As adolescent weight rises, so does rate of diabetes

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Nearly one-quarter of adolescents were either diabetic or pre-diabetic in 2008 an alarming figure, considering the rate was only 9 percent in 2000. Those numbers, which come from a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics, are very concerning, according to lead author Dr. Ashleigh May, a CDC epidemiologist.

For the study, Dr. May and colleagues analyzed data on about 3,400 teens ages 12 to 19 who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Study (NHANES) between 1999 and 2008. Yet the calculated jump in diabetes may not actually be as drastic as this study indicates: While these researchers assessed the incidence of diabetes using fasting blood sugar levels, most physicians rely on A1C glucose measurements instead, which are more accurate.

Still, there s no doubt that type 2 diabetes, which accounts for more than 90 percent of all diabetes cases, is on the rise, and most experts are pointing to obesity as the source of the problem. Nearly one-third of adolescents are overweight or obese, which means these teenagers have a greater risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and other adverse health effects.

This study makes it clear that we need to stop messing around with ineffective solutions such as soda taxes and should focus on educating the public on how to maintain a healthy weight, says ACSH s Dr. Ruth Kava. Tackling diabetes and obesity will take much more than simply banning or taxing sodas, she says, It s a question of getting more exercise and cutting calories all around, not just in one specific category. Type 2 diabetes used to be called adult-onset diabetes, but now that s no longer the case since teens and even younger kids are increasingly affected. That must change.

There s also something to be said for making certain foods more accessible, says ACSH s Alyssa Pelish, who notes that fresh produce is either too expensive or simply unavailable in certain areas, often referred to as food deserts.