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Childhood May Predict Type 2 Diabetes

Key Factors May Predict Which Kids Have Type 2 Diabetes as Adults
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Nov. 9, 2007 -- It may be possible to predict which kids are most likely to mature into adults with type 2 diabetes -- and to nip that risk in the bud.

A new study spotlights two key strategies:

  • Start early. Watch for type 2 diabetes risk factors beginning in childhood.
  • Manage weight for a lifetime.

The goal is to head off a condition called metabolic syndrome, which can lead to type 2 diabetes.

People with metabolic syndrome have at least three of these traits:

  • Large waist
  • Above-normal blood pressure
  • Above-normal blood sugar (glucose) after fasting
  • Above-normal triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood) after fasting
  • Below-normal HDL ("good") cholesterol

Weight management, which includes exercise and a healthy diet, can make all of those problems less likely.

Predicting Diabetes

The new study started in the 1970s and spanned a quarter of a century.

At the study's start, 814 boys and girls (average age: 13) got their height, weight, blood pressure, glucose, triglycerides, and cholesterol measured.

Back then, about 13% were overweight or at risk for becoming overweight and 4% had metabolic syndrome.

Some 25-30 years later, the participants got another checkup. This time, a quarter of them were overweight, 26% had metabolic syndrome, and about 5% had type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes was most common among the following groups:

  • Adults who had metabolic syndrome as kids
  • Adults who had a parental history of diabetes
  • African-Americans, who were twice as likely as whites to have type 2 diabetes as adults
  • Older adults (diabetes becomes more likely with age)

At all ages, being overweight made metabolic syndrome more likely, and overweight kids often became overweight adults.

The researchers, who included John Morrison, PhD, of Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, conclude that kids aged 5-19 should be checked for metabolic syndrome and parental history of diabetes.

Morrison's team also emphasizes the importance of weight management to make metabolic syndrome and diabetes less likely.

The study appears online in The Journal of Pediatrics.

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