Study Estimates 2 Million U.S. Children at Risk for Diabetes and Heart Problems

According to government data, some 2 million U.S. adolescents (12 to 19) have a pre-diabetic condition called “impaired fasting glucose” (IFG), which puts them at risk for developing cardiovascular problems and full-blown diabetes.

IFG manifests itself in the form of abnormally high blood-sugar levels even after several hours without eating. Research done by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that one in 14 children (boys and girls) in a nationwide sample had the condition. In overweight children, the ratio was even higher at one in six.

Average levels of triglycerides and bad cholesterol were also higher in children who had IFG.

The study, which appears in the November issue of Pediatrics, is based on data from 915 children who were involved in a 1999-2000 national health survey.

Currently, some 20 million Americans have diabetes. The majority of them are adults, who have Type 2 diabetes, which hinders the body’s ability to use insulin. Type 2 diabetes is closely linked to inactivity and obesity.

Although most American adolescents with diabetes (some 177,000) have Type 1, in which the body produces little or no insulin, Type 2 is on the rise.

The American Diabetes Association defines IFG as fasting blood-sugar levels of least 100 milligrams per deciliter. A fasting blood sugar level above 125 is considered diabetes.

Among tested youngsters, the average level was 89.7, which is within normal range. However, 7% of the children studied were in the pre-diabetic range. That percentage translates to roughly 2 million U.S. youngsters. About 16% of the subjects were obese; a figure that parallels the current nationwide estimate.

Although IFG has no symptoms, it represents a serious metabolic problem which, in time, usually develops into Type 2 diabetes. According to the researchers, significant lifestyle changes, such as exercise and improved diet, have shown to stop pre-diabetes from progressing in adults, so it is likely that the same program can help children.

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