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Adiposity, physical activity and risk of diabetes mellitus: prospective data from the population-based HUNT study, Norway
  1. Kirsti Vik Hjerkind1,2,
  2. Jo S Stenehjem1,2,
  3. Tom I L Nilsen1
  1. 1Cancer Registry of Norway, Institute of Population-based Cancer Research, Oslo, Norway
  2. 2Department of Public Health, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
  1. Correspondence to Dr Kirsti Vik Hjerkind; Kirsti.Vik.Hjerkind{at}


Background Physical activity may counteract the adverse effects of adiposity on cardiovascular mortality; however, the evidence of a similar effect on diabetes is sparse. This study examines whether physical activity may compensate for the adverse effect of adiposity on diabetes risk.

Methods The study population consisted of 38 231 individuals aged 20 years or more who participated in two consecutive waves of the prospective longitudinal Nord-Trøndelag Health Study in Norway: in 1984–1986 and in 1995–1997. A Poisson regression model with SEs derived from robust variance was used to estimate adjusted risk ratios of diabetes between categories of body mass index and physical activity.

Results Risk of diabetes increased both with increasing body mass (Ptrend <0.001) and with decreasing physical activity level (Ptrend <0.001 in men and 0.01 in women). Combined analyses showed that men who were both obese and had low activity levels had a risk ratio of 17 (95% CI 9.52 to 30) compared to men who were normal weight and highly active, whereas obese men who reported high activity had a risk ratio of 13 (95% CI 6.92 to 26). Corresponding analysis in obese women produced risk ratios of 15 (95% CI 9.18 to 25) and 13 (95% CI 7.42 to 21) among women reporting low and high activity levels, respectively.

Conclusions This study shows that overweight and obesity are associated with a substantially increased risk of diabetes, particularly among those who also reported being physically inactive. High levels of physical activity were associated with a lower risk of diabetes within all categories of body mass index, but there was no clear evidence that being physically active could entirely compensate for the adverse effect of adiposity on diabetes risk.


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  • Contributors KVH and TILN contributed to the conception and design of the work. TILN contributed to the collection and assembly of data. All authors (KVH, JSS and TILN) contributed to the data analyses and interpretation of data, in drafting and revising it critically for important intellectual content, and in giving final approval of the version to be published. All authors agreed to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions relating to the accuracy and integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.

  • Funding This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval Norwegian Regional Committee for Ethics in Medical Research.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement No additional data are available.

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