1 in 4 Adolescents Is At Risk For or Has Diabetes

A CDC report finds youth are increasingly more at risk for developing cardiovascular risk factors.

By: Melissa Romero

The newest report to come out of the Centers for Disease Control is not reassuring, especially for the future of US youth. One in four children is either pre-diabetic or diabetic, especially those who are overweight or obese.

The report, published today in Pediatrics, found that the prevalence of prediabetes and diabetes increased by 14 percent from 1999/2000 to 2007/2008, from 9 percent to 23 percent.

Ann Bartlett, a local diabetes expert who was diagnosed with diabetes at age 5, says, "This study is not news to me. Studies in 1990 showed that no state had more than 14 percent obesity--in 2008 no state had less than 15 percent." 

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of the disease and occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin. Being prediabetic means one's blood glucose levels are high but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association.

The results from the study, which involved 3,382 adolescents ages 12 to 19, are a great cause for concern, especially since cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of adult death in the US. Researchers noted that cardiovascular risk factors--prehypertension/hypertension, high cholesterol, and diabetes--often begin during childhood or adolescence, and don't manifest as heart attacks or strokes until adulthood.

Not surprisingly, the report found that the most prevalent CVD risk factors were among overweight and obese adolescents. Nearly 34 percent of the mostly non-Hispanic, white group were overweight or obese. This group was likely to have more than two CVD risk factors. Boys were more likely than girls to have one, two, or three risk factors.

However, normal-weight youth were not exempt--about 37 percent of normal-weight adolescents had at least one CVD risk factor.

The researchers suggest that children ten years and older with BMI percentiles of 85 or greater get screened for diabetes. Pediatricians should also do more patient screenings for obesity, researchers added.

The full study can be viewed on the Pediatrics website