Sedentary behaviour and health with special reference to obesity and fatty liver in early midlife. The Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study

Physical inactivity and positive energy balance pose a risk to health. They increase the risk of obesity and associated non-communicable diseases. Recently, also sedentary behaviour has been associated with obesity and non-communicable diseases. Nevertheless, it has been unclear which type of sedentary behaviour is the most harmful. It is also unknown whether the relationship of sedentary behaviour with obesity is truly independent of other factors, for example physical activity and diet. Longitudinal data are limited, and the direction of causality and the mechanism of action are still unknown.

Aim: The aim of this study was 1) to identify the type of sedentary behaviour having the strongest association with obesity, 2) to explore the causal relationship of sedentary behaviour and weight increase, and 3) to additionally, investigate the relationship of sedentary behaviour with fatty liver. These were studied in cross-sectional and/or longitudinal settings using data from the Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study. Special emphasis was put on the evaluation of a wide range of other lifestyle factors and risks for obesity and fatty liver.

Subjects: 2,060 subjects (aged 33-50 years in 2011, of which 55 % were female) from the Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study participating in follow-ups in 2001, 2007, and 2011.

Measures: Self-reported time spent in various types of sedentary behaviour (I), or TV viewing time (I-III). Measured body weight, height and waist circumference (I-III), and genetic variants for high BMI (I). Fasting plasma concentrations of gamma-glutamyltransferase enzyme and triglyceride, calculated Fatty Liver Index (based on gamma-glutamyltransferase and triglyceride concentration, BMI and waist circumference), and the amount of intrahepatic fat measured with ultrasound (III). Self-reported leisure-time physical activity and active commuting, occupational physical activity, energy intake, diet, alcohol consumption, smoking, socioeconomic status, and sleep duration as possible confounders were considered (I-III).

Results: TV viewing is the sedentary behaviour type that has the strongest association with obesity. Sedentary behaviour (TV viewing) precedes weight increase, and not the other way around. Sedentary behaviour (TV viewing) is associated with increased risk of fatty liver. Conclusions: Sedentary behaviour (especially high TV viewing time) is associated with increased risks of obesity and fatty liver. Intervention studies are needed to assess whether reduction of TV time would prevent obesity and fatty liver.


The dissertation is available:

For more information, please contact:

Mr. Harri Helajärvi,

City (for University):
University of Turku