Study: Amish children are 2 times more physically active than non-Amish children

October 23, 2012

BALTIMORE, Md. - Oct. 23, 2012. Old Order Amish children are much more physically active and three times less likely to be overweight than non-Amish children, which may provide them with some long-term protection against developing Type 2 diabetes, University of Maryland School of Medicine researchers report in the journal Diabetes Care.

The researchers found that Amish children in Lancaster County, Pa., spent an additional 34 minutes a day in light physical activity, plus another 53 additional minutes a day in moderate to vigorous activity compared to non-Amish white children living nearby on Maryland's rural Eastern Shore. The amount of moderate to vigorous activity, which is important to cardiovascular health, was twice that of the non-Amish children. The level of physical activity was inversely correlated to their BMI, or body mass index, which is a measurement of body fat based on a person's height and weight.

"We know from our earlier research that Amish adults are just as overweight as non-Amish Americans of European origin, but they have half the incidence of Type 2 diabetes," says Soren Snitker, M.D., Ph.D., the study's senior author and an associate professor of medicine and pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "This study suggests that the Amish gain their excess weight relatively late in life, which may decrease their long-term risk of developing the disease." The number of years someone is obese is a risk factor for diabetes, irrespective of the person's age and current BMI.

Higher levels of physical activity and lower BMI are both protective against diabetes, Dr. Snitker says. Obesity is a major risk factor for Type 2 diabetes.

Dr. Snitker says that while it is unrealistic to imagine that the general public will adopt the Amish lifestyle in its entirety, the study results underscore the need for parents to encourage their children to be more physically active. "We may be able to learn something from the attitudes of the Amish," he says. "Whether children are physically active or not depends a lot on choices their parents make. Do they facilitate physically demanding activities for their children or do they allow them to spend long hours playing electronic games or watching television?"

E. Albert Reece, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., vice president for medical affairs at the University of Maryland and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, says, "As America's children become increasingly overweight, they become more vulnerable to diseases such as Type 2 diabetes. The incidence of diabetes among our young people is rising at an alarming rate. This study by Dr. Snitker and his colleagues offers clear evidence of the benefits of exercise and maintaining a healthy body weight as reflected in the body mass index calculation."

The Old Order Amish in Lancaster County, Pa., trace their ancestry back 14 generations to a small group of Anabaptist Christians who came to Pennsylvania from Europe in the mid-1700s. They don't drive cars or have electricity in their homes and eschew many of the trappings of modern life.

The researchers compared data from 270 Old Order Amish children, ages 8 to 19, from Lancaster County and 229 children from Maryland's Eastern Shore. They measured the children's physical activity by having them wear a device to track their body movement, which allowed them to calculate how much energy they burned as a result of their activity.

Typical Amish children's activities include walking to school, playing with their friends, and performing chores.

"The Amish lifestyle affects the whole family, involving Old Order Amish (OOA) children in household or farming chores from an early age," the researchers note. "OOA children also seem to spend a substantial amount of time in outdoor play with their siblings and neighbors, facilitated by the large size of the OOA Amish nuclear family. OOA children do not use computers or electronic games, nor do they watch television. OOA children attend one-room school houses and almost always go outside for recess. Even the youngest OOA students use active transportation to get to school, generally walking in a group."

By comparison, non-Amish children "almost universally" travel to school and other destinations by bus or car, the researchers say.
-end-
The lead authors of the article are Kristen G. Hairston, M.D., M.P.H. and Julie D. Ducharme, M.D., who are both recent graduates of the fellowship program in endocrinology and metabolism at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

The research was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health (P30 DK072488, T32 AG000219, K01 AG2278), the Geriatric Research and Education Clinical Center at the Baltimore Veterans Administration Medical Center, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the American Diabetes Association (ADA). The journal Diabetes Care is an ADA publication.

The study is one of a number of studies conducted by University of Maryland School of Medicine researchers using data collected from the Old Order Amish in Pennsylvania. Alan R. Shuldiner, M.D., associate dean for personalized medicine and director of the Program in Personalized and Genomic Medicine at the School of Medicine, and a co-author of this study, operates an Amish research clinic in Lancaster Pa. Over the past 20 years, he and his research team have conducted more than a dozen studies with the Amish, looking for genes that may cause common diseases, such as diabetes, osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease.

Kristen G. Hairston, MD, MPH; Julie D. Ducharme, MD; Margarita S. Treuth, PhD; Wen-Chi Hsueh, MD; Ania M. Jastreboff, MD, PhD; Kathy A. Ryan, MS; Xiaolian Shi, MS; Braxton D. Mitchell, PhD; Alan R. Shuldiner, MD; Soren Snitker, MD, PhD

About the University of Maryland School of Medicine

Established in 1807, the University of Maryland School of Medicine is the first public medical school in the United States, and the first to institute a residency-training program. The School of Medicine was the founding school of the University of Maryland and today is an integral part of the 11-campus University System of Maryland. On the University of Maryland's Baltimore campus, the School of Medicine serves as the anchor for a large academic health center which aims to provide the best medical education, conduct the most innovative biomedical research and provide the best patient care and community service to Maryland and beyond. www.medschool.umaryland.edu.

University of Maryland Medical Center

Related Diabetes Articles from Brightsurf:

New diabetes medication reduced heart event risk in those with diabetes and kidney disease
Sotagliflozin - a type of medication known as an SGLT2 inhibitor primarily prescribed for Type 2 diabetes - reduces the risk of adverse cardiovascular events for patients with diabetes and kidney disease.

Diabetes drug boosts survival in patients with type 2 diabetes and COVID-19 pneumonia
Sitagliptin, a drug to lower blood sugar in type 2 diabetes, also improves survival in diabetic patients hospitalized with COVID-19, suggests a multicenter observational study in Italy.

Making sense of diabetes
Throughout her 38-year nursing career, Laurel Despins has progressed from a bedside nurse to a clinical nurse specialist and has worked in medical, surgical and cardiac intensive care units.

Helping teens with type 1 diabetes improve diabetes control with MyDiaText
Adolescence is a difficult period of development, made more complex for those with Type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM).

Diabetes-in-a-dish model uncovers new insights into the cause of type 2 diabetes
Researchers have developed a novel 'disease-in-a-dish' model to study the basic molecular factors that lead to the development of type 2 diabetes, uncovering the potential existence of major signaling defects both inside and outside of the classical insulin signaling cascade, and providing new perspectives on the mechanisms behind insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes and possibly opportunities for the development of novel therapeutics for the disease.

Tele-diabetes to manage new-onset diabetes during COVID-19 pandemic
Two new case studies highlight the use of tele-diabetes to manage new-onset type 1 diabetes in an adult and an infant during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Genetic profile may predict type 2 diabetes risk among women with gestational diabetes
Women who go on to develop type 2 diabetes after having gestational, or pregnancy-related, diabetes are more likely to have particular genetic profiles, suggests an analysis by researchers at the National Institutes of Health and other institutions.

Maternal gestational diabetes linked to diabetes in children
Children and youth of mothers who had gestational diabetes during pregnancy are at increased risk of diabetes themselves, according to new research published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Two diabetes medications don't slow progression of type 2 diabetes in youth
In youth with impaired glucose tolerance or recent-onset type 2 diabetes, neither initial treatment with long-acting insulin followed by the drug metformin, nor metformin alone preserved the body's ability to make insulin, according to results published online June 25 in Diabetes Care.

People with diabetes visit the dentist less frequently despite link between diabetes, oral health
Adults with diabetes are less likely to visit the dentist than people with prediabetes or without diabetes, finds a new study led by researchers at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing and East Carolina University's Brody School of Medicine.

Read More: Diabetes News and Diabetes Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.