Type 2 diabetes, once considered a disease for adults, is increasingly common in tweens and teens
For years, health experts have bemoaned the rise of childhood obesity in the United States. About 17 percent of kids and teens in the U.S. are now considered obese, a figure that has more than tripled since the 1970s, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A report in the New England Journal of Medicine lays out one of the consequences of all this excess weight: a corresponding increase in childhood cases of Type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when extra body fat makes it hard for cells to use insulin, a hormone that turns sugar into energy. Over time, blood sugar levels rise and cause blood vessels to become stiff, increasing the risk of life-threatening conditions like heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure, among others. More than 75,000 Americans die of diabetes each year, the CDC says.
Type 2 diabetes used to be called adult-onset diabetes, because it would take years to develop. (That's in contrast to Type 1 diabetes, formerly known as juvenile diabetes, which occurs when the immune system destroys the cells that make insulin.) But these days, doctors are diagnosing Type 2 in school-age kids, and occasionally even in toddlers.
After reviewing data on 10- to 19-year-olds in primarily five states (California, Colorado, Ohio, South Carolina and Washington), researchers determined that 12.5 out of every 100,000 of them had a bona fide case of Type 2 diabetes in 2011 and 2012. That compares with nine cases per 100,000 youth in 2002 and 2003.
After accounting for age, gender, race and ethnicity, the study authors found that the inciden Continue reading