The NIH-funded survey sampled 1,700 eighth-grade kids in Houston, North Carolina, and Southern California. More than half were Hispanic, and a fourth were African American -- U.S. groups at particular risk for type 2 diabetes.
The young teens underwent a battery of tests. Only 0.4% of the kids already had type 2 diabetes. But:
- More than 40% of the kids had prediabetes -- that is, blood sugar levels that are above normal yet not high enough to be type 2 diabetes.
- About 14% had metabolic syndrome, a combination of abdominal fat, abnormal fat and cholesterol levels in the blood, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar. Metabolic syndrome is a serious condition that, unless corrected, vastly increases a person's risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
- Half the teens were seriously overweight or at risk of being overweight.
- Nearly half the kids had too-low levels of good HDL cholesterol.
- Nearly one in five boys and one in 10 girls had high blood pressure.
"These data demonstrate high levels of obesity, pre-diabetes, and the metabolic syndrome among middle school children," the researchers note.
Is diabetes these teens' destiny? Not necessarily. The current findings represent the first phase of the study, which is testing ways to prevent type 2 diabetes.