About 215,000 children and adolescents under 20 years of age in the United States had diabetes in 2010, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While still rare in children under age 10, the incidence of specifically type 2 diabetes has increased dramatically in the last decade, especially in minority populations, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA).
Developing the disease early in life means the individual will most likely suffer many more of the damaging blood sugar spikes associated with diabetes. This increases the risk of serious health problems earlier in adulthood, such as heart disease, kidney failure, blindness, and foot amputations due to nerve damage.
Overweight, obesity, and physical inactivity are all contributing factors to development of diabetes, and they too have become national health problems. As public health experts work to educate Americans on how to avoid this disease and its serious complications, parents and children should be aware that healthy eating habits and activity choices can lower an individual's risk of developing type 2 diabetes and related complications later in life.
A youth who is overweight—defined as a body mass index (BMI) greater than the 85th percentile for age and sex, weight for height greater than the 85th percentile, or overweight more than 120% of ideal for height— with just 2 other known risk factors faces a substantial risk of having or developing type 2 diabetes, warns the ADA. These risk factors include:
- Having a close relative with type 2 diabetes
- Being Native American, African American, Latino, Asian American, or Pacific Islander
- Having signs of or conditions associated with insulin resistance, including acanthosis nigricans, hypertension, dyslipidemia, or polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Having a birth mother who has diabetes or had gestational diabetes
The ADA makes the following screening recommendations:
- An overweight youth who has 2 or more risk factors should be screened for diabetes every 3 years, starting at 10 years of age or at the onset of puberty
- Use of the A1c, fasting plasma glucose, or 2-hour 75g oral glucose tolerance test are appropriate methods for testing
Sources Used in Current Review
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Diabetes Fact Sheet, 2011. PDF available for download at http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pubs/pdf/ndfs_2011.pdf through http://www.cdc.gov. Published 2011. Accessed August 24, 2012.
American Diabetes Association. Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes – 2012. Diabetes Care. Available online at http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/35/Supplement_1/S11.full.pdf+html through http://care.diabetesjournals.org. Published January 2012. Accessed August 27, 2012
National Diabetes Education Program. Overview of Diabetes in Children and Adolescents. PDF available for download at http://ndep.nih.gov/media/youth_factsheet.pdf through http://ndep.nih.gov. Issued June 2011. Accessed August 27, 2012.