Increasing obesity and poor cardiovascular fitness (CVF) contribute to higher rates of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) in children. While the relative contributions of fitness and body fat on development of insulin resistance (IR) in children and adolescents remains unresolved, gender- and race-specific differences likely exist in the degree to which CVF influences IR and risk for T2DM. Better understanding of how gender and race affect interactions between body fat, CVF, and metabolic health would be helpful in designing effective and targeted strategies to reduce obesity-associated disease risk. We evaluated whether metabolic benefits of fitness on reducing inflammation and insulin resistance (IR) are affected by gender and race.
This cross-sectional study included 203 healthy children (mean age 12.2 y, 50% male, 46% non-Hispanic white (NHW), 54% racially diverse (RD)). Fasting insulin, glucose, hsCRP, and adiponectin were measured; race was self-reported; cardiovascular fitness (CVF) was evaluated by the Progressive Aerobic Cardiovascular Endurance Run. Associations between inflammation and gender, race, and CVF were evaluated using analysis of covariance. Multivariate regression analysis identified independent predictors of IR.
Fitness and inflammation were inversely related in both males and females (p < 0.01); this effect was marginally stronger in RD children (p = 0.06) and non-overweight males (p = 0.07). High BMI (p < 0.001), low fitness (p = 0.006), and (female) gender (p = 0.003) were independently associated with higher HOMA-IR. In males, BMI and fitness, but not race independently predicted HOMA-IR. In females, BMI and race, but not fitness independently predicted HOMA-IR.
In middle school children, the beneficial effects of fitness vary based on gender and race. High CVF has an enhanced anti-inflammatory effect in male and RD children. While BMI is the strongest predictor of IR in the study group as a whole, fitness is a significant predictor of IR only in males, and race is a significant predictor of IR only in females.