TV and Cars May Lead To Increased Diabetes Risk

remoteDiabetes—in particular Type 2 Diabetes—has traditionally been considered a disease of affluence; countries such as the United States and Canada, as well as other “advanced” nations, have seen more cases of diabetes than countries that are less developed, with smaller economies. However, a recent study using data from the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiological Study (PURE), found that it wasn’t the affluence of the country—or the population—that necessarily predicted diabetes risk; it was the presence of TV, computers, and cars. Those with Type 2 Diabetes face a lifetime of monitoring their blood-glucose levels with Contour test strips or FreeStyle lancets, along with making changes to their lifestyle and taking medications. This recent research could help prevent many in developing nations—with less easy access to diabetic supplies—from developing the disease.


The researchers visited study participants from 17 countries that represent a range of economic conditions; a total of 153,996 individuals participated in the ongoing research study, including residents of Canada, Sweden, and the United Arab Emirates, alongside citizens of Pakistan, Zimbabwe, India, and Bangladesh among other countries. The scientists discovered that 83% of all households owned a television, and 30% owned a car—the same percentage as owned a computer. Of course, these possessions were more common in rich countries than in poor, with only 44% of rural households owning a TV. The results are interesting; overall, according to the researchers, owning a TV was associated with a 39% increase in risk for obesity and a 33% increase in the risk of diabetes on average. In countries like Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, diabetics have decreased access to important supplies such as FreeStyle lancets and other supplies for diabetes.


Interestingly, across populations, in the full sample of volunteers, there was no link between owning a car and the risk of diabetes, nor was there an increased risk between owning a computer and diabetes; however, when residents of low-income countries were considered on their own, owning any of the devices—TV, car, or computer—increased the risk of developing obesity and diabetes; compared to owning none of the devices, owning one increased diabetes risk by 38%, while owning two of the “modern devices” raised risk to 43%. Acquiring the devices made the most difference in low-income countries, which are also ones where important diabetic accessories are frequently difficult to find and purchase regularly. Of course, the study doesn’t prove that these devices inherently cause obesity or diabetes; rather, the researchers stress, the increase in the ownership of those devices means that populations generally decrease activity levels, becoming more sedentary.



The research team concluded, “Exposure to household devices in the low income countries has only recently begun and, therefore, the negative effects of their ownership are more acute and may increase as ownership increases.” This means that—tentatively—as more and more of the world embraces a lifestyle more reminiscent of the Western countries (with more time spent in passive entertainment, and less walking as the main form of transportation), cases of Type 2 Diabetes in developing nations may continue to rise, leading to higher demand for diabetic accessories.


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