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Health Team

Study Links Childhood Obesity With Type 2 Diabetes

Posted March 19, 2002
Updated November 7, 2006

In the United States, 20 percent of children are overweight. The numbers are so high, many health experts are calling it an epidemic.

A new study suggests that one in four obese children are showing early signs of type 2 diabetes, the kind of diabetes that usually occurs in adulthood.

Researchers at Yale University studied 167 overweight children and teens. They tested the children for evidence of impaired glucose tolerance, which is a higher-than-normal level of blood sugar. The condition usually precedes full-blown diabetes.

  • Of the children ages 4 to 10, 25 percent had impaired glucose tolerance, suggesting that diabetes might not be too far away.
  • Of those ages 11 to 18, 21 percent had impaired glucose tolerance.
  • Four percent of the obese adolescents already had type 2 diabetes that had not been diagnosed.

Type 2 diabetes is alarmingly on the rise in children. Other regional studies suggest that this form of diabetes has skyrocketed in children, from less than 5 percent before 1994 to 50 percent today.

Health experts think the development of type 2 diabetes in children is strongly related to obesity caused by a poor diet and lack of exercise. Parents concerned about the risk in their child due to their weight should see a pediatrician.

If a child is overweight, there are things parents can do to help.

An overweight child needs support, acceptance and encouragement from their parents. Try not to single out one child from the others because of the child's weight. Instead, focus on the family and gradually change the family's physical activity and eating habits. Parents set the example for their children where eating and exercise are concerned.

Health Team Nutritionist: Lynn Hoggard, R.D.
OnLine Producer: Michelle Singer
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