One-Quarter of Obese Children Face Increased Risk for Type II, Study Finds
Twenty-five percent of obese children could be at risk of developing Type II diabetes "sooner rather than later" in their lifetimes, according to a study in today's New England Journal of Medicine, the Hartford Courant reports (Condon, Hartford Courant, 3/14). Yale University School of Medicine researchers examined 167 severely obese, multiethnic children and adolescents, administering an oral "glucose-tolerance test" and measuring glucose, insulin and C-peptide levels. Researchers found that 25% of the 55 obese children between ages 4 and 10 and 21% of the 112 obese teenagers between ages 11 and 18 had "impaired glucose tolerance" (Sinha et al., NEJM, 3/14). This diminished capacity to metabolize blood sugar is an "established risk factor" for Type II diabetes. In addition, many of those with impaired glucose tolerance also had insulin resistance -- a condition in which fat, muscle and liver cells are incapable of "us[ing] insulin correctly" and a precursor of Type II diabetes. The Courant reports that Type II diabetes was once considered a "disease of middle age or older," while Type I, often called "juvenile diabetes," was the form that primarily affected children. Now, however, data from several cities nationwide indicate that the percentage of children with diabetes who have Type II has risen from less than 5% prior to 1994 to between 30% and 50%. Most experts say that childhood obesity is a leading cause of the increase. In an accompanying NEJM editorial, Dr. Albert Rocchini from the University of Michigan said that in 1983, 18.6% of American preschool children were "defined as overweight" and 8.5% were considered obese. By 2000, however, 22% of preschoolers were overweight and 10% were obese. Dr. Elizabeth Estrada, a pediatric endocrinologist at Connecticut Children's Medical Center who is studying the effects of exercise in obese children, said, "[T]he numbers of children we're seeing with these problems are just exploding." Estrada said the problem is "[t]oo much food and too little activity. [Diabetes] is a disease they don't have to have" (Hartford Courant, 3/14). A report on the study from NPR's "All Things Considered" is available in RealAudio online.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.