Overweight Teenagers Increasingly Diabetic, Remain At-Risk for Heart Disease

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Attention, teenagers! If you’re overweight or obese, you’re putting your health at risk, according to a new study published in Pediatrics.


    In this study, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed data on 3,383 young people, ages 12-19, who had participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which is a continuous database that analyzes Americans’ health and nutritional status. They found that 34 percent of children studied were overweight or obese. This subset of the study participants are at increased risk for high blood pressure and abnormal cholesterol levels, both of which are risk factors linked to cardiovascular disease. And perhaps the most striking finding was that the prevalence of diabetes and prediabetes among teens climbed from 9 percent in 1999-2000 to 23 percent in 2007-2008.

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    "It's one thing for an overweight or obese 55-year-old gaining an extra few pounds a year to develop diabetes at age 65 and then have a heart attack. It's a very different thing if the clock starts ticking at age 10," Dr. David S. Ludwig, a child obesity expert at Children’s Hospital in Boston, told NPR reporter Rob Stein. "Children have so many more years to suffer from the consequences from these serious medical problems related to obesity.” Ludwig warned that health issues that primarily happe to older people – heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure – may increasingly strike these teenagers as they reach early adulthood. High rates of diabetes among teenage girls also are cause for worry since they potentially will become mothers at some point and could easily pass on metabolic issues that lead to diabetes and prediabetes to their children.


    Scary, isn’t it? But the good news is that prediabetes can be treated. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) reported that the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) study “conclusively showed that people with prediabetes can prevent the development of type 2 diabetes by making changes in their diet and increasing their level of physical activity. They may even be able to return their blood glucose levels to the normal range.” The ADA noted that 30 minutes of daily moderate exercise and a 7 percent reduction in body weight reduces diabetes by 55 percent.


    To stave off prediabetes and to better manage Type 2 diabetes (which is the most common kind), the ADA also recommends eating a healthy diet that includes the following:

    • A variety of vegetables and fruits.  The ADA recommends selecting different colors in order to maximize the variety of nutrients you’ll get. In addition, eat non-starchy vegetables with meals.
    • Whole grain foods. Opt for these types of foods over processed grain products.
    • Dried beans and lentils.
    • Fish. Try to incorporate this protein into your meals up to three times a week.
    • Lean meats. Select cuts of beef and pork that end in “loin”. If you opt for chicken and turkey, make sure to take off the skin from the meat before eating.
    • Non-fat dairy. Go for skim milk, non-fat yogurt and non-fat cheese.
    • Water and calorie free “diet” drinks. Drink these beverages instead of regular soda, fruit punch, sweet tea and other drinks that have been sweetened with sugar.
    • Liquid oils. Use these types of oils for cooking instead of solid fats, which often are full of saturated and trans fats
    • Limited consumption of high-calorie foods. Be careful when eating chips, cookies, cakes and full-fat ice cream. Fats also can be problematic since they are high in calories, so you need to watch portion sizes.
    • Controlled portions. “Eating too much of even healthful foods can lead to weight gain,” the ADA website states. “Watch your portion size.”

    Hopefully, parents and other influential adults will encourage teenagers as well as younger children to start focusing on making these types of healthy choices so that these disturbing trends can be stopped. If we’re not successful, our country’s next generation will  be at great risk for severe health consequences when they reach young adulthood.


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    Primary Resources for This Sharepost:


    American Diabetes Association. (N.D.) Making healthy food choices.


    American Diabetes Association. (N.D.) What to do if you have prediabetes.


    Stein, R. (2012). A dire sign of the obesity epidemic: Teen diabetes soaring, study finds. NPR


Published On: May 22, 2012