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Thursday, April 21, 2011

What the size of a child's wrist tells you about their health

By Zeus Spencer

As the number of people being diagnosed with diabetes continues to increase, research into ways of predicting, diagnosing and treating the condition is becoming increasingly important. A new study published in the journal Circulation suggests that the wrist size of overweight children may provide an early indication of the risk of an individual developing diabetes or heart disease in later life.

The study, carried out by researchers at the Sapienza University in Rome, took data from a sample of 477 children (average age 10) who were either overweight or obese. They reported finding a strong link between the circumference of the wrist bone and insulin resistance - a key risk factor for both heart disease and diabetes. They discovered that 12% of variations in levels of insulin resistance and blood insulin between children corresponded with variations in wrist circumference.

Insulin resistance describes a situation where the body is incapable of using insulin to break down blood sugar in an efficient manner. Higher than normal insulin levels also indicate that an individual is likely to develop insulin resistance in the future.

Prof. Raffaella Buzzetti led an Italian research team that used a combination of technology and basic equipment to perform their tests. To begin with, they used a basic tape measure, and then used a scanning procedure to reveal that the amount of bone in the wrist explained 17% of the variations they found. They also found that 12% of variations in levels of insulin resistance and blood insulin across the sample group tallied with differences in wrist circumference. They concluded that children with larger wrists have a higher chance of suffering from underlying health problems.

At the moment, this is only one study, and its findings haven't been corroborated by any other researchers. If, however, future studies confirm the efficacy of measuring wrist circumference when assessing the health of overweight children, this could become a valuable means of predicting insulin resistance and risk of cardiovascular disease.

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