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Physical activity confers race-specific effects on protection from type 2 diabetes

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July 10, 2017

White, Asian, Hispanic and Native American adults who report increased levels of aerobic-based physical activity are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes vs. those who are not physically active. Black adults, however, do not derive this same benefit, according to a recent meta-analysis.

“The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines Committee Report indicates significant need to further understand the effects of [physical activity] on diabetes risk among ethnically diverse populations,” William R. Boyer, MSH, a PhD student in the department of kinesiology, recreation and sports studies at the University of Tennessee, and colleagues wrote. “Although meta-analyses have examined and established a clear inverse relationship between [physical activity] and [type 2 diabetes] risk, to our knowledge no meta-analysis has assessed effect modification of this relationship by race-ethnicity.”

Boyer and colleagues analyzed data from 27 prospective cohort studies that included adults without diabetes at baseline and assessed aerobic-based physical activity (comparing the least vs. most physically active), stratified by race and age (n = 1,150,574). Study duration ranged from 2 to 28 years, and the studies were conducted in the United States (n = 9) and internationally (n = 17), with one study conducted in both Canada and the United States. Diabetes status was determined by self-report, medical records, use of antidiabetes medication, 2-hour oral glucose tolerance test or fasting plasma glucose. Researchers used random-effects models to estimate RR for developing type 2 diabetes.

Comparing the most physically active groups with the least physically active groups, stratified by race, researchers observed similar RR for physical activity and type 2 diabetes risk among white (RR = 0.71; 95% CI, 0.6-0.85), Asian (RR = 0.76; 95% CI, 0.67-0.85), Hispanic (RR = 0.74; 95% CI, 0.64-0.84) and Native American (RR = 0.73; 95% CI, 0.6-0.88) adults. The summary effect of physical activity on type 2 diabetes risk for black adults did not reach statistical significance (RR = 0.91; 95% CI, 0.76-1.08), according to researchers.

“With the exception of [non-Hispanic blacks], a similar magnitude of protection was found comparing the most active with the least active groups, ranging from 24% (among Asians) to 29% (among [whites]),” the researchers wrote. “The summary estimate for [non-Hispanic blacks], although protective, did not reach statistical significance. The results of the present analysis add to the existing literature on [physical activity] and [type 2 diabetes], by demonstrating effect modification by race-ethnicity.” – by Regina Schaffer

Disclosures: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.

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