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Kids' Waists May Show Pre-Diabetes Problem

Big Waists May Predict Blood Sugar Problems, Metabolic Syndrome
WebMD Health News

Aug. 1, 2005 -- Children with large waists are more likely to have trouble controlling their blood sugar.

The blood sugar problem, called insulin resistance, rears its ugly head before obvious diabetes develops.

In insulin resistance, the body starts to lose its ability to respond to the hormone insulin. Insulin helps to move sugar (glucose) from the blood into the cells to be used for energy. As insulin resistance worsens, the body's blood sugar levels slowly rise.

Insulin resistance is a hallmark of the metabolic syndrome, a group of abnormal conditions linked to heart disease and diabetes.

Signs of metabolic syndrome include excess body fat (especially around the belly), insulin resistance, high blood pressure, and poor cholesterol/blood fat levels.

Metabolic syndrome has been seen in young kids and young adults.

Waist size could be a clue about whether a child may have metabolic syndrome, researchers write in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Latest Study

Doctors working on the study included Valeria Hirschler, MD, of the Durand Hospital in Buenos Aires, Argentina. They studied 44 girls and 40 boys aged 6-13. The kids ranged from being obese or overweight to normal weight.

Their waists were measured. The kids also got blood tests to check levels of insulin. Insulin levels rise as insulin resistance develops.

Bigger Waists, Bigger Problem?

Larger waists were tied to insulin resistance, write the researchers. They plan to study the kids over time.

"Waist circumference is a predictor of insulin resistance syndrome in children and adolescents," write the researchers.

Measuring a child's waist could be a simple way for doctors to help identify kids at risk of metabolic syndrome, write Hirschler and colleagues.

Risky Waists

The researchers used previously created charts to determine waist sizes that were associated with an increased risk of metabolic syndrome.

Researchers determined that waist sizes greater than 90% of other kids were associated with too much belly fat. This level also predicted the presence of insulin resistance.

Examples of risky waist sizes are:

  • A 5-year-old boy or girl with a waist size of 22 inches or more
  • A 10-year-old boy with a waist size of 26 inches or more
  • A 10-year-old girl with a waist size of 25 inches or more
  • A 15-year-old boy with a waist size of 31 inches or more
  • A 15-year-old girl with a waist size of 28 inches or more

Metabolic Syndrome Can Be Reversed

If metabolic syndrome is found, positive lifestyle changes could greatly improve future health.

For instance, in December 2004, another research team reported that exercise stopped or even got rid of metabolic syndrome in adults. Their report appeared in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

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