Prediabetes In Children. What To Do?

Did you know that Type 2 diabetes is more aggressive in youth than in adults? Kids and teenagers start suffering from serious complications from the disease just a few years after diagnosis, new research1 has found.

Prediabetes in children

That’s why it’s so important to set kids up with healthy lifestyle habits, particularly those who are overweight or have prediabetes, so that full-blown Type 2 diabetes can hopefully be prevented from ever happening.

The new research, coordinated by the American Diabetes Association, recruited 699 children nationwide who were diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes between the ages of 10 and 17 and had had the disease on average eight months. All the children were overweight or obese.

In the study, which resulted in a series of articles published in the June 2013 issue of Diabetes Care, the children received one of three treatments:

  • The drug metformin
  • Metformin plus intensive lifestyle changes
  • Metformin plus another drug, rosiglitazone

None of the interventions appeared to do much good.

After four years, the scientists reported that:

  • Rates of high blood pressure, or hypertension, among the children had tripled.
  • Initial signs of kidney disease, or microalbuminuria, had almost tripled.
  • Destruction of the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin (beta cells) had occurred at a rate nearly four times higher than in adults.
  • The percentage of children needing cholesterol-lowering medications had more than doubled.

The scientists were surprised and dismayed, thinking they were on top of treatments for the children, yet the disease still progressed at an alarming rate.

Their conclusions: Preventing Type 2 diabetes by fighting obesity and prediabetes in children is essential.

“The challenges in effectively treating Type 2 diabetes in youth highlight the need for effective prevention of obesity and diabetes,” wrote Barbara L. Linder, MD, PhD, in an accompanying editorial2 in Diabetes Care.

“The need is imperative to promote research to understand how to establish healthy habits at a young age rather than trying to correct ‘bad’ habits later on.”

Research validating the benefits of healthy habits for children with prediabetes at the Pritikin Longevity Center is promising.

Following kids and adolescents ages 8 to 17 with the Metabolic Syndrome (a prediabetic condition) enrolled in the Pritikin Family Program, which teaches healthy eating and exercise, scientists at UCLA found that within two weeks the syndrome had disappeared for 100% of the children.

Moreover, levels of body fat, blood glucose, insulin, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, and other risk factors had fallen significantly.3

Similar results4 were found in another recently published study following overweight prediabetic children in the two-week Pritikin Family Program.

“Early action gets results,” summed up lead author James Barnard, PhD, of UCLA. “Our research shows that when we intervene and set children up with healthy living skills before the onset of Type 2 diabetes, we see remarkable progress.”


1 Diabetes Care, 2013; 36: 1735.
2 Diabetes Care, 2013; 36: 1775.
3 Metabolism Clinical and Experimental, 2006; 55: 871.
4 American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology and Metabolism, 2012; 303: E542.

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