Background: This study investigates prospective associations of anthropometrical and lifestyle indices with insulin resistance (IR) in European children from the IDEFICS cohort. Insulin resistance (IR) is a growing concern in childhood obesity and a central aspect of the metabolic syndrome (MS). It most likely represents the link between obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Methods: This longitudinal study included 3348 preadolescent children aged 3 to 10.9 years from 8 European countries who were observed from 2007/2008 to 2009/2010. The main outcome measure in the present analysis is HOMA-IR (homeostasis model assessment as a common proxy indicator to quantify IR) at follow-up and in its longitudinal development. Anthropometrical measures and lifestyle indices, including objectively determined physical activity, were considered, among others factors, as determinants of IR. Prospective associations between IR at follow-up and anthropometrical and lifestyle indices were estimated by logistic regression models.
Results: Country-specific prevalence rates of IR in the IDEFICS cohort of European children showed a positive trend with weight category. Prospective multivariate analyses showed the strongest positive associations of IR with BMI z-score (OR = 2.6 for unit change from the mean, 95 % CI 2.1–3.1) and z-score of waist circumference (OR = 2.2 for unit change from the mean, 95 % CI 1.9–2.6), which were analysed in separate models, but also for sex (OR = 2.2 for girls vs. boys, 95 % CI 1.5–3.1 up to OR 2.5, 95 % CI 1.8–3.6 depending on the model), audio-visual media time (OR = 1.2 for an additional hour per day, 95 % CI 1.0–1.4 in both models) and an inverse association of objectively determined physical activity (OR = 0.5 for 3rd compared to 1st quartile, 95 % CI 0.3–0.9 in both models). A longitudinal reduction of HOMA-IR was accompanied with a parallel decline in BMI.
Conclusions: This study is, to our knowledge, the first prospective study on IR in a preadolescent children’s population. It supports the common hypothesis that overweight and obesity are the main determinants of IR. Our data also indicate that physical inactivity and a sedentary lifestyle are likewise associated with the development of IR, independent of weight status. The promotion of physical activity should thus be considered as an equal option to dietary intervention for the treatment of IR in the paediatric practice.