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Physical fitness may help reduce chronic disease risk in college students
Date:6/17/2010

BOSTON (June 17, 2010) - Staying in shape may bolster the metabolic profiles of college students, even in those with higher than desirable body fat percentages. In an epidemiological study, researchers at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University found an association between physical fitness, body fat percentage and certain metabolic risk factors that are precursors to cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.

The data were collected from 564 male and female students who enrolled in the Tufts Longitudinal Health Study (TLHS), which tracked health and health-related behaviors in college students at Tufts University between 1998 and 2007. For the present study, the authors tracked four biomarkers of metabolic risk (high-density lipoprotein (HDL), low-density lipoprotein (LDL), triglycerides and blood glucose levels) in relation to body fat and physical fitness.

Researchers deemed body fat percentage above 23% in women and above 19% in men as higher than desirable and measured fitness based on performance on a 3-minute step test.

"Although cardiovascular disease and diabetes often surface much later in life, our results tell us that men and women in late adolescence and early adulthood are already showing chronic disease risk, but that keeping fit may help reduce this risk," says senior author Jennifer M. Sacheck, PhD, assistant professor at the Friedman School. "Certain metabolic risk factors were closer to recommended levels in both male and female students whom we classified as fit, even if their body fat percentages were higher than desirable."

Physical fitness appeared to have a greater impact on certain metabolic risk factors than body fat. Being fit correlated with lower triglycerides and higher HDL, the healthy cholesterol, in women and lower blood glucose levels in men. The results are published in the June issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

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Contact: Andrea Grossman
617-636-3728
Tufts University, Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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