Effects of Changes in Adiposity and Physical Activity on Preadolescent Insulin Resistance: The Australian LOOK Longitudinal Study

Richard D. Telford, Ross B Cunningham, Rohan M. Telford, Jennifer Kerrigan, Peter E Hickman, Julia M. Potter, Walter P. Abhayaratna

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18 Citations (Scopus)


Background: In a previous longitudinal analysis of our cohort as 8 to 10 year-olds, insulin resistance (IR) increased with age, but was not modified by changes in percent body fat (%BF), and was only responsive to changes in physical activity (PA) in boys. We aimed to determine whether these responses persisted as the children approached adolescence. Methods: In this prospective cohort study, 256 boys and 278 girls were assessed at ages 8, 10 and 12 years for fasting blood glucose and insulin, %BF (dual energy X-ray absorptiometry); PA (7-day pedometers), fitness (multistage run); and pubertal development (Tanner stage). Results: From age 8 to 12 years, the median homeostatic model of IR (HOMA-IR) doubled in boys and increased 250% in girls. By age 12, 23% of boys and 31% of girls had elevated IR, as indicated by HOMA-IR greater than 3. Longitudinal relationships, with important adjustments for covariates body weight, PA, %BF, Tanner score and socioeconomic status showed that, on average, for every 1 unit reduction of %BF, HOMA-IR was lowered by 2.2% (95% CI 0.04-4) in girls and 1.6% (95% CI 0-3.2) in boys. Furthermore, in boys but not girls, HOMA-IR was decreased by 3.5% (95%CI 0.5-6.5) if PA was increased by 2100 steps/day. Conclusion: Evidence that a quarter of our apparently healthy 12 year-old Australians possessed elevated IR suggests that community-based education and prevention strategies may be warranted. Responsiveness of IR to changes in %BF in both sexes during late preadolescence and to changes in PA in the boys provides a specific basis for targeting elevated IR. That body weight was a strong covariate of IR, independent of %BF, points to the importance of adjusting for weight in correctly assessing these relationships in growing children.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere47438
Number of pages6
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 12 Oct 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • body weight
  • children
  • schools
  • physical activity
  • insulin resistance
  • adipose tissue
  • insulin
  • longitudinal studies

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