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BACKGROUND: Ageing is associated with decreased physical activity, obesity and subsequently an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2dm). Master athletes (MA) have initiated exercise or sport later in life or pursued a physically active lifestyle for an extended period. Subsequently, MAs have been proposed as a model of successful ageing as this active lifestyle is associated with health benefits including decreased health risk of chronic diseases and a reduction in premature mortality. Given long-term physical activity/exercise has previously been shown to be protective against hyperglycemia, a risk factor for T2dm, it is plausible that MA may have protective benefit against developing hyperglycemia. Therefore, the aim of this study was to investigate the prevalence of hyperglycemia via fasting plasma glucose (FPG) in MAs competing at the World Masters Games (WMG). METHODS: This cross-sectional, observational survey utilized an online survey using open-source web-based software was used to investigate MAs physiological and medical-related parameters. Over 28,000 MAs competed in the WMG, of which 8,072 MAs completed the survey. Of these MAs, a total of 486 (males 277, females 209; range 27 to 91 years, mean age 55.1 ± 10.2 years) attained recent pathology results which included FPG which was subsequently analyzed for this study. FPG and other outcome variables were compared between genders and to the Australian and United States general population. RESULTS: Mean FPG for MAs was 5.03 mmol (±1.2, 95% CI [4.9-5.1] mmol) with majority (75.5%) of MAs reporting a normal (5.51 to 7.0 mmol). There was no significant difference ( = 0.333) in FPG between genders however, males had a slightly higher (+2.1%) FPG as compared to females (5.08 ± 1.2 mmol (95% CI [4.9-5.22] mmol) versus 4.98 ± 1.1 mmol (95% CI 4.8-5.1 mmol)). The majority of males (71.8%) and females (80.3%) were classified with a normal FPG. With regard to an abnormal FPG level, only 4.0% of males and 4.9% of females were classified abnormal which was suggestive of undiagnosed T2dm. With regard to age by decade, there was no significant difference ( = 0.06-1.00) between age groups and no relationship between the MAs' age and FPG ( = .054, = 0.24). As a group, MAs had a significantly lower FPG as compared to the Australian (-3.2%, = 0.005) and United States general populations (-13.9%, < 0.001). CONCLUSIONS: Most, however not all, MAs were found to have normal glycaemia, with only a small percentage indicating a risk of developing T2dm (i.e., impaired fasting glucose) and a smaller percentage identified with an abnormal FPG, suggestive of T2dm. These findings suggest MAs appear to be at low metabolic risk for developing T2dm based upon FPG and the physical activity/exercise they complete as MAs may indeed be protective against hyperglycemia whilst maintaining an active lifestyle.


Published in PeerJ. Available via doi: 10.7717/peerj.13389.

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