The effect of age on glucose tolerance, as differentiated from the effects of obesity, work and leisure physical activity, family history of diabetes, and the use of drugs known to adversely affect glucose tolerance and/or insulin secretion, has been analyzed in 732 factory workers aged 22 to 73 years. Glucose tolerance, as evaluated by the plasma glucose response to 75 g of oral glucose deteriorated with age, associated with an increase in plasma insulin levels. However, the age-related decrease in glucose tolerance also correlated significantly with degree of obesity, leisure-time physical activity, and the use of potential diabetogenic drugs. Partial correlation coefficients were calculated to define the effect of age per se on glucose tolerance, controlling for the presence of these other age-related variables. When this was done, the degree of correlation between age and glucose tolerance was reduced, particularly in women, to where it became of marginal statistical significance. The effect of age on insulin response was affected to a greater degree by age-related variables, and was no longer statistically significant when these other factors were taken into consideration. These data suggest that the elevation in plasma glucose and insulin levels associated with age are to a certain extent due to age-related environmental factors, and the deterioration in glucose tolerance with age is relatively modest in magnitude in a generally healthy population.
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