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Southampton Statistical Sciences Research Institute

Research project: Statistical modelling of physical activity energy expenditure in diabetes mellitus and metabolic syndrome

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Diabetes is a chronic and progressive disease that results in an inability to maintain glycaemic regulation. In the UK it accounts for approximately 10% of the NHS budget and affects some 1.5 million people and perhaps a further 500 000 who are currently undiagnosed.

Metabolic syndrome is characterised by the presence of a number of features including obesity, high blood pressure, low HDL-cholesterol and insulin resistance. Both these conditions reduce quality of life, increase the risk of stroke, cardiovascular disease and are of increasing prevalence in the developed world.

Increasing people's levels of physical activity is known to be an important factor in combating the prevalence of obesity, helps mediate effective glycaemic control and is generally accepted as beneficial to all individuals. Despite much being known about the mechanisms of benefit produced by exercise, much of this evidence has been accrued from studying young, fit, athletic individuals exercising at high intensity for prolonged periods of time. Whilst important, the mechanisms of benefit of intense and prolonged exercise may be of limited relevance to a general middle aged population. Inactive people are currently advised to undertake at least 30 minutes of brisk walking, or equivalent, five times per week (British Heart Foundation). We do not know whether this amount, or intensity, of physical activity benefits an individual because it helps control body fat or because of other physiological mechanisms. Understanding these mechanisms, and the molecular and cellular processes underpinning them, is of great importance to applying the known benefit of modest physical activity to national health care advice and individual patient treatment.
This aim of this project is to apply and develop statistical approaches to characterising individual patterns of energy expenditure and relate these to physiological and life-style indicators in a clinically relevant manner. Using a small (80g) wearable device, it is possible to accurately capture an individual's energy expenditure over prolonged periods of time. Similarly, it is now possible to continuously record an individual's `free living' blood glucose concentration. In this project, use is being made of existing data sets for physical activity from volunteers in metabolic syndrome and diabetes studies conducted at Southampton.

This project is supported by the EPSRC-funded Symbiosis Programme at the University of Southampton. This is ongoing work with Dr Andrew Chipperfiled, Prof Christopher Byrne, Mr J. J. Valetta and Mr Sean Ewings.

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