23% of U.S. Teen Population Has Diabetes

About 23% of adolescents in the United States had type 2 diabetes or were on the verge of developing the condition in 2008, up from 9% less than a decade before, according to a new study released in Pediatrics.

For the study, researchers examined data on about 3,400 children ages 12 to 19 from 1999 to 2008. The data used came from NHANES, a nationally representative, continuous cross-sectional survey of the health and nutritional status of the US civilian, noninstitutionalized population, which gathered data on the children’s height, weight, blood pressure, and fasting blood glucose levels.

Based on the survey findings, the researchers determined that diabetes and prediabetes rates among adolescents were:

  • 9% in 1999-2000
  • 15% in 2001-2002
  • 13% in 2003-2004
  • 16% in 2005-2006 and
  •  23% in 2007-2008

In addition, the study found that obesity and overweight rates among teens in recent years have flat-lined, while the rates of high blood pressure and high cholesterol generally remained unchanged. The study’s authors urged caution with the data because the diabetes and pre-diabetes status of the adolescents was based on a single test of each participant’s fasting blood glucose level, which can be unreliable if they did not fast for at least eight hours prior to the test. Furthermore, puberty can interfere with insulin resistance, the authors added.

The findings come as part of a widespread effort to evaluate the impact of type 2 diabetes on the younger U.S. population. The New England Journal of Medicine recently found that Type 2 diabetes progresses more quickly and is harder to treat in children and teenagers than in adults, and CDC officials predict that 42% of Americans will be obese by 2030.