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Prevalence of prediabetes high among U.S. teens, young adults

The analysis suggests one in five people between 12 and 34 years of age has higher-than-normal blood sugar.

By
Brian P. Dunleavy

Dec. 2 (UPI) -- As many as one in five adolescents and one in four young adults has prediabetes, a new analysis has found.

In a study published Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 18 percent of teens between 12 and 18 years of age and 24 percent of young adults between 19 and 34 years of age meet the diagnostic criteria for prediabetes -- a precursor for type 2 diabetes.

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People with prediabetes have higher-than-normal blood sugar levels, but not high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes -- yet.

"These findings are alarming, and should be a call to action for healthcare providers and parents," study co-author and CDC statistician Linda Andes told UPI. "While we expected to find prediabetes in adolescents, we were surprised to learn how common this condition has become."

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She added that "prediabetes raises the risk of developing type 2 diabetes."

To generate their estimates, Andes and her colleagues performed a cross-sectional analyses of National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data over a 12-year period, from 2005 through 2016. They generated a population-based sample of nearly 6,000 adolescents and young adults who were not pregnant and did not have diabetes.

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More than 16 percent of adolescents and nearly 30 percent of young adults included in the analysis met the criteria for obesity, based on body-mass index, researchers report. And, prevalence of prediabetes was significantly higher among those who were obese -- nearly 26 percent of adolescents and nearly 37 percent of young adults -- than those who weren't.

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In addition, prevalence of prediabetes was higher among young males, at 22.5 percent, than young females, at 13.4 percent.

And those with prediabetes were also more likely to have high blood pressure and high cholesterol than those who didn't, the authors found.

"This could increase their risk for cardiovascular diseases," Andes said. "Many of the same factors that increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes put individuals at risk for prediabetes."

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"If your child is overweight and has any of the risk factors for type 2 diabetes, talk to your doctor about getting your child's blood sugar tested. Parents can also make healthy changes that give kids the best chance to prevent type 2 diabetes by implementing healthier eating habits and encouraging increased physical activity," she added, emphasizing recommendations of several programs to raise awareness on the condition.

According to Andes, to reduce the impact of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes in the U.S, the CDC established the National Diabetes Prevention Program, which offers guidance on how "to improve eating habits and increase physical activity to lose a modest amount of weight and significantly reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes."

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American Diabetes Association and the American Medical Association in 2016 launched the first national public service advertising campaign focusing on prediabetes.

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