(HealthDay News) – Old Order Amish (OOA) children are less likely to be overweight and are more physically active than other children.

Kristen G. Hairston, MD, MPH, from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, and colleagues examined the childhood factors that may contribute to the low prevalence of diabetes in the OOA by comparing data from 270 OOA children (aged 8–19 years) with 229 children (166 non-Hispanic white, 60 non-Hispanic black, three Hispanic) from Maryland’s Eastern Shore (ES) and from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Physical activity was evaluated in all ES children and 198 OOA children.

The researchers found that OOA children were about 3.3 times less likely to be overweight than non-Hispanic white ES children and NHANES estimates. The was a significant inverse correlation between time spent in moderate/vigorous exercise and body mass index z score. Within the ES group, physical activity levels did not differ by ethnicity but, compared with ES children, OOA children spent an extra 34 minutes per day in light activity (P=0.005) and an extra 53 minutes per day in moderate/vigorous physical activity (P<0.0001). Boys were more active than girls in both groups, but OOA girls were more active than ES boys.

“The current study implies that the OOA tend to gain their excess weight relatively late in life and that OOA children are very physically active, both of which may provide some long-term protection against diabetes,” the authors write.

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