Dr. Jane Lynch of the School of Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio said the study was conducted in San Antonio by university pediatricians and included 699 children and young people.
More than a third of the study participants required medication for hypertension or kidney disease less than four years after they had joined the study.
The study adolescents were randomized into three groups that received metformin, metformin plus rosiglitazone, or metformin plus intensive lifestyle intervention. Metformin is an oral anti-diabetic drug used for the treatment of type 2 diabetes in overweight and obese people with normal kidney function. Rosiglitazone is an anti-diabetic drug that works as an insulin sensitizer by making the cells more responsive to insulin.
The children on the combined drugs did the best of the three groups, but Lynch said all of the youth did poorly and the researchers were particularly disappointed the intensive lifestyle intervention group did not do better.
The study, published in the journal Diabetes Care, found the rate of deterioration of beta cell function in youth was almost four times higher than in adults, with a 20 percent to 35 percent decline in beta cell function per year on average, compared to 7 percent to 11 percent for adults. Beta cells store and release insulin.
A sobering aspect of the study was that the youth all received the best possible care, education and medical support.
They had to have a parent or guardian who would also participate in the clinic visits and lifestyle education, their medicine was paid for and they were brought to the clinic by taxi if that's what it took to get them there.
"That's Cadillac treatment for any kids with diabetes -- and we still had these outcomes," Lynch added.