Diabetes in Teens Doubles in a Decade

Diabetes and prediabetes have more than doubled among teenagers in the United States, an alarming trend that has health experts urging parents to pay more attention to their adolescents’ eating and exercise habits.


23 percent of those 12 to 19 now have diabetes or prediabetes according to a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics.


What is prediabetes?

  • Blood glucose levels are higher than normal
  • Typically leads to Type 2 (adult onset) diabetes
  • Diet and exercise can lower blood glucose and prevent diabetes



What are the risk factors?

  • Being overweight- the more fatty tissue a person has, the more resistant to insulin cells become.
  • Having a family history of diabetes
  • Specific groups—including native American Hispanics, and blacks—are more at risk.
  • For an unknown reasons, girls.


In a national study, CDC researchers looked at risk factors for heart disease and stroke in adolescents, examining data on more than 3,300 adolescents participating in a national survey from 1999 to 2008. They found that:

• 61 percent of obese teens in the survey had one risk factor for cardiovascular disease –in addition to being significantly overweight.

• 49 percent of overweight teens had one additional cardiovascular risk factor (besides their weight.)

• 37 percent of normal-weight teens had at least one cardiovascular risk factor.


During the teen years, rapid growth and intense hormone changes augment insulin resistance. As the body develops insulin resistance, the pancreas loses its ability to produce enough insulin to regulate blood sugar. Teens with prediabetes progress to full diabetes and often need insulin injections sooner than adults do, according to a study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine.


Adults with Type 2 diabetes can improve their health with lifestyle changes and medications, but 50 percent of kids diagnosed with Type 2 will end up on insulin within five years – and need it for the rest of their lives.


Studies show that many kids carry their weight problems into adulthood, but many experts consider adolescence a key window for change. And much of that change is up to moms and dads.


What parent’s can do:

  • Be attentive during checkups: Make sure the doctor checks your child’s height weight, blood pressure, calculates the Body Mass Index at every appointment. Let you pediatrician know if there is high cholesterol, diabetes, or heart disease in the family
  • Lead your family toward better health habits: serve enough produce to fill half the plate, don’t keep junk food in the house, and avoid skipping meals. Make family time active.  


Christina Elston is a senior editor and health writer for Dominion Parenting Media. Teen Focus Editor Angela Geiser contributed to this report.





CDC childhood obesity page: www.cdc.gov/obesity/childhood.

Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Campaign: www.letsmove.gov.

Palo Alto Medical Foundation: www.pamf.org/parents/general/diabetes.html.

ValleyCare Medical Foundation: valleycare.com/programs/diabetes.html.

YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program: ymca.net/diabetes-prevention. 

Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags