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Diabetic Medicine
Year: 2011  |  Volume: 28  |  Issue: 6  |  Page No.: 668 - 672

The association of physical inactivity with Type 2 diabetes among different ethnic groups

W. M. Admiraal, I. G. M. van Valkengoed, J. S. L de Munter, K. Stronks, J. B. L. Hoekstra and F. Holleman    

Abstract: Aims  To study differences in the association between physical inactivity and Type 2 diabetes among subjects from different ethnic groups.

Methods  We analysed data on 508 Caucasian, 596 African-Surinamese and 339 Hindustani-Surinamese participants, aged 35-60 years, in the population-based, cross-sectional Surinamese in the Netherlands Study on Health and Ethnicity (SUNSET) study. Physical inactivity was defined as the lowest quartile of reported activity, measured with the validated Short Questionnaire to Assess Health-Enhancing Physical Activity. Type 2 diabetes was defined as fasting plasma glucose levels ≥ 7.0 mmol/l or self-reported diagnosis.

Results  Physical inactivity was associated with Type 2 diabetes (OR 1.63, 95% CI 1.12-2.38) in the total group after adjustment for sex, age, BMI, ethnicity, resting heart rate, hypertension, smoking, history of cardiovascular disease, having a first-degree relative with Type 2 diabetes and educational level. However, this association was only significant in Caucasians (OR 3.17, 95% CI 1.37-7.30). Moreover, it appeared stronger in Caucasians than in Hindustani-Surinamese (OR 1.43, 95% CI 0.78-2.63) and African-Surinamese (OR 1.13, 95% CI 0.58-2.19), although the P-value for interaction was not significant.

Conclusions  Physical inactivity was associated with Type 2 diabetes in the total group after adjustment for multiple risk factors, but this association was only significant in Caucasians. Also, it appeared stronger in Caucasians than in Hindustani and African-Surinamese, but formal testing for interaction provided no further evidence. These findings confirm the importance of exercise, but suggest that potential health gain may differ between ethnic groups. However, it should be noted that, in general, promotion of physical activity in populations with an increased a priori risk of Type 2 diabetes, remains of the utmost importance.

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