More Young People Are Prediabetic—and That’s a Big Problem

Between one-quarter and one-fifth of young adults and adolescents have prediabetes, according to a new study published this week.  This condition had been mostly ascribed to adults until very recently, as it is now estimated to afflict about 18 percent of adolescents (between the ages of 12 and 18) and about 24 percent of young adults (between the ages of 19 and 34).  

Indeed, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention assesses that as much as one-third of America’s youth are overweight. This tends to be a major contributor to developing type 2 diabetes, which we are now seeing in children as young as 10. 

In case you were not aware, prediabetes is a condition in which blood sugar levels are elevated but not quite high enough to warrant a definite Type 2 diabetes diagnosis.  Health experts are saying these numbers have been on the rise over the past ten years; and that, of course, puts these younger members of our society at higher risk for developing Type 2 diabetes, as well as heart disease and other conditions. 

The study analyzed data collected from 5,800 people through a national health survey, taken between 2005 and 2016.  The data indicated that prediabetes was nearly twice as prevalent in males than females.  Of course, the condition was also more common among young people with obesity. Furthermore, common statistics advise that while nearly one-third of all adults in the US—approximately 84 million people—have prediabetes, 90 percent are completely unaware. 

In summary, the study team reports, “These findings together with the observed increase in the prevalence of type 2 diabetes in US adolescents and in diabetes-related complications in young adults highlight the need for prevention efforts tailored to the young segment of the US population.”

The CDC advises that lifestyle modifications—including a healthy diet and regular exercise—can be effective at preventing or, at the very least, delaying the onset of type 2 diabetes and other serious—and often related—health problems.

The results of this study have been published in the journal Diabetes Care.