Pre-diabetes, diabetes rates more than double in US teens

The percentage of US teens with pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes more than doubled between 1999 and 2008, according to a Reuters news report about a recent study released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In 2008, 23 percent of teens had either pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes. By comparison, only nine percent of teens had the conditions in 1999.

People with pre-diabetes have higher-than-normal blood glucose levels, but not high enough to be diagnosed as full-blown diabetes. People with pre-diabetes have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those without the condition.

According to the Reuters report, the study did not distinguish between the percentages of patients with pre-diabetes and with type 2 diabetes.

Despite these findings, researchers found that teen high blood pressure and high LDL (“bad”) cholesterol rates have not increased but have remained flat.

Meanwhile, scientists were surprised to find that obesity rates among teens held steady despite the rise in pre-diabetes and diabetes incidences.

Childhood obesity dangers
Obesity now affects 17 percent of all children and adolescents in the US, according to the CDC. That's three times the rate from one generation ago.

Body mass index (BMI) is used to diagnose childhood overweight and obesity, and is calculated using a child's weight and height. Overweight is defined as a BMI at or above the 85th percentile and lower than the 95th percentile. A child with a BMI at or above the 95th percentile is considered obese.

The CDC cites several challenges to healthy food choices and physical activity in today's environment. These include sugary drinks and less healthy foods on school campuses, advertising of less healthy foods, abundance of high-energy dense foods and sugary drinks, lack of daily and quality physical activity in schools, lack of safe places for children to play, large portion sizes, lack of breastfeeding support, and excessive television and media viewing.

Obese children are at greater risk for medical, social and psychological problems, according to the CDC.

Medically, they are more likely to have high blood pressure and high cholesterol, two risk factors for cardiovascular disease. They have poorer glucose tolerance, greater insulin resistance and higher risk of type 2 diabetes. They may also have breathing and joint problems. Fatty liver disease, gallstones and gastro-esophageal reflux are also risks.

Overweight and obese children are also more likely to suffer discrimination and poor self-esteem when not addressed may continue into adulthood.

Obese children are more likely to become obese adults, according to the CDC. If children are overweight, obesity in adulthood is likely to be more severe.

Adult obesity and overweight are leading risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes and related health conditions like heart disease and some cancers.

Sources: Reuters, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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