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Physical activity cuts diabetic retinopathy risk

02 Aug 2019

Individuals engaging in physical activity appear to have a lower risk of diabetic retinopathy (DR), whereas those who are sedentary have an increased risk, according to the results of a meta-analysis.

Researchers searched multiple online databases for relevant studies and identified 22 for inclusion in the meta-analysis. The total study population comprised 63,936 individuals from the US, Europe, Asia and Australia. Follow-up duration varied among the studies, and the longest was 15 years.

Pooled data showed a protective association between physical activity and diabetic retinopathy (risk ratio [RR], 0.94, 95 percent CI, 0.90–0.98; p=0.005) among patients with diabetes. Notably, the effect of physical activity was more pronounced on vision-threatening disease (RR, 0.89, 0.80–0.98; p=0.02).

Sedentary behaviour appeared to have an opposite effect, elevating the risk of the diabetic eye disease by nearly 20 percent (RR, 1.18, 1.01–1.37; p=0.04).

With respect to physical activity intensity, activities of moderate intensity were more likely to be beneficial on the risk of diabetic retinopathy (RR, 0.76, 0.58–1.00; p=0.05) than those of low and high intensity.

Neither Egger’s regression test (p=0.06) nor Begg’s rank correlation test (p=0.46) detected any publication bias.

The present data highlight the importance of being physically active among patients with diabetes, according to the researchers. Moderate-intensity physical activity is recommended, while sedentary lifestyle should be avoided.

Additional research is needed to establish the causality between physical activity and diabetic retinopathy, as well as consider the possible mechanisms.

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