A new study has revealed that rates of prediabetes among children have more than doubled over the past 20 years. The study, published March 28 in JAMA Pediatrics, looked at children between the ages of 12 and 19 from 1999 to 2018. During that time, the rate of prediabetes among the teens in the group went from 11.6 to 28.2 percent. Now the author of the study is worried that these new figures could be a dangerous trend that leads to long-term health issues in our children. “If we do not intervene, the children who have prediabetes have a higher risk of developing diabetes and also have a higher risk of all cardiovascular diseases,” said Junxiu Liu, Assistant Professor of Population Health Science and Policy at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York
Prediabetes is a common condition in adults, but according to the CDC, over three-quarters of those who have it don’t know it. The condition is classified as having blood sugar levels that are higher than normal but are not yet high enough to be considered diabetic. Among the dangers of prediabetes are an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
This news should be especially alarming to African Americans, who are 60 percent more likely than whites to be diagnosed with diabetes and twice as likely as white people to die from the disease. Diabetes most commonly affects racial and ethnic minority communities because they are more likely to live in areas where there is a lack of access to healthy food.
“Our Black and Brown communities are more likely to have an abundance of fast-food restaurants and markets stocked with unhealthy processed foods as opposed to our white counterparts, where there tends to be a greater number of grocery stores and markets with an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables,” says Dr. Kimbra A. Bell, a Northwestern Medicine Internal Medicine Physician. “A lack of access to healthy, nutritious foods results in poorer health outcomes.”
Dr. Robert Gabbay, Chief Science and Medical Officer of the American Diabetes Association, is also concerned about the study’s results and agrees that we need to be more proactive to prevent prediabetes earlier. “As a society, we need to work together to reduce obesity and prediabetes in youth,” he said. “This will take a broad public health approach from working in schools, families, and most importantly, the availability of healthy foods with a particular emphasis on populations that are (at) greatest risk such as the youth population.”
Parents play an important role in reducing their child’s risk of developing prediabetes. A 2019 study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics showed a decline over the past five years in the amount of daily physical activity kids as young as six-years-old participated in. But providing healthy food choices and encouraging your kids to participate in more physical activity and less screen time can help, according to Dr. Liu.
The CDC recommends that children and teens ages 6 through 17 participate in an hour or more of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each day. That activity should include aerobic activity such as running or jumping and muscle strengthening exercises like climbing or pushups.