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Peak movement in afternoon and evening linked to lower risk of diabetes

People who move most in the afternoon and evening are less insulin resistant than people who move mainly in the morning or spread throughout the day. This makes them at lower risk of type 2 diabetes. These are the results that researchers from the Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) have published in the journal Diabetologia.

For four days, around 800 participants in the Netherlands Epidemiology of Obesity (NEO) study wore an ActiHeart device on their chest. This precisely monitored their heart rate and movement. ‘We were eventually able to distinguish between four types of the mover,’ says movement scientist Jeroen van der Velde. ‘People who mainly moved in the morning, afternoon or evening, and people who didn’t have a clear peak in movement and thus moved a bit throughout the whole day.’ The researchers looked specifically at movement that is classed as moderate to vigorous. This means not only most sports but also cycling and brisk walking.

More sensitive to insulin

The study shows that the bodies of the participants who moved mainly in the afternoon and evening were more sensitive to insulin than those of the people who moved throughout the whole day or mainly in the morning. This was not due to the total amount of movement. ‘If your body is less sensitive to the hormone insulin, your blood sugar becomes too high and over time you can develop type 2 diabetes,’ epidemiologist Renée de Mutsert explains. ‘People who move mainly in the afternoon and evening are therefore probably at less risk of type 2 diabetes.’

The next step for De Mutsert and Van der Velde is to research whether people who move mainly in the afternoon and evening are actually less likely to develop type 2 diabetes. One way they are doing this is in the NEO study, which is collecting extensive data from around 6,500 overweight and obese people from Leiden and the surrounding area. The aim is to discover the causes of this group’s health problems, such as diabetes.  But they are also working in an international group of researchers within a large consortium entitled The Right Timing to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes, or TIMED. This consortium is researching whether eating and exercising at certain times of day can help prevent and treat type 2 diabetes.

More research

The ultimate goal is to carry out a pragmatic trial in which people at increased risk of diabetes are advised on the best times to sleep, eat and exercise. ‘We hope this will lead to advice that everyone can easily fit into their lives that will reduce the risk of diabetes,’ says Du Mutsert. ‘But we first have to research the best times to eat and exercise, and whether these are the same for everyone. Then we’ll be able to work towards an intervention.’

This article was originally published on the LUMC site.

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