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Diabetes risk for nocturnal teens?

Behind the headlines

They say

Teenagers playing computer games all night and listening to music could be at an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, declared the Daily Mail and Daily Express in October.

But is there any substance to these claims?

Diabetes UK says

These stories were based on a study, carried out by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and the University of California, which looked at sleep length and insulin resistance in American teenagers.

Insulin resistance is a condition where cells aren’t able to respond normally to respond normally to the hormone insulin by absorbing glucose, leading to higher levels of glucose in the blood. People with this condition are at increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

The study, published in the journal Sleep, found that teens who had less sleep had higher levels of insulin resistance.

However, based on just this evidence, it’s impossible to make a direct link between the two. Other factors, such as genetics or diet, may also be influencing the link. Also, as the study measured sleep and insulin resistance over the same period, it is not possible to say whether lack of sleep could be causing insulin resistance or whether insulin resistance could be affecting sleep patterns.

The Mail and Express coverage suggested that teens were up all night playing video games or listening to music, but the study did not assess why some teens got less sleep. It could just as easily be hard-working teenagers staying up to do their homework.

Studies that follow teenagers over time/an extended period will be needed to determine whether sleep duration will affect their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

You can read a more detailed analysis by NHS Choices on their website.

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