Nearly one in four American adolescents may be on the verge of developing Type 2 diabetes or could already be diabetic, representing a sharp increase in the disease’s prevalence among children ages 12 to 19 since a decade ago, when it was estimated that fewer than one in 10 were at risk for or had diabetes, according to a new study.
This worsening of the problem is worrying in light of recently published findings that the disease progresses more rapidly in children than in adults and is harder to treat, experts said.
The study, published online on Monday in the journal Pediatrics, analyzes data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which has a nationally representative sample. While it confirmed that teenage obesity and overweight rates had leveled off in recent years and that teenage rates of high blood pressure and high cholesterol had not changed greatly, it found that the percentage of teenagers testing positive for diabetes and prediabetes had nearly tripled to 23 percent in 2007-8 from 9 percent in 1999-2000.
Researchers said the data should be interpreted with caution because the prediabetes and diabetes status of the adolescents was based on a single test of each participant’s fasting blood glucose level, which could be unreliable in children if they had not fasted for at least 8 hours before taking the test. In addition, children this age are going through puberty, a process that induces insulin resistance.