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1 in 5 US adolescents now prediabetic, study says

A study published in the Journal of the Medical Association Pediatrics has some disturbing findings about the health of young adults and adolescents. It reports that almost a quarter of them have prediabetes.

Prediabetes is a condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but are not at levels to be considered type 2 diabetes. The study found that about 18 percent of children between 12 and 18 have prediabetes. That figure jumps to 24 percent among young adults or people between the ages of 19 and 34. 

The study also found that the prevalence of prediabetes was significantly higher in boys and young men than females and in people with obesity overall. 

In summarizing the findings, the study authors noted, “Adolescents and young adults with prediabetes present an unfavorable cardiometabolic risk profile and are therefore at increased risk of not only developing type 2 diabetes, but also cardiovascular diseases.”

The findings are disturbing say medical experts. In fact, the study authors point out that this latest research, along with increased “observed increase” in the prevalence of type 2 diabetes in American young adults and diabetes-related problems in general, highlight the need for prevention efforts that are specifically tailored to younger segments of the population.

“Until recently, young children and teens almost never got type 2 diabetes, which is why it used to be called adult-onset diabetes,” according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

“Now, about one-third of American youth are overweight, a problem closely related to the increase in kids with type 2 diabetes, some as young as 10 years old.”

The JAMA Pediatrics study said that people with prediabetes are at greater risk of developing not just type 2 diabetes, but are also at increased risk for kidney disease and heart disease. The study looked at data from more than 5,700 people. More than 2,600 or 45 percent were adolescents and 3,180 or 55 percent were young adults.

“Compared with persons with normal glucose tolerance, adolescents and young adults with prediabetes had significantly higher non-high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, systolic blood pressure, central adiposity, and lower insulin sensitivity,” the study authors reported.

The JAMA paediatrics study is concerning in light of a 2012 study. It projected that type 1 and type 2 diabetes would show a linear increase in youth diabetes rates over the next 40 years, especially among minority groups. 

That study noted the increase would present a major public health burden and called for implementing primary and secondary public health prevention programs.

The authors of that study said that the health care system and society as a whole would need to plan and prepare for the health care issues surrounding pre-diabetes and diabetes. 

“As these youth age, this profoundly affects their productivity, quality of life … life expectancy and increases health care costs,” the authors concluded. 

“Even in childhood, the medical expenditures of youth with diabetes are approximately 6.2 times of those without diabetes.”

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