Prevalence of Type 2 Diabetes Among Adolescents

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Type 2 diabetes

An estimated 39,000 U.S. adolescents may have type 2 diabetes and more than 2.5 million may have impaired fasting glucose levels, which could lead to diabetes and other health problems, according to a study in the May issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, a theme issue on children and the media.

About 18.2 million U.S. citizens have diabetes, including 210,000 individuals younger than age 20 years, according to background information in the article. Type 2 diabetes, which occurs when the body cannot use the insulin that it manufactures to break down glucose in the body, is considered an emerging problem among this age group. Studies also indicate that impaired glucose tolerance, a blood glucose level that is higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes, is common among young people who are overweight and can lead to the development of diabetes.

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Glen E. Duncan, Ph.D., R.C.E.P.S.M., University of Washington, Seattle, used data from a national survey of the U.S. population to determine the prevalence of diabetes and impaired fasting glucose levels (which measure blood sugar after an eight-hour fast to detect impaired glucose tolerance) among U.S. adolescents. A total of 4,370 participants aged 12 to 19 (mean age 15.4) years were asked whether they had ever been told by a physician that they had diabetes. A subsample of 1,496 adolescents who responded "no" had their glucose levels testing after fasting overnight.

Of the 4,370 original participants, 18 or 0.5 percent had diabetes; of those, about 71 percent had type 1 diabetes and 29 percent had type 2 diabetes. About 11 percent, or 178, of the subsample without diabetes had impaired fasting glucose levels. When considered as a sample of the entire population of U.S. adolescents, these numbers are equivalent to 134,071 individuals age 12 to 19 years with diabetes, 39,005 with type 2 diabetes and 2,769,736 with impaired fasting glucose levels.

"The prevalence of type 2 diabetes and impaired fasting glucose levels is substantial among U.S. adolescents," Dr. Duncan concludes. "These estimates have important implications for public health because of the high rate of conversion from impaired fasting glucose level to type 2 diabetes in adults and the increased risk of cardiovascular disease in individuals with type 2 diabetes." (Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2006;160:523-528.)

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