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Obese Kids May Need Regular Blood Sugar Tests

Blood Sugar Problems May Signal Diabetes Risk, Even in Young Kids
By
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.

Problems Seen at Startlingly Young Ages

The latest findings come from Italy and the U.S.

Italian researchers studied nearly 200 children aged 5-17. They found that obese children had higher levels of insulin and resistance to insulin, putting them at a higher risk of developing diabetes. The study was conducted by experts including Sandro Loche, MD, of the Oespedale Regionale per le Microcitemie in Cagliari, Italy.

Another project centered on 44 obese 12-year-olds in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia research team included Janna Flint, MD, of Drexel University's medical school and St. Christopher's Hospital for Children.

The researchers found that during a 15-month follow-up period one in six children experienced changes in his or her metabolism of blood sugar. This shows that blood sugar metabolism can change over time and that regular blood sugar checks may be needed.

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

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If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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