OHIO, United States, Wednesday April 8, 2015 – With new American research suggesting that watching television for a few hours a day can significantly raise the risk of diabetes, couch potatoes could be digging their graves with remote controls as well as knives and forks.
A few simple lifestyle changes such as reducing inactivity, exercising, and eating a healthy diet, could nevertheless help slash the risk of developing the condition.
“Future lifestyle intervention programmes should emphasise reducing television watching and other sedentary behaviours in addition to increasing physical activity,” the University of Pittsburgh study noted.
The study looked at data from more than 3,000 overweight adults on a Type 2 diabetes prevention programme.
Each was given either the drug metformin, which is used to treat diabetes; a placebo, or took part in a lifestyle intervention scheme.
The scientists looked at whether, as well as increasing activity levels, lifestyle intervention also made those taking part spend less time sitting.
Ahead of the study, all three participating groups said they spent an average of around two hours and 20 minutes a day watching TV.
The scientists nevertheless found that those taking part in the lifestyle scheme cut their sitting and watching time by an average 37 minutes a day, while the placebo and metformin groups reduced their daily TV watching by an average of just nine and six minutes respectively.
The researchers found that the risk of developing diabetes increased by around 3.4 percent for each hour spent watching TV, with the more watched the greater the risk.
According to lead author Bonny Rockette-Wagner: “Our finding of a relationship between sedentary behaviour and diabetes incidence means that reductions in sitting can translate into a positive health effect separate from improvements to moderate-vigorous activity like brisk walking.”
With better awareness of sitting behaviours and efforts to reduce sitting, it may be possible to have an even greater impact, Rockette-Wagner added.
Published in the journal Diabetologia, the findings noted that subsequent changes in body weight may account for some of the relationship between sitting behaviour changes and diabetes development.
“We want people to be aware of the fact that sitting is another modifiable risk factor for diabetes,” said
senior author Dr Andrea Kriska.
“We need to do more in our prevention efforts to include sitting as a modifiable risk factor for diabetes development, especially in those who are at high risk.
“It is important for people to become aware of how much time they spend sitting and to find ways to reduce their overall sitting time.
“It is really about being aware of all your modifiable behaviours and making changes that make the most sense for you,” she concluded.