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Obesity Doubles Kids' Risk of Diabetes

To Save Kids' Health, U.S. Must Tackle Childhood Obesity, Doctor Says
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WebMD Health News

Feb. 2, 2006 -- Obese children are more than twice as likely to have diabetes as nonobese children, a new study shows.

About three in a thousand U.S. children under age 18 have diabetes, and obese kids and teens have the worst odds, note Joyce Lee, MD, and colleagues in Diabetes Care.

"Among school-aged children, obese children have a greater than twofold chance of having diabetes, compared to children of normal weight," Lee says in a news release.

"From a clinical, public health, and health resources perspective, we need to address childhood obesity head-on to help reduce the future burden of diabetes in the U.S.," she continues.

Lee works in the University of Michigan's divisions of pediatric oncology and general pediatrics. She's also on staff at the university's Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit.

Cause for Concern

Data came from a national survey covering more than 102,000 children. The kids' parents or guardians were interviewed by phone for the survey, which was backed by government agencies including the CDC and the Maternal and Child Health Bureau.

In families with several children, the survey focused on one randomly chosen child. Topics included the child's height, weight, and any diabetes diagnosis.

Researchers used the parents' reports to calculate the children's BMI (body mass index), which is based on a child's height and weight. BMI levels determined which kids and teens were obese.

A drawback of the survey, the researchers point out, is that it didn't note whether children had type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes primarily occurs in obese adults but has risen dramatically among kids and teens, along with obesity.

"These data create cause for concern, especially with a nationwide shortage of specialists who care for children with diabetes," Lee says.

"The large number of children with diabetes in the U.S., and the potential for increasing numbers of children developing diabetes with the obesity epidemic, has serious implications for how these children will receive appropriate healthcare now and as they grow into adulthood," she continues.

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