Study: Diabetes on the Rise Among Teens

The New York Times reports today on a study finding that the incidence of diabetes and prediabetes among teenagers has significantly increased in the last ten years, even while rates of teen overweight and obesity have held steady.

While the study’s findings are not conclusive, it indicates that nearly one in four American teens are on the verge of developing the disease or already have it.   Given the news I shared with you two weeks ago regarding the difficulty in effectively treating pediatric diabetes, this new finding is particularly troubling.

Interestingly, the study also found that even among teens of normal weight, 37 percent showed at least one risk factor for heart disease, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

A good reminder that poor eating and lifestyle habits are detrimental for all kids, not just those who are visibly overweight.

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  1. says

    I hope that more studies look at risk factors in normal weight children (and adults!)…I have heard so many times from local parents that because most children here are not overweight, we must be feeding them well (as they get processed, sugary, chemical-laden snacks all day long). In my heart I do not believe that, but when the focus in the media is on obesity, and the risks in lower income areas, it’s much harder to make a case for change in a more affluent area where the impact is less immediately obvious.

    • Kate says

      Obesity is a big area of concern because the more obese you are, the more likely you are to have some degree of insulin resistance, which impairs your body’s ability to use insulin effectively.

      I’m not very knowledgeable about type 2 diabetes in kids, but in my mind if one suspected that a normal weight child had increased risk for type 2 diabetes, I’d think it would be really important to teach the child to be mindful of all carbohydrates they consumed. What do I mean by that…mostly eating them in smaller amounts, more frequently throughout the day. While it is really important to choose healthy foods, one needs to pay particular attention to all carbohydrates that one eats. Maybe that means having just one piece of whole wheat toast at breakfast instead of two.

      Exercise also makes a big impact on how our bodies utilize insulin.

  2. says

    The media will focus on whatever draws in the audience. Right now, in this area it will likely be obesity (esp. in lower income areas.) Which, sadly, will spawn rantings about “personal responsibility” and “parental responsibility” and the like (all good things, mind you – but not necessarily germane to the topic at hand.)

    Fortunately, there is a goodly amount of research going on wrt what causes obesity/diabetes/etc. It is nowhere near as simple as has been/is being portrayed (for example, did you know that sleep – or the lack of it – is a risk factor for BOTH obesity and diabetes? Which can affect sleep patterns, which in turn can aggravate obesity and/or diabetes…) The problem is, these studies don’t lend themselves to sound bites – especially in a society which is looking for The Next Battle In The Culture War.


  3. Kate says

    As the article notes, the study was based on one fasting blood glucose level. I have to say I’m a little skeptical of saying that a person who had one blood draw indicating they might be prediabetic being lumped in with someone who has actual type 2 diabetes.

    I’d be especially skeptical of lumping someone who barely comes in at the low range of being “prediabetic” as being counted as someone on the verge of having the disaease.

    I’m also wondering what percentage of the population was being tested in 1999 vs. now.

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