February 3, 2006

Many U.S. children have diabetes risk factors

By Amy Norton

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - New research indicates that
many U.S. children as young as 13 may have risk factors for
type 2 diabetes, the form of the disease once considered a
problem of older adults.

The study, of 1,740 eighth-graders at 12 U.S. schools,
found that half were overweight or on the verge of becoming
overweight -- one of the main risk factors for type 2 diabetes.

In addition, 41 percent had elevated blood sugar levels
when tests were taken after a fast, while 36 percent had high
levels of insulin, a hormone that helps process blood sugar.
Higher-than-normal insulin and blood sugar levels signal that
the body is becoming resistant to insulin, a precursor to type
2 diabetes.

Few children in the study had actual diabetes, but the
level of risk factors was "very high," said study co-author Dr.
Francine Kaufman of Children's Hospital Los Angeles. She and
her colleagues report the findings in the journal Diabetes

The study included a large number of Hispanic and Native
American children -- ethnic groups that have a particularly
high rate of type 2 diabetes -- and these students had the
highest fasting blood sugar levels.

The findings add to evidence that excess pounds and
inactivity are putting more and more U.S. children,
particularly minorities, at risk of diabetes, Kaufman told
Reuters Health.

"This really screams for us to do comprehensive
prevention," she said.

That can include healthier foods and a return to physical
activity at school, according to Kaufman, as well as efforts in
the community -- like creating safe places for children to get
some exercise -- and at home.

The earlier people develop diabetes, Kaufman noted, the
earlier they may develop serious complications like heart
disease, kidney failure and nerve damage, making prevention
particularly important for young people.

SOURCE: Diabetes Care, February 2006.