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Centre de recherche
Tuesday, March 14 2023
Press release

Preventing type 2 diabetes in youth is possible without medication

MONTRÉAL, March 14, 2023 – Ten minutes of physical activity a day or less screen time is all it takes to delay the onset of type 2 diabetes and slow its development in youth, confirms a new study led by Dr. Mélanie Henderson, pediatrician, endocrinologist and epidemiologist at CHU Sainte-Justine.

Obesity rates are on the rise among Canadians under the age of 19 and are reaching alarming levels. With the number of children with type 2 diabetes expected to quadruple in Canada over the next few decades, Dr Henderson’s research offers a glimmer of hope by quantifying how physical activity and sedentary behaviours affect key diabetes indicators. “With just 10 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day, we see a decrease in the risks associated with the development of type 2 diabetes in at-risk children,” said Soren Harnois-Leblanc, PhD, first author of the study.

“Reducing sedentary time by an hour a day offers similar benefits,” said Dr Henderson, who’s also a clinical associate professor at Université de Montréal. “Screen time, whether it’s television, video games or social media, is particularly harmful, but it’s also easier to avoid than transportation-related sedentary time, for example. Not all sedentary habits have the same impact on cardiometabolic health.”

However, changing your lifestyle habits can be tricky. In spite of efforts to change, the body has built-in mechanisms to maintain its highest weight, making it very difficult to lose weight. That’s why it’s so important to act early with children and adolescents having a family history of obesity. “There’s an urgent need to develop and implement obesity prevention policies that aimed at promoting physical activity and reducing sedentary behaviours to prevent diabetes in vulnerable populations,” said the study’s lead researcher. “We need to target health across the board,” added Soren Harnois-Leblanc.

A total of 630 Québec children with a family history of obesity were monitored over a 7-year period in 3 cycles: ages 8–10, 10–12 and 15–17. Several tests were used to measure key diabetes indicators including insulin sensitivity, insulin secretion and blood glucose levels. Physical activity and total sedentary time were measured by accelerometry and leisure screen time was assessed using a self-reported questionnaire.

The study was published in leading health journal Lancet Child Adolescent Health.

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About the CHU Sainte-Justine Research Centre

The CHU Sainte-Justine Research Centre is a leading mother-child research institution affiliated with the Université de Montréal. The centre is focused on the discovery of innovative prevention methods, less intrusive and swifter treatments and promising avenues for personalized medicine. It brings together some 280 researchers, of which more than 140 are clinical researchers, as well as over 550 graduate and post-doctoral students. The centre is an integral part of CHU Sainte-Justine, the largest mother-child centre in Canada.

CHU Sainte-Justine

Nathalie Prud'homme
CHU Sainte-Justine Research Centre

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Justine Mondoux-Turcotte
Consultant - Media and external relations
CHU Sainte-Justine
514 345-7707

Persons mentioned in the text
About this study

The article “Estimating causal effects of physical activity and sedentary behaviours on the development of type 2 diabetes in at-risk children from childhood to late adolescence: an analysis of the QUALITY cohort” by Harnois-Leblanc S, Sylvestre MP, Van Hulst A, Barnett TA, Mathieu MÈ, Mesidor M, McGrath JJ, Tremblay A, Drapeau V, Paradis G and Henderson M., was published on November 7, 2022, in Lancet Child Adolescent Health. The study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and Fonds de recherche du Québec – Santé (FRQS).

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Updated on 3/10/2023
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