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A news article from the BBC suggests that the UK government may be overlooking research that contradicts the link between childhood obesity and exercise.
The government supports exercise for children, while apparently not acknowledging that other factors such as genetics, diet and socioeconomic status could be more significant in preventing childhood obesity. A long-term research programme, the EarlyBird Study was established to explore a possible causal link between the rising incidence of type 1 diabetes and insulin resistance. Type II diabetes, formerly known as "late onset", was renamed due to the increasing prevalence in children. Results from the EarlyBird Study assert that Type I and type II diabetes are the same disorder of insulin resistance, set against different genetic backgrounds.
The EarlyBird study has looked at many variables in 307 children from age 5 over an extended period of time, including anthropometrics, birth weight, body composition, fat distribution, dietary habits, energy expenditure, genetics, demography, heart rate variation and physical activity on insulin resistance and its metabolic correlates (including haematology profile, glucose, cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, uric acid, HbA1C, FSH, LH, serum IGF1, adiponectin, leptin, IGF-1, gonadotrophins and SHBG, C-reactive peptide hcCRP - a marker of inflammation, as insulin resistance is "fundamentally a state of low grade inflammation").
The findings of the study cast doubts on the government's strategy to halt the increase in childhood obesity by the end of the decade, largely by encouraging physical activity. Results from the programme so far have produced several published papers, some concluding that increasing exercise is not necessarily the best way to prevent obesity:
The programme director, Professor Terence Wilkin, said "children's activity levels had no bearing on their body mass index" (a measure of obesity risk in the growing child). His team has been unsuccessful in their appeal to government ministers for funding to continue the study. The BBC also quotes Professor Philip James, from the International Obesity Task Force, who said it was much easier for the government to concentrate on promoting sport rather than taking on the food industry, which has "enormous political and strategic power".
The EarlyBird Study is another example of the kind of research that should be promoted, as it is holistic in outlook, starting early in life, before diseases have become irreversible, it measures many variables and challenges the status quo, which is often maintained by vested financial and political interests. The following are some examples of other conclusions reached from the study:
Meanwhile, Canadian genetics research at Montréal's McGill University have found four additional SNPs implicated in type II diabetes. As well as the known TCF7L2 gene (transcription factor 7-like 2, on chromosome 10), the presence of multiple gene associations "constitute proof of principle for the genome-wide approach to the elucidation of complex genetic traits."
1. BBC News: Obesity study 'needs more funds' Tuesday, 13 March 2007
2. EarlyBird Diabetes Trust Website: EarlyBird Diabetes Study
3. Wilkin TJ. "The Accelerator Hypothesis: weight gain as the missing link between type I and type II diabetes."Diabetologia. 2001;44:914-22. PMID: 11508279
4. Child Health News. Published: Thursday, 16-Dec-2004 "The regulation of physical activity in young children"
5. Wilkin TJ, Voss LD, Metcalf BS, et. al. "Metabolic risk in early childhood: the EarlyBird Study." Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2004 Nov;28 Suppl 3:S64-9. PMID: 15543222
6. Murphy MJ, Metcalf BS, Voss LD et al. "Girls at five are intrinsically more insulin resistant than boys: the programming hypotheses revisited (EarlyBird 6)." Pediatrics 2004;113:82-86. PMID 14702453
7. Sladek R, Rocheleau G, Rung J, et. al. "A genome-wide association study identifies novel risk loci for type 2 diabetes." Nature. 2007 Feb 22;445(7130):881-5. PMID 17293876
Would you agree?
I am sure that lack of physical education plays a part in obesity, along with children being driven to school instead of walking, and the preference for watching television or playing video games instead of playing outside.
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