Diabetes is on the Rise Among Tweens and Teens

By Julie Fidler | Natural Society

Type 2 diabetes was once considered an old person’s disease; but as more Americans became obese, younger adults started developing the condition. Now type 2 diabetes is striking a growing number of kids. Data from the CDC show that about 17% of kids and teens in the U.S. are now considered obese, and a new study indicates that there has been a corresponding increase in childhood cases of type 2 diabetes. [1]

In the past, type 2 diabetes was referred to as adult-onset diabetes because the condition would take years to develop. These days, even toddlers are being diagnosed with the disease.


Scientists recently reviewed data on 10- to 19-year-olds in primarily five states – California, Colorado, Ohio, South Carolina, and Washington – and determined that 12.5 of every 100,000 of them had full-blown type 2 diabetes in 2011 and 2012. In 2002 and 2003, just 9 out of every 100,000 kids had the disease. [1]

After accounting for age, gender, race, and ethnicity, the authors of the study, published in the New England Journal of Medicinefound that the incidence of type 2 diabetes in this age group rose by 4.8% during the study period. That means that about 1,500 more kids and teens were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes each year at the end of the study period compared with the beginning. [1]

Gaps in Gender and Ethnicity

The rate of new diagnosed cases of type 2 diabetes rose most sharply in this age group among Native Americans (8.9%), Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders (8.5%), and non-Hispanic blacks (6.3%). [2]

Among Hispanics ages 10 to 19, the rate of new diagnosed cases increased 3.1%. The smallest increase was seen in whites (0.6%).


The rate of new diagnosed cases of type 2 diabetes increased much more significantly in females (6.2%) than in males (3.7%).

Source: Los Angeles Times

Barbara Linder, M.D., Ph.D., senior advisor for childhood diabetes research at NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, said:

“These findings lead to many more questions. The differences among racial and ethnic groups and between genders raise many questions. We need to understand why the increase in rates of diabetes development varies so greatly and is so concentrated in specific racial and ethnic groups.” [2]

Tweens and Teens Affected Equally

In 2003, slightly more teens than tweens had type 2 diabetes, with 10 cases of type 2 diabetes per 100,000 teens (ages 15-19) compared with 8 cases per 100,000 among tweens (ages 10-14). However, by 2012, there were 12.9 cases per 100,000 in teens and 12.1 per 100,000 among tweens. [1]

Years of Life Lost

The complications of type 2 diabetes are many, but generally include heart and blood vessel disease; nerve damage (neuropathy); kidney damage, sometimes leading to the need for dialysis or transplant; eye damage; foot damage, often leading to infection and amputation; hearing loss; skin conditions; and possibly Alzheimer’s disease. [3]

The longer diabetes goes untreated, the more damage it does to the body. This is especially concerning among young people, whose lives may be shortened.

The number of years people lived with diabetes-related disabilities rose globally by nearly 33% between 2005 and 2015, according to a report published in 2016 in The Lancet. Conversely, the number of years of life lost to type 2 diabetes increased more than 25%. [1]

In other words, doctors are doing a better job of treating diabetes and diabetes-related conditions, yet “the overall adverse effect of diabetes on public health is actually increasing,” according to an editorial accompanying the study.

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