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39,000 U.S. Kids Have Type 2 Diabetes

More Than 2 Million More Have Impaired Fasting Glucose Levels, Hinting at Diabetes Risk
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

May 1, 2006 -- About 39,000 U.S. adolescents have type 2 diabetesdiabetes and nearly 2.8 million have impaired fasting glucose levels, according to a new estimate.

Those figures appear in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. Glenn Duncan, PhD, RCEPSM, based the estimate on data from national health surveys given from 1999-2002.

"Type 2 diabetes was once a condition only seen in adults, but this study provides evidence to support regional studies that point to an emerging problem of type 2 diabetes among U.S. youth," Duncan writes.

Duncan notes that the estimate may not be perfect but that a "substantial" number of U.S. youths appear to have type 2 diabetes and impaired fasting glucose levels.

A journal editorial agrees that the data has drawbacks but hints at a "public health time bomb" of diabetes.

Asking About Diabetes Diagnosis

Duncan works in Seattle at the University of Washington's nutritional sciences program. He checked data on 4,370 adolescents aged 12-19 years. Pregnant women were excluded.

The youths were asked if they had ever been told by a doctor or health professional if they had diabetes. Eighteen participants said "yes" to that question, accounting for 0.5% of the entire group.

Among those who said they had diabetes, 71% had type 1 diabetes (in which the body doesn't make enough insulin, a hormone that controls blood sugar), and 29% had type 2 diabetes (in which the body doesn't respond properly to insulin).

Estimating Diabetes Among U.S. Youths

Applying those percentages to youths nationwide, Duncan estimates that 95,066 adolescents have type 1 diabetes and 39,005 have type 2 diabetes in the U.S.

Boys accounted for 56% of the cases of self-reported diabetes. Self-reported diabetes was more common among whites than blacks or Mexican-American youths.

Undiagnosed diabetes cases aren't included in the study. Type 1 diabetes has long accounted for most diabetes cases among youths. Among adults, type 2 diabetes is more common.

Next, Duncan checked for a diabetes risk factor among participants who reported no diabetes diagnosis. Duncan wanted to see if those youths showed a subtle early warning sign of diabetes risk.

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