Nearly 30% of adolescents, teens in U.S. have prediabetes, study finds

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More and more adolescents and teens in the United States have prediabetes, a sign many of them are on the path to full-blown diabetes, a new study suggests. File photo by Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock

Nearly 30% of adolescents and teens in the United States meet the criteria for prediabetes, an analysis published Monday by JAMA Pediatrics found.

This includes just over 40% of young people who are obese, the data showed.

In addition, those age 12 to 19 years who live in poverty are more likely to have prediabetes, the prevalence of which in this age group more than doubled since 1999, researchers said.

Between 2015 and 2018, the last period included in the analysis, 28% of adolescents and teens had prediabetes, up from 12% between 1999 and 2002, according to the researchers.

“These numbers are striking, and it’s pretty clear that, if we don’t do something to bring down these numbers, we are going to see a significant increase in diabetes in the United States,” study co-author Junxiu Liu told UPI in a phone interview.

“Parents and others responsible for children’s diets must do more to ensure they receive adequate nutrition and reduce their sugar intake,” said Liu, an assistant professor of population health science and policy at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.

Increasing physical activity among young people can also reduce their risk for prediabetes and diabetes, she said.

About 35 million people in the United States have either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, the American Diabetes Association estimates.

However, nearly 100 million adults have prediabetes, which is defined as having elevated blood sugar levels that fall below the threshold for full diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In addition, as many as one in five adolescents and teens ages 12 to 18 years have prediabetes, based on earlier agency estimates.

Earlier studies have found that obesity increases the risk for diabetes among children.

For this study, Liu and her colleagues analyzed data from nearly 6,600 people ages 12 to 19 years who responded to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a CDC-led survey that is conducted every two years to assess nutrition and health trends nationally.

Based on responses collected between 1999 and 2002, the prevalence of prediabetes among those ages 12 to 19 years in the United States at that time was just under 12%, the data showed.

By 2003 to 2006, that figure had grown to just over 15% before rising again to about 23% for the 2007 to 2010 survey period, the researchers said.

It declined slightly to just under 23% during the 2011 to 2014 survey period before increasing to 28% in the 2015 to 2018 period, they said.

“This is all before the COVID-19, when research suggests that physical activity declined among young people,” Liu said.

“This is an important message for parents and caregivers, as well as public health leaders, that we need to pay more attention to diet and exercise in young people,” she said.

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