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Diabetes Health Center

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Obese Kids May Need Regular Blood Sugar Tests

Blood Sugar Problems May Signal Diabetes Risk, Even in Young Kids
WebMD Health News

June 6, 2005 -- Obese children need to have their blood sugar tested regularly, say researchers. Elevations in blood sugar, a sign of possible diabetes, may surface relatively rapidly, new research indicates. The findings were presented in San Diego at the Endocrine Society's annual meeting.

Obesity, Diabetes Soaring

The number of obese kids in the U.S. has never been higher. An estimated 16% of kids and teens aged 6-19 were overweight in 1999-2002, says the CDC. That's 45% more than in 1988-1994.

Type 2 diabetes is ballooning along with obesity. About 150,000 people younger than 18 have diabetes; that's around one in every 400 to 500, says the CDC.

There are two types of diabetes -- types 1 and 2. Children and young adults have typically have type 1 diabetes, in which the immune system destroys cells in the pancreas that make the hormone insulin, which controls blood sugar (glucose).

But more and more children are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, which has traditionally been seen in adults and is often associated with excess weight. Type 2 diabetes accounts for 8% to 43% of new childhood diabetes cases, says the CDC.

The Tip of the Iceberg

Diabetes isn't the only type of blood sugar problem. Children (or adults) who don't have diabetes may have insulin resistance. That means they're starting to have trouble controlling blood sugar and have to produce more and more insulin to get the job done. When blood sugars are higher than normal, yet not high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes, a termed prediabetes is used.

Insulin resistance and high blood sugar are also hallmarks of metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors that also includes obesity (especially at the waist), high blood pressure, high blood levels of triglycerides (a type of fat), and low "good" HDL cholesterol. Researchers in Kansas recently reported shockingly high numbers of elementary school kids with or at risk for metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome sows the seeds for diabetes. From there, it's a slippery slope toward heart disease risk. However, getting in shape, eating healthfully, and being active can help turn those troubles around.

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