Obese Kids May Need Regular Blood Sugar Tests
Blood Sugar Problems May Signal Diabetes Risk, Even in Young Kids
June 6, 2005 -- Obese children need to have their blood sugar tested
regularly, say researchers. Elevations in blood sugar, a sign of possible
diabetes, may surface relatively rapidly, new research indicates. The findings
were presented in San Diego at the Endocrine Society's annual meeting.
Obesity, Diabetes Soaring
The number of obese kids in the U.S. has never been higher. An estimated 16%
of kids and teens aged 6-19 were overweight in 1999-2002, says the CDC. That's
45% more than in 1988-1994.
Type 2 diabetes is ballooning along with obesity. About 150,000 people
younger than 18 have diabetes; that's around one in every 400 to 500, says the
There are two types of diabetes -- types 1 and 2. Children and young adults
have typically have type 1 diabetes, in which the immune system destroys cells
in the pancreas that make the hormone insulin, which controls blood sugar
But more and more children are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, which
has traditionally been seen in adults and is often associated with excess
weight. Type 2 diabetes accounts for 8% to 43% of new childhood diabetes cases,
says the CDC.
The Tip of the Iceberg
Diabetes isn't the only type of blood sugar problem. Children (or adults)
who don't have diabetes may have insulin resistance. That means they're
starting to have trouble controlling blood sugar and have to produce more and
more insulin to get the job done. When blood sugars are higher than normal, yet
not high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes, a termed prediabetes is
Insulin resistance and high blood sugar are also hallmarks of metabolic
syndrome, a group of risk factors that also includes obesity (especially at the
waist), high blood pressure, high blood levels of triglycerides (a type of
fat), and low "good" HDL cholesterol. Researchers in Kansas recently
reported shockingly high numbers of elementary school kids with or at risk for
Metabolic syndrome sows the seeds for diabetes. From there, it's a slippery
slope toward heart disease risk. However, getting in shape, eating healthfully,
and being active can help turn those troubles around.
Problems Seen at Startlingly Young Ages
The latest findings come from Italy and the U.S.
Italian researchers studied nearly 200 children aged 5-17. They found that
obese children had higher levels of insulin and resistance to insulin, putting
them at a higher risk of developing diabetes. The study was conducted by
experts including Sandro Loche, MD, of the Oespedale Regionale per le
Microcitemie in Cagliari, Italy.
Another project centered on 44 obese 12-year-olds in Philadelphia. The
Philadelphia research team included Janna Flint, MD, of Drexel University's
medical school and St. Christopher's Hospital for Children.
The researchers found that during a 15-month follow-up period one in six
children experienced changes in his or her metabolism of blood sugar. This
shows that blood sugar metabolism can change over time and that regular blood
sugar checks may be needed.