Insulin resistance occurs when the body doesn't respond as well to insulin. Insulin, a hormone, is made by the pancreas and allows the body to process glucose, the main type of sugar in the blood. When a person has insulin resistance, glucose is less able to enter the cells and supply energy to the body. Insulin resistance is a problem because it has been linked to the development of type 2 diabetes, as well as a number of other health problems including high blood pressure and heart disease.
In adults, having a lot of fat in the abdomen and a large waist size has been linked to insulin resistance. To help understand the risk of insulin resistance in kids, researchers from the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina studied 84 6- to 13-year-olds. The kids were weighed and had their heights and waist sizes measured. In addition, each child underwent blood tests, blood pressure measurements, and tests to measure the body's ability to process glucose.
Forty of the children in the study were overweight (in the 95th percentile or above in weight for height); 28 of the children in the study were at risk for overweight (between the 85th and 94th percentile in weight for height); and 16 of the children in the study were not overweight or at risk for overweight.
Kids who had larger waistlines tended to have:
- higher blood pressure measurements
- abnormal cholesterol levels
- higher levels of triglycerides, another type of blood fat linked to heart disease
- a higher risk of insulin resistance
Even after the researchers took into account a kid's height and weight, children with larger waistlines still had a higher risk of insulin resistance.
What This Means to You: Insulin resistance has been linked to the development of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. According to the results of this study, waist measurements could help to identify kids at greater risk for developing insulin resistance.
Children who have insulin resistance are often overweight and may not get much physical activity, but the good news is that eating healthy foods and portion sizes, engaging in regular physical activity, and getting to a healthy weight may help some kids reverse their insulin resistance. If you have questions about your child's weight or insulin resistance, talk to your child's doctor. He or she may recommend that you talk to a registered dietitian if your child needs help managing his or her weight.
Source: Valeria Hirschler, MD; Claudio Arand, MS; Maria de Lujan Calcagno, MS; Gustavo Maccalini, MS; Mauricio Jadzinsky, MD; Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, August 2005
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: August 2005