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Insulin sensitivity is reduced in children with high body-fat regardless of BMI

Fairchild, T.J.ORCID: 0000-0002-3975-2213, Klakk, H., Heidemann, M., Grøntved, A. and Wedderkopp, N. (2018) Insulin sensitivity is reduced in children with high body-fat regardless of BMI. International Journal of Obesity, 42 . pp. 985-994.

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To examine the association between insulin sensitivity and adiposity in children stratified according to their body mass index (BMI: normal weight, NW; overweight or obese, OW/OB) and body-fat percentage (BF%: adipose or NonAdipose), and determine whether cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) ameliorates any deleterious associations.


This prospective cohort study comprises a cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses of data collected at baseline and 2 years later on children (7.7–13.4 years) attending public school in Denmark. Levels of CRF were measured using the Andersen test, whereas BF% was measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). Fasting plasma glucose and insulin concentrations were measured and the homoeostatic model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) used to assess insulin sensitivity.


Approximately 8% of children classified as normal weight by BMI had high BF% (NW + Adipose). Children with high BF% had significantly higher insulin (NW + adipose: 32.3%; OW/OB + Adipose: 52.2%) and HOMA-IR scores (NW + Adipose: 32.3%; OW/OB + Adipose: 55.3%) than children classified as NW without high BF% (reference group; NW + NonAdipose). Adjusting for CRF reduced this difference, but did not completely ameliorate these associations. Longitudinally, children with high BF% (OW/OB + Adipose or NW + Adipose) had significantly worse insulin sensitivity 2 years later than NW + NonAdipose children (All p < 0.001). The few children (n = 14) who improved their BMI or BF% during the 2 years follow-up, no longer had significantly worse insulin sensitivity than children with NW + NonAdipose.


High BF% in children is associated with significantly lower insulin sensitivity even when BMI is considered NW. Longitudinally, insulin sensitivity is lower in children with high BF% with or without high BMI. The CRF was a significant covariate in these models, but CRF did not completely ameliorate the effects of high BF% on insulin sensitivity.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Psychology and Exercise Science
Publisher: Nature Publishing Group
Copyright: © 2018 Macmillan Publishers Limited, part of Springer Nature
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