22nd Mar 2024

In the tropical island of Mauritius, the rise of type 2 diabetes has accelerated in the past decades to reach a current prevalence that exceed 20%, and could be contributed by low physical activity and increased sedentary behaviour. The study objectives were to generate the first dataset of objectively determined free-living total energy expenditure (TEE), to estimate physical activity in Mauritian children, and to explore differences due to gender and ethnicity.

The doubly-labeled water (DLW) technique was used to evaluate TEE over 14 days in 56 Mauritian school children (aged 7-11 years) belonging to the two main ethnic groups: Indian (South Asian descent) and Creole (African/Malagasy descent). Physical activity level (PAL) was calculated as the ratio of TEE and resting energy expenditure (using Schofield equations), and daily step counts were measured by accelerometry. Anthropometry and body composition (by BIA validated against deuterium dilution technique) were also assessed.

TEE was lower in Mauritian children (by ~155 kcal/d) than that predicted using FAO/WHO/UNU equations for children of the same sex, age and body size. Furthermore, TEE, as well as PAL and step counts, also differed according to gender (lower in girls than in boys) and to ethnicity (lower in Indians than in Creoles) even after adjusting for differences in body weight and body composition. On average, Mauritian children fall in the category of countries or subpopulations of countries with low PAL values; this being particularly low in Mauritian Indian girls.

These results in Mauritian children provide the first dataset of objectively measured TEE, from which physical activity is estimated as PAL, and complemented by step counts measurements. They suggest potential gender and ethnic differences in TEE and physical activity that need consideration in developing strategies to counter sedentary behavior and obesity in this diabetes-prone population.

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