Twenty-year study suggests low aerobic levels in young adults may lead to diabetes later in life

6/24/2009

NEW YORK Young adults ages 18 to 30 with low aerobic fitness levels are two to three times more likely to develop diabetes in 20 years in comparison with those who are fit, according to a recent study.

The study from researchers at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine also found that on average, young women and young African Americans are less aerobically fit than men and white adults in the same age group, thereby placing them at a higher risk for diabetes.

The study was based predominantly on individuals’ body mass index, a measure of the body’s fat content, in order to determine the participants’ likelihood of developing diabetes.

"The overwhelming importance of a high BMI to the development of diabetes was somewhat unexpected and leads us to think that activity levels need to be adequate not only to raise aerobic fitness, but also to maintain a healthy body weight," Mercedes Carnethon, lead author and assistant professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern’s Feinberg School, said. "If two people have a similar level of fitness, the person with the higher BMI is more likely to develop diabetes."

Carnethon continued to explain that unfit young adults can avoid a future with diabetes by exercising and losing weight. This study will be published in the July issue of Diabetes Care.

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