a new study of almost 4,500 children have demonstrated strong graded associations between screen time, adiposity and insulin resistance in children.

For the study, researchers surveyed 4,495 children aged 9-10 years who had fasting cardiometabolic risk marker assessments, anthropometry measurements, and reported daily screen time.

Compared with an hour or less screen time daily, those reporting screen time over three hours had higher ponderal index, skinfold thickness, fat mass index, leptin and insulin resistance. There was however no formal evidence of a trend between screen time and HbA1c, fasting glucose and other cardiovascular risk factors. Associations between screen time and insulin resistance markers were largely independent of socioeconomic status, pubertal status, objectively measured physical activity, and adiposity.

Writing in the  Archives of Disease in Childhood , the authors said while their findings are “of considerable potential public health interest”, as they are observational, no definitive conclusions can be drawn about causality. They concluded however that reducing screen time may be beneficial in reducing type 2 diabetes risk factors, in both boys and girls and in different ethnic groups.

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