Women who sit for long periods each day have a greater risk of developing early signs of Type 2 diabetes compared with men, U.K. researchers found, suggesting that exercise recommendations may need to be changed.
Sedentary women in the study of more than 500 people had higher levels of insulin, a hormone that helps convert sugar in the blood into energy, as well as higher amounts of chemicals released by fatty tissue and linked to inflammation, according to researchers from the University of Leicester. The findings were published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
The study authors couldn’t pinpoint a reason for the gender difference, saying that women may snack more often than men when sedentary, or men may undertake more robust activities during exercise. The researchers said further studies should be done to determine whether lifestyle advice needs to be revised to prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes, which the International Diabetes Federation estimates affects 366 million people.
The results suggest that “women who meet the national recommendations of 30 minutes of exercise a day may still be compromising their health if they are seated for the rest of the day,” Thomas Yates, the lead researcher, said in a statement. “Enabling women to spend less time sitting may be an important factor in preventing chronic disease.”
Yates and his colleagues evaluated people age 40 and older, asking how much time they spent seated and testing the levels of certain chemicals in their blood that are linked to diabetes and other metabolic disorders.
Diabetes is a chronic illness in which the body either doesn’t produce enough insulin to process blood sugar or fails to use insulin effectively. About 552 million people, or one in 10 adults, may have diabetes by 2030 if nothing is done to curb the epidemic, the International Diabetes Federation said in a report in November. As many as 183 million people have the disease and don’t know it, the Brussels-based federation said.
Type 2 diabetes, often the result of excess body weight and lack of physical activity, accounts for at least 90 percent of all cases of the disease, according to the federation. Type 1 diabetes develops early in life and prevents the body from making insulin, according to the World Health Organization. While the exact cause of Type 1 is unknown, scientists believe it occurs when the immune system attacks the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin.