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Fitness Reduces Cardiometabolic Risk and Insulin Resistance in Children with Obesity

by Lewis Chang, PhD 

Body mass index (BMI) is positively associated with cardiometabolic risk and insulin resistance in children according to a recent population-based study, but cardiorespiratory fitness may mitigate risk.1

Swedish researchers from the Department of Biosciences and Nutrition at Karolinska Institutet (Huddinge, Sweden) and colleagues from Spain and Chile conducted a pooled study including cross-sectional data from three projects (n=1247, aged 8-11 years old) to evaluate the impact of BMI on cardiometabolic risk and homeostatic model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) in children. Their cardiometabolic risk was measured using the sum of the sex- and age-specific z scores for triglycerides, HDL-cholesterol, glucose, and the average of systolic/diastolic blood pressure and HOMA-IR.

Key study findings:1

  • BMI was significantly, positively associated with higher cardiometabolic risk scores
  • Children who were unfit but had normal weight had a significantly lower cardiometabolic risk than children were fit but had obesity
  • Among children with obesity, those who were fit had a significantly lower cardiometabolic risk than those who were unfit
  • CRF reduced the cardiometabolic risk in children; the reduction was the most significant in children with mild obesity
  • Similar results were seen for HOMA-IR

Results from observational studies such as the current study need to be confirmed by other population-based studies or clinical trials. Nevertheless, the impact of obesity in children is evident, and should be address as early as possible.

Why is this Clinically Relevant?

  • Both short- and long-term impacts of childhood obesity are highly significant socially, physically and emotionally
  • These findings highlight the need for obesity prevention and treatment programs in children and the potential benefits of proactively addressing cardiorespiratory fitness early on

Read the Diabetes Care abstract


  1. Nystrom CD, Henricksson P, Martinez-Vizcaino V, et al. Does cardiorespiratory fitness attenuate the adverse effects of severe/morbid obesity on cardiometabolic risk and insulin resistance in children? A pooled analysis. Diabetes Care. 2017;40(11): 1580-1587.

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